Our overseas correspondent Anthony Speca says NTI’s statement on virgin international fisheries in the Arctic Ocean raises a question about Inuit resistance to involving non-arctic states in arctic economic governance.
Though few noticed at the time, on April 25 Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) seems to have suggested that aboriginal peoples should have preferential access to commercial fisheries in the international waters of the Arctic “beyond the Exclusive Economic Zones [EEZs] of the Arctic States.” This would be surprising, since it’s internationally acknowledged that international waters beyond any state’s EEZ are the common property of humanity. No one, whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal, adjacent or distant, has preferential access to such waters under international law.
Often lost in the hype about the Arctic “scramble for resources” is the fact that a large part of the Arctic Ocean can’t be claimed by anyone, including even the arctic states. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, no state has exclusive rights to the open ocean beyond 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from its shorelines, which is the limit of its EEZ. Some of the seabed beyond this limit can be claimed, provided it’s a natural extension of the continental shelf. But the waters beyond it—often called the “high seas”—belong to the international community.
This means that there is a huge “donut hole” of high sea in the central Arctic Ocean, a bit bigger in area than the Mediterranean or Caribbean Sea. Continue Reading