Polar Oceans

Sovereignty and the contestation of territorial and resource rights

Authored by: Klaus Dodds , Alan D. Hemmings

Routledge Handbook of Ocean Resources and Management

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415531757
eBook ISBN: 9780203115398
Adobe ISBN: 9781136294822


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The title of our chapter is deliberately provocative, and to the point. Whatever claims might be made for the relative remoteness or geographical inaccessibility of the polar oceans, the Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean are today enmeshed in a series of tensions and contradictions that bring to the fore the uneasy coexistence of political–territorial colonization, resource exploitation, scientific research and the maintenance of managerial regimes, both global and regional in scope. At worst, we may well be witnessing the unfolding of a future for the polar oceans that is characterized by ever greater resource extraction (including living and non-living resources) and territorial competition for access to areas within contested coastal waters and open seas/deep waters. Such a scenario has attracted, repeatedly, media framings such as ‘last resource frontier’, ‘land grab’ and ‘scramble for territory’ (for example, Bert 2012 and more critically, Craciun 2009, Nuttall 2012). At best, the polar oceans (along with other oceanic spaces) might be managed proactively with due regard to existing managerial regimes such as the Convention on the Conservation of Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR) and the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), coupled with an appreciation for the so-called ‘Lisbon Principles’ regarding the sustainable governance of the oceans (Costanza et al. 1998).

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