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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Arctic maps

While there are a number of disagreements over maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic region, so far all of the Arctic states claiming exclusive rights to the seabed more than 200 nautical miles from coastal baselines have followed the rules set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by making submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). Norway's and Iceland’s submissions were the subject of CLCS recommendations in 2009 and 2016, respectively. Denmark’s 2014 submission, Russia’s 2015 resubmission and Canada’s 2019 submission await review by the CLCS. The USA continues to gather data in preparation for a submission to the CLCS, although it will probably need to ratify UNCLOS before it can make a submission.

In response to numerous enquiries relating to maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic, IBRU has prepared a series of maps (with accompanying briefing notes) on the current state of play in the region. The maps identify known claims and agreed boundaries, plus potential areas that might be claimed in the future, as well as illustrations of sea ice decline in the region. Comments and questions concerning the maps should be sent to ibru@durham.ac.uk

This is the original IBRU Arctic map, first released in 2008 and revised several times since. It presents a comprehensive view of hypothetical continental shelf claims (for the USA), submitted claims (for Canada, Denmark and Russia), and approved claims (for Iceland and Norway). Additionally, the map indicates internal waters, territorial seas, and exclusive economic zones for each of the Arctic coastal states, special areas within exclusive economic zones, and the one area of dispute in the Arctic Ocean (in the Beaufort Sea, between the USA and Canada). Accompanying briefing notes detail the history and legal status of the various zones portrayed on the map.
This is a simplified version of the ‘maritime jurisdiction and boundaries’ map that focuses on claims to the outer continental shelf: the area more than 200 nautical miles from shore and beyond the limits of exclusive economic zones. Additionally, this map indicates the extent of sea ice, showing the median September minimum for the period 1981-2010 and, for comparison, data from the most recent September (September 2018). This map is supplemented with four insets that highlight claims in the Central Arctic Ocean. Separate insets highlight the claims made by Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark and Russia, respectively, while a fourth inset highlights the 54,850 square nautical mile area around the North Pole where the three claims overlap.
Russia’s initial filing with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, made in 2001, was the first submission received by the CLCS and was returned to Russia for lack of supporting evidence. In 2015, Russia submitted a revised filing. This map indicates the difference in area between the two filings.