Canada to collect more data for continental shelf claim

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent in the Arctic in 2008. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press)
The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent in the Arctic in 2008. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press)
Canada announced a new scientific survey on Friday to contribute to the country’s Arctic continental shelf submission.

“This scientific survey is another step toward realizing this government’s vision for the Arctic, which includes clearly defined boundaries and recognition of the full extent of Canada’s continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean,” said Rob Nicholson, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, in a news release.

Canada’s coast guard ships Louis S. St-Laurent and Terry Fox will  be involved in the six-week survey in the Arctic Ocean and will return to the community of Kugluktuk in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut on September 17, 2015.

Competing claims

As climate change increasingly affects sea ice in the North,  the Arctic coastal states (Canada,  Denmark/Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States) have been working to settle their various claims to seabed areas that may one day be accessible for resource extraction.

International law already entitles countries to an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles from their coasts. But under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries can submit scientific data if they believe their continental shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles.

Norway settled its claim in 2009.

It initially claimed a northern continental shelf area of  250,000 square kilometres, but it accepted modifications by UNCLOS that put the area at 235,000 square kilometres.

Denmark filed its claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2014. It claims around 900,000 square kilometers of the continental shelf north of Greenland, including the North Pole.

Russia is expected to deliver its application to the commission within the next few months. It claims  1.2 million square kilometers along the Lomonosov and Mendeleev Ridge.

The United States has not yet ratified UNCLOS and cannot make a claim unless they do so.

Canada’s claim

In 2013, Canada’s then foreign affairs minister John Baird raised eyebrows when, during a news conference, he said the country’s scientists and been asked to do further work mapping the continental shelf so it included the North Pole.

Allegations that the request came from Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after scientists concluded Canada’s continental shelf ended south of the pole, were not disputed at the time.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Interactive atlas shows Inuit trails, Blog by Mia Bennett

Denmark: Denmark claims North Pole, Barents Observer

Iceland:  Revisualizing the Cryosphere, Blog by Mia Bennett

Russia:  Application for Russia’s Arctic shelf claim out on tender, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Swedish ships mapped at bottom of sea, Radio Sweden

United States:  U.S. to collect Arctic data for modern navigational charts, Alaska Dispatch News






Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic circumpolar news project. At Eye on the Arctic, Eilís has produced documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar world. Her documentary Bridging the Divide was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards. Eilís began reporting on the North in 2001. Her work as a reporter in Canada and the United States, and as TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China" has taken her to some of the world’s coldest regions including the Tibetan mountains, Greenland and Alaska; along with the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Norway and Iceland.

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