Geography and Jurisdiction in the Maritime Arctic
Geographical Review Early View
American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?
Caitlyn Antrim: The main purpose of the article is to demonstrate how geography and international law work hand in hand to define the rights and obligations of states, intergovernmental organizations and other stakeholders in the increasingly accessible Arctic. In so doing it shows how early fears of unbridled Arctic competition and conflict were put to rest by the international law of the sea as applied to the maritime Arctic.
American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?
Caitlyn Antrim: It provides a framework for examining the national interests of Arctic Ocean coastal states based on the geographical distribution of population, energy resources and shipping routes and the jurisdictional zones affecting navigation, economic development, and environmental protection.
American Geographical Society: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
Caitlyn Antrim: This study illustrates the relationships between geography and law that affect the implementation of programs of scientific research, environmental protection, economic development and maritime security throughout the Arctic. It provides the basic knowledge that is needed in order to pursue national and multi-national policies and programs.
American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?
Caitlyn Antrim: The global legal regime established by the Law of the Sea Convention was developed with great consideration for the geography of the world ocean and it has proven to be applicable to the Arctic where it essential to the peace and good order of the region.
Each region of the Arctic has its unique characteristics. The Atlantic Arctic Gateway and the Barents Sea region provide a working example of peaceful and cooperative management of Arctic activities. Natural resource development is the driver for development of the Eurasian Arctic while interest in the North American Arctic focuses on marine transport, the extent of national sovereignty within the Canadian archipelago, and the potential for future offshore oil and gas development.
More than 90 percent of the estimated undiscovered oil and gas of the Arctic, and virtually all of the most attractive reservoirs, are located within the continental shelves of Arctic coastal states as defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, alleviating concerns of a future energy resource war.”
As joint stewards for the Bering Strait, the United States and Russia must work together to ensure safe navigation, adherence to international navigation standards, maintenance of charts and aids to navigation and rapid response to accidents at sea.
American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?
Caitlyn Antrim: The cooperative processes among Arctic nations, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders will be tested in resolving three outstanding issues:
- An international agreement will need to be developed to address protection and management of fish stocks that migrate into the high seas of the Arctic Ocean.
- The Northwest Passage will require a pragmatic regime for international transit, possibly pursued through the IMO, that is consistent with both the Law of the Sea Convention and the interests of the Canadian government and the indigenous people.
- Interpretation of the 96 year old Svalbard Treaty in the context of the LOS Convention may require cooperative diplomacy leading to a creative solution.
American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?
Caitlyn Antrim: The Arctic has been presented as a distant and obscure region under immediate threat from land grabs, resource wars and environmental disasters. For the national and peoples of the Arctic, the issues are complicated by the highly varied endowments of natural resources, shipping lanes and harbors, and accessibility to more developed regions to the south. Understanding of the geography of the Arctic, including resource, population, navigation and security considerations, provides a common foundation from which stakeholders can collaborate creatively to establish priorities and programs for the future..
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