Sunday, November 14, 2010

More transparency on the way for Russian CLCS submission?

On November 13, 2010, the Russian news service RIA Novosti ran this report on the end of the 2010 Russian extended continental shelf cruise (July-October), during which new data was acquired for the Russian Federation's supplemental submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). 

Daria Vasilevskaya, deputy head of the Geology Department of the Natural Resources Ministry  "told RIA Novosti the new research was necessary as details of previous expeditions were labeled secret due to the use of military equipment."

Speaking of earlier cruises on which ECS data was gathered, Vasilevskaya said: 

" 'It was not possible to give a full description of the military technical equipment on account of secrecy.' The new research was done on board the ship Akademik Fyodorov from July through October. Only civilian equipment was used, Vasilevskaya said."

The use of civilian equipment does not automatically translate into any information being more readily available to non-participants in the Russian Federation CLCS process. It does, however, potentially signal somewhat greater  transparency for the parts of the process that are eventually made public.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission established October 2010

One month ago,  the five arctic coastal states of Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States, established the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (ArHC).  The  International Hydrographic Organization has posted the Statement of the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission on the IHO website.  

The Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission, or ArHC, is the 15th such regional commission established since the founding of the IHO in 1921, joining 14 other RhCs and the IHO Hydrographic Committee on Antarctica.

The Statement of the ArHC provides in part:
"Due to climate change the Arctic is undergoing extraordinary transformations facilitating increased natural resource development and marine traffic at a time when little reliable data exists. At present, less than 10% of Arctic waters are charted to modern standards. To meet current and emerging challenges, the Arctic Coastal States represented by their Hydrographic Offices, have recognized the need for enhanced collaboration and coordination of their activities.
By exchanging knowledge and information and by providing quality assured data, the Members of the ARHC aim to facilitate an environmentally responsible exploration of Arctic waters."

The IHO is an intergovernmental and technical organization established in 1921 "to support safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment."

September 2011 UPDATE: Information on the Second Meeting of ARHC is available here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Russian Continental Shelf Mapping in the Arctic Ocean

Russia’s two Arctic expeditions met up last week in the Arctic Ocean. According to a report in the RT on the Lomonosov Ridge expedition, published October 9 and revised October 10, “Members of Russia’s North Pole expedition Shelf-2010 have docked with their colleagues on board the Akademik Fyodorov.”  The article provides little more detail, but supplements other statements made about Russian continental shelf mapping at the International Arctic Forum known as the "Territory of Dialogue" held in Moscow September 22-23, 2010. 

As also reported on the website of Denmark's The Continental Shelf Project, one presentation at the Territory of Dialogue Forum was by Christian Marcussen, Senior Adviser, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.  Marcussen is the Project manager for the Greenland part of the Continental Shelf Project of the Kingdom of Denmark.  His presentation, entitled "Extended continental shelf issues in the Arctic Ocean - an example of cooperation between the Arctic coastal states" is available here, at the Dansk Kontinentalsokkelprojektet (which is a standing link on this weblog's right margin).

The "Territory of Dialogue" website provides information related to the September Moscow forum, including the full program, but also offers a range of information about the Arctic, including a newsfeed covering such stories as the Northern Fleet’s role in Arctic cooperation  and Russia’s Antarctic strategy.

A September 2010 article in Hydro-International provides a useful overview of ongoing Russian, Danish, US and Canadian discussions and mapping efforts regarding the Arctic ocean.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Alaska Arctic Update September 2010: Sea Ice Minimum, Vessel Grounding, Gas, Fish, Exxon Valdez-Deepwater Horizon, Coast Survey Mapping, Broadband

In keeping with this weblog’s two most recent posts, which provide brief updates on recent arctic developments in Canada  and the United States, readers are referred to the September 15, 2010, broadcast and transcript of Alaska News Nightly (produced by the Alaska Public Radio Network) for an Alaska (mostly arctic) update.  Yesterday’s broadcast is a particularly fine edition of this consistently reliable news program and highlights how Alaska faces in microcosm many of the issues facing the Arctic as a whole.

