Canada extends control over oil-rich Arctic region

August 28th, 2008 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 28 (IANS) With the rapidly disappearing Arctic Ocean ice raising prospects of a scramble for rich seabed resources among neighbouring nations, Canada is flexing its muscle, extending its jurisdiction over the region from 100 nautical miles to 200.Until now, the Arctic Ocean ice bed melted only during summer months, opening the so-called Northwest Passage (from the Pacific to the Atlantic) for shipping activities.

But with the Arctic ice-bed melting fast due to global warming, the Northwest Passage could remain open and thus navigable year-long for international shipping.

With the US, Norway and other countries laying claim to the rich ocean-bed resources (oil and gas), Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is travelling in the Arctic region, Wednesday said Canada will extend its jurisdiction in the Arctic from 100 nautical miles to 200 to bring international shipping under its laws.

He said: “Whether it is the thawing of the Northwest Passage or the suspected resource riches under the Arctic seabed, more and more countries are taking an interest in the waterways of the Canadian Arctic.

“We will be sending a clear message to the world that our environmental standards and sovereignty are not up for debate - if you are in Canada’s Arctic you will be playing by Canada’s rules.”

Harper said the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which allows the Canadian government to regulate shipping only up to 100 nautical miles from the nearest Canadian shore, will be amended to extend the jurisdiction up to 200 nautical miles.

Sending a strong message to the US and other Arctic nations, the Canadian prime minister said: “As an environmental matter, as a security matter and as an economic matter we are making it perfectly clear that not only do we claim jurisdiction over the Canadian Arctic, we are also going to put the full resources of the Government of Canada behind enforcing that jurisdiction.

“We are acting today to protect our environment, improve the security of our waterways and ensure that all northern residents - and, in particular, the Inuit - have a strong say in the future of our Arctic for generations to come.”

He said that the Canada Shipping Act 2001 will also be changed to make it mandatory for all ships within 200 nautical miles to report to Canadian authorities.

With a snap poll on the prime minister’s mind because of his government’s minority status in parliament, many Canadians see Wednesday’s announcement as an election ploy to impress voters.

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