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IBRU: Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research has released updates to its Arctic map series to reflect changes in the Russian and USA extended continental shelves in the Central Arctic Ocean.

Russia’s October 2023 CLCS submission 

The changes to Russia’s continental shelf reflect the third revised submission that Russia made to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), on 30 October 2023. This submission was made in response to a CLCS recommendation from February 2023 that excluded the Gakkel Ridge from Russia’s extended continental shelf. In the October revised submission, Russia submits further geological evidence for including the Gakkel Ridge and adjacent basins as part of Russia’s extended continental shelf.

Assuming that the CLCS accepts this revised submission and issues a new recommendation that includes the Gakkel Ridge, Russia’s extended continental shelf would increase to around 608,000 square nautical miles. This area includes large areas of overlap with submissions by the Kingdom of Denmark (overlap = ca. 217,200 square nautical miles) and Canada (overlap = c. 436,500 square nautical miles). Neither the Danish nor Canadian submissions have yet been assessed by the CLCS.

Additionally, if the CLCS updates its recommendation to reflect the October 2023 revised submission, it would greatly reduce the portion of the Central Arctic Ocean. This region, known as The Area and designated under UNCLOS as the ‘common heritage of mankind’ to to be administered by the International Seabed Authority, would be reduced from around 75,500 square nautical miles to around 4,000 square nautical miles. The Area in the Central Arctic Ocean would consist of two small patches roughly 150 nautical miles from the North Pole, in the direction of Russia’s Franz Josef Land.

The United States’ December 2023 statement

The Unites States is not party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, on 19 December 2023 the USA released a statement affirming that it recognised the extended continental shelf regime detailed in Article 76 of UNCLOS as customary international law and announcing the limits of its continental shelf, using the criteria detailed in Article 76. The USA announced that it would file these limits with the CLCS upon accession to UNCLOS and also that it was ‘open’ to filing its submission as a non-party to UNCLOS.

The USA submission covers about 151,500 square nautical miles in the Central Arctic Ocean, approximately 72,000 of which overlap with area included in Canada’s submission. Prior IBRU maps that showed IBRU’s calculation of the USA’s potential extended continental shelf have now been updated to depict the USA’s self-proclaimed limits.

The IBRU Arctic map series 

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Since 2008, IBRU has been producing and regularly updating its Arctic map series. The original map – ‘Maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region – depicts extended continental shelves, internal waters, territorial seas, and exclusive economic zones (EEZs), as well as a number of special maritime areas and agreed maritime boundaries. This map has been reproduced worldwide as the definitive visualisation of maritime jurisdiction north of the Arctic Circle.

In addition to the original map, the IBRU Arctic map series also includes more focused maps depicting the Central Arctic Ocean (available in colour or black & white versions), individual states’ claims, and time-series maps that illustrate the evolution of Canada’s and Russia’s claims as these two countries have amended their submissions.

The entire map series, as well as briefing notes that explain the maps in greater detail, can be accessed free online.

View the Arctic Map Series

Restrictions on use apply.