Reports include excellent interviews, both worth hearing in their entirety, about:

-- the Arctic Sea Ice Minimum for 2010, reached September 10, which is the third lowest since satellite data collection began in 1979 (for details visit the National Snow and Ice Data Center  )

-- Tlingit contributions to mapping “Russian America” in the 19th century, providing many of the place names and cartographic features, e.g. from the Lind Canal to Yukon River, that cartographer George Davidson used in his maps for the US Coast Survey. NOAA historian John Cloud was in Klukwan earlier this month to present scanned images of the maps to descendants of the original mappers, the Tlingit leader Kohklux and his wives. The maps are in the public domain, and will soon be posted on this NOAA site; NOAA asks to be credited as the source.

Other stories relate to:
-- Alaska lawyers heading to the Gulf, to bring post-Exxon Valdez experience to litigation resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.
-- a barge running aground about 40 miles west of Prudhoe Bay, although this time equipment failure rather than outdated charts caused the grounding.
-- the proposed All-Alaska Gas Pipeline, as discussed by candidates for governor (see also two different angles on the pipeline here and here).
-- an award-winning commercial seafood processing cooperative plant in Sitka that sends between 50 and 60% of its product overseas.
-- the future of broadband in Alaska, with a focus on public libraries.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Canada Arctic Update August 2010

August 2010 was an active month for Canadian policy developments in the Arctic.  In keeping with this blog’s July 2010 report  on numerous U.S.-related arctic news items for that month, here is a short form update on significant Canadian announcements, projects and decisions in August affecting the Canadian Arctic. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper used his five day visit to the Arctic, from August 23-27, and the run-up to that visit, to unveil several Canadian initiatives, including the Canadian national policy on the Arctic.

August 20, Ottawa: Canada releases its Arctic Policy, formally titled “Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy,” which elaborates on the international component of Canada’s Northern Strategy announced in 2009.

August 26:  Harper announces that his government will establish the Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area in the Beaufort Sea, as part of an effort to conserve Beluga whales.  For background on the Tarium Niryutait MPA and on the Beaufort Sea Large Ocean Management Area visit the Beaufort Sea Partnership.

PM Harper’s visit also coincided with:

The August 26th completion of a Canadian Coast Guard training exercise on environmental emergency (oil spill) response in Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

The exercise was part of Canada’s larger annual military training exercise in the North, “Operation NANOOK”.    Danish and US forces participated in the operation for the first time this year. 

Other relevant August 2010 developments for the Canadian Arctic:

August 8; Nunavut judge issues an injunction stopping a science expedition’s seismic operations from the R/V Polarstern in Lancaster Sound.
August 25:  Canadian Air Force shadows Russian bombers in international airspace north of Inuvik.

August 29:  Parks Canada announces completion of the 2010 Arctic Survey.

August 30:  The Bahamanian-flagged Clipper Adventurer cruise ship runs aground on uncharted* rocks in the Northwest Passage; Canadian Coast Guard evacuates passengers to Kugluktuk (Update Sept. 8: *subsequent reports indicate that the hazard was known and that the the Canadian Hydrographic Survey had informed the shipping industry of the rock's location in 2007).  Outdated charts appear to have contributed to the August 8 grounding of the fuel resupply vessel the
Mokami near Pangnirtung and the September 2 grounding of the fuel tanker Nanny (Canadian flagged) on a sandbar in Simpson Strait; neither vessel suffered any reported loss of its cargo (the latter ship carried 9.5 million liters of diesel fuel).

