Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Canada-US dispute over Arctic boundary line

It happens from time to time, but the claims of ownership of the Arctic Sea (known as the Beaufort Sea in this area) by Canada and the USA are once again under dispute.

It may sound academic in the extreme, but the argument centres around whether the border between Canada and the USA for the statutory 200 nautical miles off the Beaufort Sea coast is extended directly north along the 141st meridian, as Canada claims, or perpendicular to the line of the coast at the point of the border, as thr4 USA prefers.

I didn't understand the difference between the two at first, but a map makes clear the effect, which is actually quite significant.

The triangular region in dispute is about 21,000 square kilometres in area, and is estimated to contain upto 1.7 billion cubic metres of natural gas and over a billion cubic metres of oil (although technically both countries have environmental preservation programs within the disputed area, at least AT THE MOMENT).

Now, the Canadian position is based on the 1825 Treaty of St. Petersburg between Russia and Britain (subsequently transferred to the USA and Canada, who are current owners of the landmasses in question), which rules that the maritime boundary is to be an extension of the land border which follows the 141st meridian. The USA claim follows the "principal of equidistance", which is a general legal concept regularly used in maritime boundary claims. The difference occurs because the coastline at the border point is not quite exactly east-west.

Call me biased, but I would have thought that the former trumps the latter.

No comments: