Table of Contents

Polar Geopolitics?

Polar Geopolitics?

Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes

Edited by Richard C. Powell and Klaus Dodds

The polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctic) have enjoyed widespread public attention in recent years, as issues of conservation, sustainability, resource speculation and geopolitical manoeuvring have all garnered considerable international media interest. This critical collection of new and original papers – the first of its kind – offers a comprehensive exploration of these and other topics, consolidating the emergent field of polar geopolitics.

Chapter 2: The polar regions and the law of the sea

Donald R. Rothwell

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


During the first decade of the twenty-first century there has been a renewed focus on the polar oceans. This has been partly driven by the attention generated by claims to an outer continental shelf made in both the Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean by a number of countries. These claims have been the subject of review by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), and that process remains ongoing. It has also been driven by renewed interest in the polar regions as a result of the impact of climate change making both regions more accessible to a range of activities, including commercial shipping, fishing operations, and seabed exploration and development (Rayfuse 2007). The polar oceans have also witnessed some contentious environmental issues such as whaling. In the Southern Ocean, this resulted in Australia commencing a case before the International Court of Justice over the legitimacy of Japanís scientific whaling program (Rothwell 2010). While the polar oceans are governed by a legal regime founded upon the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) (1833 United Nations Treaty Series 397), different regional approaches apply. In Antarctica large parts of the Southern Ocean are subject to the Antarctic Treaty (402 United Nations Treaty Series 71) and associated international legal instruments that regulate fisheries and marine environmental protection. In the Arctic there is no equivalent regional legal regime, though the Arctic Council is increasingly paying attention to Arctic Ocean issues and in 2011 a regional search and rescue arrangement was concluded.

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