History Lessons for the Arctic

What International Maritime Disputes Tell Us about a New Ocean

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This study examines three historical maritime disputes to draw lessons and insights for the future of maritime governance in a rapidly transforming Arctic. The historical case studies—the 1920 Svalbard Treaty and the implementation of the fisheries protection zone in the Svalbard Archipelago; the 1936 Montreux Convention and the challenge of adapting this instrument to modern maritime requirements amid increased regional tensions in the Black and Eastern Mediterranean Seas; and the 1961 Antarctic Treaty and the efforts leading to the establishment of a marine protected area in the Ross Sea—are highly instructive cases for a region that also must balance a confluence of international economic development, environmental protection, and security concerns along with strategic and ecologically sensitive maritime spaces. While historically unique, important lessons for the Arctic and its future governing needs are gleaned that address challenging geography, the assertion of national sovereignty, and the pursuit of shared environmental goals. It is hoped that these lessons can inform the development of future Arctic governance structures and mechanisms.

Photo credit: Crutwell, C., Atlas to Crutwell's Gazateer, 1799

Heather A. Conley

Alan D. Hemmings

Adjunct Associate Professor, Gateway Antarctica Centre for Antarctic Studies, University of Canterbury

Kristine Offerdal

Associate Professor, Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies

Nilufer Oral

Member, Faculty of Law, Istanbul Bilgi University