Thanks to the Institute of the North  and its Top of the World Telegraph , and to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission Arctic Update for reporting earlier on many of the sources drawn on here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

U.S. Arctic and Oceans Update July 2010

July was a busy month in the United States for Arctic and oceans related matters.  Herewith, a tweet-like survey of some highlights, from back to front:

July 26:  
Final preparations are underway for this year’s continuation of US mapping efforts on the Arctic extended continental shelf (ECS). The 2010 ECS Project mapping cruise, for which the US Geological Survey is the science lead, is scheduled from August 2 - September 6, 2010, on the USCGC Healy.  The Healy will travel in tandem again this year with the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker the  Louis S. St.-Laurent for part of the cruise, as reported in the USGS press release

July 22:  US and Canadian officials met quietly in Ottawa to discuss resolving the maritime boundary dispute in the Beaufort Sea.   For background and a map, see this earlier post.

July 22:  President Obama assigned responsibility for Arctic research to the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), which will coordinate activities assigned to the Interagency Arctic Research and Policy Committee (IARPC).  IARPC and the US Arctic Research Commission (USARC) were created by the 1984 Arctic Research and Policy Act and consult on arctic policy and planning.  The press release is on the USARC website, where the USARC biennial "Report on Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research is also available.

July 19:  President Obama issued an Executive Order  establishing a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes.  The Order largely adopts the  Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force.  Among the many steps the order announces, it “provides for the development of coastal and marine spatial plans that build upon and improve existing Federal, State, tribal, local, and regional decisionmaking and planning processes."  A related posting is available here

July 16:  Eighty-six days after the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig at the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, oil flowing from the well was, at last, temporarily halted by a capping stack system.  The cap continues to hold while efforts continue to close the well permanently.  More information is at the official site of the government oil spill response effort.

July 15: The Interagency and Science Advisory Committees of the Submarine Arctic Science Cruises Program (the SCience ICe EXerices (SCICEX) Program) published a new science plan for the Arctic Ocean, drawing on the potential of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines for data collection. The plan under “Part 1: Technical Guidance for Planning Science Accommodations Missions,” is available under publications at the USARC website.

July 14:   The House passed HR 2864, a bill that, if approved by the Senate and signed into law, would require NOAA to increase its mapping efforts in the Arctic.  See the NOAA Office of Legislative Affairs.  The bill was introduced by Rep. Don Young of Alaska.  The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment approved by the Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in 2009 provides a good overview of the need for improved mapping of the Arctic Ocean for navigational and other purposes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

From Eurasian Heartland to Arctic Coastal State: Antrim on the Russian Arctic in the Twenty-first Century

“The increased accessibility of the Arctic, with its energy and mineral resources, new fisheries, shortened sea routes, and access to rivers flowing north to the Arctic, is pushing Russia to become a maritime state. As it progresses, Russia will no longer be susceptible to geographic isolation or encirclement. At the same time, these changes will require Russia to become more closely integrated into global commercial and financial networks, to welcome international business involvement, and to participate in international bodies that harmonize international shipping, safety, security, and environmental regulations.”
     Caitlyn L. Antrim, The Next Geographical Pivot: The Russian Arctic in the Twenty-first Century, Naval War College Review, Summer 2010, Vol. 63, No. 3, p. 15

With these words, Caitlyn Antrim introduces the basic premises of her comprehensive, concise and engaging article in the Summer 2010 volume of the Naval War College Review.  She derives the first part of the piece’s title  from a 1904 presentation by Halford Mackinder to the Royal Geographic Society in London.   A century ago Mackinder identified control of the steppes and plains of the southwest Russian empire, rich in agriculture and raw materials, as the geographical “pivot around which the conflict between the [Eurasian] heartland and the crescent of maritime states revolved.”*  Mackinder’s “crescent” referred to the outer edges of the Eurasian continents, traced “from the coasts of China and South Asia westward through the Balkans and up to the English Channel.”

