Much of Arctic region is “high seas”

Squabbles over the natural wealth of the Arctic can be overcome, scientists told a London conference, if governments build on the fact that much of the region is an international zone, New Scientist reported. Paul Berkman of Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute and Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science made the point at a scientific diplomacy conference.

The centre of the Arctic Ocean, they say, is an undisputed region of “high seas” outside any nation’s marine borders. While that classification does not legally include the sea floor — where mineral deposits lie — Berkman asserts that it provides an opportunity to ensure that the North Pole remains an international asset.

World leaders must first openly acknowledge that the international zone defined by the high seas already exists, he said; then they could define their shared interests. Such action also could present an opportunity for discussion of some nations’ military build-up in the Arctic.

Traditionally, much of the high Arctic has been considered beyond national boundaries. In recent years, however, as Arctic ice has melted due to climate change, countries interested in the region’s potential fossil fuel and mineral deposits have re-thought that concept.

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