Governance of the Arctic Ocean beyond National Jurisdiction: Cooperative Currents, Restless Sea

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Arctic, Ocean Governance, Canada


The media has tended to focus public attention towards extended continental
shelf claims in the Arctic. The planting of a Russian flag on the North Pole in
August 2007 sparked a perception that the five Arctic Ocean coastal states—
Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway, the Russian Federation and USA—
would be in a mad scramble to claim and perhaps eventually exploit mineral
resources beyond their 200 nautical mile zones in the Arctic. The media and
scholarly hype was further fostered by Canada’s decision in December 2013 to
not make a full Canadian submission on Arctic claims to the Commission on
the Limits of the Continental Shelf in order to allow additional surveying work
to be carried out for a possible Canadian North Pole claim.

This chapter, through a two-part format, focuses on a lesser emphasized
challenge, that is, governance of the large high seas “donut hole” in the central Arctic Ocean (CAO) beyond the 200 nautical mile zones of the five coastal states. Global and regional cooperative agreements and initiatives relevant to the CAO are first examined. Global cooperative currents include: the law of the sea as the overarching framework; various multilateral environmental agreements (MEAS); conclusion of a new Polar Shipping Code in 2015; and application of the World-Wide Navigational Warning Service to areas of the CAO. The three regional cooperative eddies include: Arctic Council efforts related to CAO governance; initiatives by the five Arctic coastal states (Arctic 5) to address possible future commercial fisheries in the cao; and regional agreements for the North–East Atlantic covering a section of the Arctic Ocean beyond national jurisdiction.