Antrim proceeds to discuss the resultant and enduring European and US geostrategy of the 19th and 20th centuries that attempted to contain Russia as a land power on all sides and depended on the frozen Arctic Ocean to serve as the Fourth Wall of containment. She identifies four factors that were key to maintaining this Fourth Wall - technology, economics, climate, and law - and then lays out how changes to them have led to Russia’s “shift from Eurasian heartland to Arctic coastal state,” a shift she convincingly documents.

Antrim views the political and geophysical changes underway in the Arctic as “turning the Arctic from an afterthought to a central front in the new geopolitical view of the world. In this new geostrategy, Russia assumes a role as one of the maritime powers of the “rimland,” and the Russian Arctic becomes a new geographical pivot among the great powers.”

The article does much more, including cataloguing the challenges facing the Russian Coastal Border Guard, analyzing two Russian statements relevant to Arctic policy - the Foundations of State Policy of the Russian Federation for the Period up to 2020 and Beyond and the Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation to 2030 (available at and suggesting elements for a  regional adaptation of the Global Maritime Partnership initiative, “extended to include Arctic science, Arctic domain awareness, and ocean resource management.”

Anyone interested in Arctic Mapping and the Law of the Sea will find much to value in Antrim’s article, and in her July 2, 2010, Council on Foreign Relations interview  regarding "Law of Sea Implications for Gulf Spill."  To her excellent CFR discussion of LOS issues related to the spill should be added the existence of, and renewed interest in, the ARCTIC COUNCIL ARCTIC OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS GUIDELINES, endorsed by the Arctic Council in April 2009.

*All quotations are from Antrim’s article.  Caitlyn L. Antrim is the executive director of the Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Broken Icebreakers

Andrew Revkin reports in today’s DotEarth that “America’s Heavy Icebreakers are both Broken Down.”

The Polar Sea and the Polar Star are now both out of service, leaving the USCGC Healy as the only functioning U.S. icebreaker.  Healy, though not classed as a "heavy icebreaker," is very much in service and currently in the arctic ice (hourly images from above the bridge are accessible here).

Despite calls as recently as February 2010 from Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, in one of his last major speeches before retiring from the post, indicating the urgent need for new icebreakers, the U.S. has no immediate plans for building new icebreakers and the FY 2011 Budget did not address the issue.

By contrast, Canada is pursuing a $3.1 billion dollar project to build five new ice-class vessels, with delivery of the first vessel anticipated in 2014.  Another $4.3 billion is necessary for operation and maintenance over the expected 25-year life span.  These and other details appear in a December 2009 Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans of the Canadian Senate, “Controlling Canada’s Arctic Waters: Role of the Canadian Coast Guard.”  Among the Report’s recommendations is “that Canada develop a long-term plan and provide the funding necessary for the acquisition of a suitable number of new multi-purpose polar icebreakers capable of operating year-round it its Arctic Archipelago and on the continental shelf.”  The SCFO Report details these plans, and the role of existing Canadian icebreakers in maritime awareness, at pp. 25 ff.

Admiral Allen is of course now heading up the federal response to the fatal BP Gulf Horizon explosion and ongoing spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  It bears mention that the next recommendation in the same Canadian Report is "that the Canadian Coast Guard identify areas in the Arctic at high risk of a major cargo or oil spill, assess current response capabilities, and communicate the results of the assessment to Canada's northern communities.  The Government of Canada should provide funding to train northern residents in the use of oil spill containment equipment for oil spills close to shore."

For a 2008 story on the National Science Foundation assessment that the U.S. needs three polar icebreakers, see the April 2008 posting at  Arctic Economics.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Notice of Public Review and Comment Period for NOAA’s Arctic Vision and Strategy EXTENDED to JUNE 25, 2010

Extended comment submission deadline: Friday, 25 June 2010

Download the document at:

For further information, please go to:

. . . . . . .

NOAA, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, requests comments on its "Arctic Vision and Strategy", which was published in April 2010 and is available here.  The full notice of this public review and comment period is available in the Federal Register and sets  June 10, 2010 deadline for submission of comments.

