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Thumbnail Map 1 IBRU Arctic map 10-01-23 (revised Russia claimed) 3300x2700

IBRU: Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research has updated its Arctic Maps Series to reflect the addendum that Canada filed with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on 22 December 2022. This addendum added 241,000 square nautical miles (827,000 square kilometres) to the area identified by Canada as part of its extended continental shelf (ECS), bringing the total area of Canada’s submission to 593,000 square nautical miles (2,036,000 square kilometres).

Canada’s Arctic ECS submission, like the submissions made by Russia and the Kingdom of Denmark, are awaiting recommendations by the CLCS, an international body that was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the sea to assess the science behind ECS submissions. The CLCS has already made recommendations on Norway’s and Iceland’s submissions, and the United States has not yet made a submission.

IBRU’s Arctic map series

IBRU began producing its maps of Arctic maritime jurisdictions in 2008. The main map – ‘Maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region’ – shows 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. Other maps in the series include a map of the Central Arctic Ocean (available in colour or black and white versions), focus maps on each Arctic state’s Central Arctic Ocean claims, and maps of how individual states’ claims have evolved as they have amended their submissions.

With this latest update, IBRU adds, for the first time, a map presenting the evolution of Canada’s claim, highlighting the difference between Canada’s original 2019 claim and its 2022 addendum.

2023 Updated Arctic Maps Banner

Triple overlap at the North Pole

With Canada’s 2022 addendum, all three of the main Central Arctic Ocean states (Canada, Denmark, and Russia) have ECSs that reach across the Central Arctic Ocean to the limits of the opposing state’s EEZ. Denmark began this trend with its submission in 2014 where its ECS extended to the limits of Russia’s EEZ, although Russia, at the time, was limiting its claim in the direction of Greenland and Canada to just past the North Pole. Russia’s 2021 addendum adjusted its claim to more closely parallel Denmark’s, with Russia’s ECS now extending to the limits of the Canadian and Danish EEZs. Canada’s 2022 addendum follows suit, with its ECS now abutting Russia’s EEZ.

One result of Canada’s 2022 addendum is that one of the two unclaimed areas of the Central Arctic Ocean’s seabed – a small area in the Western Arctic – has now been identified by Canada as part of its ECS. The only remaining unclaimed area is a small patch just east of the North Pole.

Another result of the Canadian addendum is a significant expansion in the area along the Lomonosov Ridge that Canada, Russia, and the Kingdom of Denmark each identify as part of their ECS. This area of ‘triple overlap’ is now 217,000 square nautical miles (747,000 square kilometres).

IBRU’s Director, Professor Philip Steinberg, stresses that states’ expansive and overlapping claims should not be a cause for concern. “The ECS system was set up with the understanding that in many cases, for geologic reasons, there would be overlapping areas in adjacent states’ continental shelves. The Law of the Sea calls for states to submit data showing the maximum extent of their claims, and negotiations over areas of overlap are to commence only after the science has been assessed and the CLCS recommendations have been made. So, in submitting overlapping data, the states are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing according to the Law of the Sea.”

Steinberg also noted that although a state has exclusive rights to the resources of the seabed in their ECS, these are the only rights that accrue there as the water column above the seabed in the ECS remains High Seas.

View the updated maps