The U.S. Conducted Research on the Extended Continental Shelf in the Arctic


continental shelf
Map: U.S. Department of State

It has been 20 years since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey began collecting and analyzing data on the depth, shape and geophysical characteristics of the seabed and subsoil of the Arctic Ocean. The White House called the study the largest offshore mapping effort ever conducted by the U.S.

The Arctic is one of seven regions where the U.S. claims the rights to the extended continental shelf (ECS). Other priority marine regions include the east coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the Bering Sea, the west coast of the Pacific Ocean, the Mariana Islands and two areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

If claims to ECS are recognized, then the claimant state receives exclusive rights to the seabed and subsoil of underwater areas.

The U.S. study appears to be somehow in response to 63-page recommendations for Russia, which were prepared by the UN Subcommission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in February 2023. The Subcommission found appropriate most of Russia's claims to the seabed in the central Arctic Ocean beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

It is noteworthy that Russian claims extend from Russia's exclusive economic zone through the North Pole to the exclusive economic zones of Canada and Greenland. According to preliminary estimates, the volume of hydrocarbon raw ranges from 5 to 10 billion tonnes of fuel equivalent.

Obviously, the discussion about rights to the Arctic seabed is still far from complete. The U.S. has not joined the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, although it claims to follow its principles. This approach allows the U. S. not to limit its claims to the expansion of the continental shelf within the limits established by the Convention. In addition, the United Nations International Court of Justice confirms that the Arctic coastal state has the right to exercise its rights in relation to the continental shelf, regardless of participation in any convention.

The editorial board of The Arctic Century