The NOAA Arctic Vision and Strategy document (AVS) envisions an Arctic where:
“• Conservation, management, and use are based on sound science and support healthy, productive, and resilient communities and ecosystems; and
• The global implications of Arctic change are better understood and predicted.” (AVS, p. 5)  NOAA has identified six priority goals as “needed to realize this vision”:

    1) Forecast Sea Ice
    2) Strengthen Foundational Science to Understand and Detect Arctic Climate and Ecosystem   Changes
 3)  Improve Weather and Water Forecasts and Warning
 4)  Enhance International and National Partnerships
 5)  Improve Stewardship and Management of Ocean and Coastal Resources in the Arctic
 6) Advance Resilient and Healthy Arctic Communities and Economies.

The document draws connections to the U.S. extended continental shelf mapping efforts (NOAA is a co-vice chair of the ECS Task Force). Acknowledging it to be beyond the scope of ECS efforts, the document nonetheless refers to "collecting the baseline ecosystem-level data [which] would enhance the existing information and provide the U.S. with a better understanding of the nature, extent, and economic value of [ECS] resources, as well as insights into issues such as climate variability; marine ecosystems; and undiscovered or unconventional energy, biological, and mineral resources." (AVS, p. 17)

The Arctic Vision document identifies Guiding Principles for NOAA Arctic activities in the next five years, as well as Goals and Strategies.  The Principles section opens with the notable phrase “the U.S. and its partners,” continuing on to say that they “will greatly benefit from enhanced and better coordinated NOAA efforts in the Arctic region.” The phrase “international partners” appears five times in this short document, which is replete with  references to international implications of actions in the Arctic and the need for coordinated activity to address changes there (as detailed in the document’s discussion of fourth priority area identified above).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tracy Rouleau, Office of Program Planning and Integration, at or (301) 713–1622 x187.

Monday, May 10, 2010

US and Canada scheduled to map the Arctic Continental Shelf together again in 2010; Canada also maps with AUVs

The icebreakers USCGC Healy and CCGS Louis S. Saint-Laurent are scheduled to sail together again this summer, continuing the bilateral Canadian-US cooperation in mapping the extended continental shelf (ECS) in the Arctic Ocean.  This summer’s joint efforts will focus on the Canada Basin. 
The Healy ECS mapping cruise is scheduled from August 2-September 2, 2010, so as to coincide with the Louis’ schedule.The Healy’s proposed cruise track and proposed cruise plan are both posted on which provides science planning information for the U.S. icebreaker fleet. The U.S. Chief Scientist for HLY 1002 is Brian Edwards  of the U.S. Geological Survey, Western Coastal & Marine Geology Program.

General information on the Canadian ECS effort is available from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).  As reported by both DFAIT and in the media, this spring Canadian scientists have also been gathering data for Canada's ECS submission from their base at the Borden Island Ice Camp, in Canada’s western Arctic archipelago.  In April they first deployed a Canadian-made autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), the Arctic Explorer, designed and built by International Submarine Engineering Ltd (ISE) of Port Coquitiam, B.C. Media reports tell of the AUV obtaining detailed multi-beam images of the Sever Spur on a three-day deployment. The Arctic Explorer is one of two such AUVs that Canada acquired in September 2009 to map its Arctic seabed and is equipped with a 200 kHz multi-beam sonar.  

Canada is expected to make its submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in December 2013, so as to meet its deadline under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The United States has not yet acceded to the Convention.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic - WWF Report proposes treaty framework

In the same week that Russia and Norway announced their agreement on a longstanding maritime boundary dispute in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, WWF released a new iteration of its ongoing study International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic [PDF].

The document released this week builds on the initial 2009 Gap Analysis and now combines three elements:  I. Overview and Gap Analysis, II. Options for Addressing Identified Gaps and III. A Proposal for a Legally Binding Instrument.   The proposed instrument seeks to move beyond the position that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and existing political and legal framework are adequate to address the rapidly changing situation in the Arctic.

