U.S./Canada Run Rule over Beaufort

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"The seabed below the disputed area is eye-wateringly resource-rich."

Canada and the U.S. are poised to start a five-week joint survey of a sector of the Beaufort Sea over which both claim territorial rights.

The survey will help the two countries determine the extent of their continental shelves as the rush to tap the Arctic's resources gains pace.

the U.S. and Canada, together with Russia, Norway and Denmark, are all gathering evidence to submit claims to large swathes of the Arctic seabed under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Currently, coastal nations can claim rights in an exclusive economic zone which extends 200 nautical miles (322 km.) from land.

If the Arctic nations can prove that their submerged territory extends beyond 200 miles, they could gain access to vast untapped resources beneath the seabed.

However, for Canada and the U.S., there is a degree of uncertainty over how their Arctic maritime boundary should be defined.

"Canada and the U.S. need this data, both to delineate the continental shelf and to assist in the eventual resolution of the Beaufort Sea maritime boundary dispute," Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said.

Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. in 1867 while Great Britain handed its Canadian possessions to Canada when it became an independent country.

Canada's interpretation of the treaty, written in French, is that the maritime boundary extends north of the Alaska-Yukon border into the sea.

However, the U.S. rejects Canada's claim that the treaty fixes a maritime border; instead basing its claim on an equidistant line drawn from the coasts of both parties.

The resulting overlap claims covers about 21,000 sq. km.

According to figures made available by Canada's National Energy Board, the seabed below the disputed area is eye-wateringly resource-rich, containing a potential 1.7bn cubic meters of gas and millions of barrels of oil.

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