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The Law of the Sea Convention and the Northwest Passage

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

Concern over the loss of sea ice has renewed discussions over the legal status of the Arctic and sub-Arctic transcontinental maritime route connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific, referred to as the "Northwest Passage." Over the last thirty years, Canada has maintained that the waters of the Passage are some combination of internal waters or territorial seas. Applying the rules of international law, as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, suggests that the Passage is a strait used for international navigation. Expressing concerns over maritime safety and security, recognition of northern sovereignty, and protection of the fragile Arctic environment, Canada has sought to exercise greater authority over the Passage. This article suggests that Canada can best achieve widespread global support for managing its maritime Arctic by acknowledging that the passage constitutes an international strait and then working through the International Maritime Organization to develop a comprehensive package of internationally accepted regulations.


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Affiliations: 1: Oceans Policy Adviser, Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Pentagon, Washington, DC


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