The Report (III.§3.2) identifies eight basic features the framework instrument would exhibit, the first three of which are: 
"•  It would be a regional, legally binding framework instrument that complements and is compatible with the LOS Convention;
 •  The Arctic Council would become the primary body or forum of this instrument, with a mandate focused on providing strategic guidance rather than on regulation; 
The spatial mandate of the Arctic Council would be limited to the marine environment  of the Arctic within (a) the area north of 60° North, (b) left undefined, or (c) the Arctic Ocean, as defined."

Part III of the Report also identifies which components of the Antarctic Treaty System the authors deem suitable for modification in an arctic agreement (e.g. use for peaceful purposes only)  and which they do not (e.g. an indefinite ban on mineral resource activities).

The exhaustively researched Report analyzes numerous existing agreements that have the potential to serve as models, in part, for an Arctic marine environment framework instrument.

The Report was commissioned by the WWF International Arctic Program and authored by Timo Koivurova and Erik Molenaar.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Norway and Russia agree on the bilateral maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean

        Russia and Norway have now both ratified their treaty "concerning Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, which will enter into force on July 7, 2011.  See Norway, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press release, June 7, 2011, "Norway and Russia ratify treaty on maritime delimitation."

      Norway and Russia sign the "Treaty between the Kingdom of Norway and the Russian Federation concerning Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean."  The press release from the Office of the Prime Minister of Norway also links to the Norwegian (Overenskomst mellom Kongeriket Norge og Den Russiske Føderasjon om maritim avgrensning og samarbeid i Barentshavet og Polhavet) and Russian (Читайте текст Договора на русском языке) language originals of the agreement, as well as an  English  language translation and a map of the agreed delimitation.

The following press release is courtesy of the IBRU int-boundaries discussion list.  Other reports appear in Prime-TASS, the New York Times and the Associated Press.

Stoltenberg: - A historic day!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 12:03

An agreement has been reached between the Norwegian and the Russian negotiating delegations on the bilateral maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

This was annouced by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at a joint press conference with Russian President Dimitrij Medvedev on Tuesday.

“This is a historic day. We have reached a breakthrough in the most important outstanding issue between Norway and the Russian Federation,” said Prime Minister Stoltenberg.

The agreement was officially announced later Tuesday in a joint statement by the Foreign Ministers of Norway and the Russian Federation. It is based on the joint statement, which Prime Minister Stoltenberg and President Medvedev will sign later in the day.

According to the joint statement, the two negotiating delegations have reached agreement on the maritime delimitation between Norway and the Russian Federation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, which has been the object of extensive negotiations over the last 40 years. The negotiations have now been completed, but some technical control work remains before the final treaty is ready for signature. After that it will be put before the two countries’ national assemblies.* 

“The agreement is the result of meticulous efforts on the basis of international law, and is an expression of the great importance attached to international law by Norway and the Russian Federation as coastal states. The negotiated solution appears to be well balanced and will
benefit both our countries,” said Prime Minister Stoltenberg.

The recommended solution involves a maritime delimitation line that divides the overall disputed area of about 175 000 square kilometres in two parts of approximately the same size. In addition to a maritime delimitation line, the two delegations recommend the adoption of treaty provisions that would maintain and enhance cooperation with regard to fisheries and management of hydrocarbon resources  In the field of hydrocarbon cooperation, the two delegations recommend the adoption of detailed rules and procedures ensuring efficient and responsible management of their hydrocarbon resources in cases where any single oil or gas deposits should extend across
the delimitation line.

“Agreement on the maritime delimitation line opens up new prospects for cooperation in the north on resources, trade and industry, employment opportunities and people-to-people cooperation across our common border. This is a historic day, especially for our populations in the north. I want to extend my thanks to our two Foreign Ministers and the negotiators for their extensive efforts, which have now proved successful,” said Mr Stoltenberg.

