The final recommendations of the UN Council on the Limits of the Continental Shelf have extended Norway’s control of the seabed off its coastline to around 235,000 square kilometres. By international standard all coastal nations have a continental shelf of 200 nautical miles. While this means Norway is now responsible for the management of the increased underwater territory, it also means Norway can tap into more of the potential natural resources that are believed to lie beneath the Arctic Sea.
“This establishes a clear division of responsibility and creates predictable conditions for activities in the High North. It confirms that Norway has substantial rights and responsibilities in maritime areas of some 235,000 square kilometres. The recommendation is therefore of historic significance for Norway,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store stated.
Some countries such as Norway have continental shelves that extend much further than the 200 mile minimum. They can submit a request to increase their management of this seabed to the UN, which has the power to grant extensions.
The decision by the UN Council is final and binding, though it has no real effect on unresolved boundary issues between Norway and neighbouring nations. With the future ownership of the Arctic Sea set to become hotly contested, it appears Norway has gained a small foothold in the race to claim this rich area.