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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Arctic maps

Notwithstanding occasional acts of political posturing as well as media accounts of an ongoing “scramble” for the Arctic, states are asserting jurisdiction over maritime areas in the Arctic region according to the process set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This involves submitting to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) detailed geological and bathymetric data for areas of the continental shelf more than 200 nautical miles from coastal baselines. Norway's and Iceland’s submissions were the subject of CLCS recommendations in 2009 and 2016, respectively. Russia’s 2015 submission (a revision of its original 2001 submission) is under review by the CLCS while Denmark’s 2014 submission and Canada’s 2019 submission await review. The USA, although not a party to UNCLOS, continues to gather data in preparation for a submission to the CLCS.

IBRU's 'Arctic Maps' series identifies areas covered by CLCS recommendations, state submissions, and hypothetical state submissions, as well as other maritime jurisdictional zones north of the Arctic Circle. Comments and questions concerning the maps should be sent to

This is the original IBRU Arctic map, first released in 2008 and revised several times since. States’ submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) regarding their extended continental shelves are presented in the context of a range of other maritime zones. The map presents a comprehensive view of CLCS recommendations (for Iceland and Norway), submissions that are pending CLCS action (for Canada, Denmark, and Russia), and the hypothetical extent of a U.S. submission. Additionally, the map indicates internal waters, territorial seas, and exclusive economic zones for each of the Arctic coastal states, as well as special areas within exclusive economic zones and the one area in the Arctic Ocean where there is an unresolved maritime boundary (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 the extended continental shelf: the area more than 200 nautical miles from coastal baselines 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, to illustrate the general trend of sea-ice loss, data from September 2018. This map is supplemented with four insets that highlight individual states’ continental shelves in the Central Arctic Ocean. Separate insets highlight the extended continental shelf submissions 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 states’ submissions overlap.
This version of the ‘maritime jurisdiction and boundaries’ map focuses solely on states’ extended continental shelves in the Central Arctic Ocean, where media attention on the geopolitics of Arctic governance has been concentrated. As our most simplified map, the Central Arctic Ocean map is the only one we recommend for publication in grey-scale (black and white) format. Both grey-scale and colour versions are available on this website.
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 submissions.

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