END QUOTE (*emphasis added)

Thanks to Ilan Kelman for posting to the IBRU int-boundaries discussion list.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Further Beaufort Sea boundary developments

Update: See the September 27, 2011 post for information on technical discussions anticipating resolution of Beaufort Sea maritime boundary.

May 12, 2010 update: Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, speaking at  the 40th Annual Washington Conference on the Americas, publicly invited the United States to begin negotiations to resolve the Beaufort Sea boundary, as reported in the Montreal Gazette.

As originally posted in March 2010:

"Our Government will also work with other northern countries to settle boundary disagreements."

         Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean,  Canada's Governor General,  March 3, 2010  Federal Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne makes  no mention of specific boundary disputes but adds weight to comments from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in late February that movement toward resolution of the Beaufort Sea dispute is desirable.   

A workshop held in Anchorage on March 6, 2010, provided a venue for U.S. and Canadian international law experts and others to discuss possible paths toward resolution of the Beaufort Sea boundary.  Media reports of the workshop offer graphics (see "Photo 2" and below) illustrating how the positions Canada and the U.S. have traditionally espoused with respect to the disputed boundary landward of the 200 nautical mile EEZ limit may in fact be to their detriment seaward of that line with respect to the extended continental shelf.  Historically Canada has taken the position that the 141st land meridian should extend into the Beaufort Sea landward of the 200 nautical mile EEZ, while the U.S. has argued for an equidistance line that runs to the east of that meridian.**  The workshop was organized by Professor Michael Byers, University of British Columbia, with the assistance of the Institute of the North in Anchorage.

In keeping with the well-managed character of the Beaufort Sea boundary disagreement, Canada and the United States cooperated on joint scientific cruises to map the Arctic continental shelf in 2008 and 2009, and will do so again this summer.  Bathymetric and other data gathered on joint and individual cruises have begun to make more evident the potential for both countries to extend their continental shelf seaward of their respective EEZs.  However, more data is needed before any conclusions can be drawn as to the extent of their respective shelves or of any overlap.

For possible approaches to the dispute see "Filling an Arctic Gap: Legal and Regulatory Possibilities for Canadian-U.S. Cooperation in the Beaufort Sea".  

**NOTE: Neither Canada nor the U.S. has stated any official position nor made any "claim" regarding the boundary seaward of 200 nautical miles.

Image Credit: Sovereign Geographic. 
Click image to enlarge. 202.905.5820

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Canada favors resolution of Canada-US Beaufort Sea joint maritime boundary

Canada and the United States have long agreed to disagree about the location of their shared maritime boundary in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea. The disputed area involves some 6,250 square nautical miles (21,436-square kilometres) north of the Alaska/Yukon border. Diplomats from both countries consistently describe the disagreement as “well-managed.”
On February 17, 2010, Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, told Canwest News Service that "Canada favours a resolution of the dispute. The issue has been well-managed by Canada and the U.S. and will be resolved on its own merits when both parties are ready to do so."  Speaking of the joint Canadian-U.S. continental shelf mapping cruises in summers 2008 and 2009* she observed: "The information collected so far suggests there may be a potential overlap of the Canadian and U.S. extended continental shelves in this area” and that the "extent of the overlap is not yet known. It may make sense to resolve the maritime boundary and any extended continental shelf overlaps at the same time."
For one map of the disputed area, see David H. Gray, Canada’s Unresolved Maritime Boundaries, IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin Autumn 1997, p. 63. 
For the full news report see Beaufort Sea Breakthrough.
For articles discussing other legal and political aspects of Canada's Arctic seabed, see volume 34, Vermont Law Review (2009).

*The joint Canadian-US mapping cruises are detailed throughout this blog (see links in the right hand margin), at the US ECS Project website, and at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping-Joint Hydrographic Center at University of New Hampshire/NOAA website

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.