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Adding a Gakkel Ridge regime to the evolving Arctic Ocean governance complex

26 Oct 2020

Four of the Arctic Ocean coastal states (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway, and Russia) have articulated claims to extended seabed jurisdiction in the Arctic Ocean. The fifth coastal state, the United States, is collecting data to document a similar claim. This will “leave behind” an area of some 157,000 km2, encompassing a large part of the Gakkel Ridge and the surrounding deep ocean seabed not claimed by any state. This area will become part of “the Area” as defined in Part XI of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and be subject to the policies of the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The Arctic Ocean coastal states acknowledge the legal framework of the law of the sea, but they have asserted that they are in a “unique position” to address “possibilities and challenges” relating to Arctic Ocean developments in the Ilulissat Declaration (2008). They can be expected to oppose initiatives on the part of non-Arctic states to sponsor requests for permission to explore for or exploit minerals in the area of the Gakkel Ridge without their consent. The result is a classic tension between broad legal formulas and the political realities of specific situations. We introduce the idea of dealing with this tension by creating a specialized Gakkel Ridge Regime modeled after the 2018 Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement. Together with other binding and non-binding agreements, such a regime can become an element in the evolving Arctic Ocean governance complex.

Status: Completed

Type: Staff Publications

Author: Lars Kullerud & Oran R. Young

Year of publication: 2020

Publisher: Marine Policy

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