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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 - and potential for more as states define the areas in which they have exclusive rights over the resources of the continental shelf more than 200 nautical miles from their coastal baselines - so far all of the Arctic states have followed the rules and procedures for establishing seabed jurisdiction set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Russia, Norway and Denmark have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS); Norway's submission was the subject of CLCS recommendations in 2009 while Denmark’s 2014 submission and Russia’s 2015 resubmission await review by the CLCS. Canada and the USA continue to gather data in preparation for future submissions to the CLCS, although the USA 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 illustrationsof sea ice decline in the region. Comments and questions concerning the map should be sent to

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 Canada and the USA), submitted claims (for Denmark and Russia), and approved claims (for Iceland and Norway), as well as the constraint lines used for determining the limits of continental shelf claims. 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 2016).
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.