Chicago Journal of International Law


As the Arctic Sea ice continues its precipitous retreat, the receding waters lure advancing commercial activity into previously inaccessible northern climates. The Arctic's increasingly ice-free waters are spurring a geopolitical race to claim (or to preserve) the Arctic's natural living resources because there is a potentially limited number offish. At this moment, the uncertain legal status of the Beaufort Sea presents the United States, Canada, and other nations with a unique opportunity for proactive management of the Arctic Ocean's fish resources. The territorial dispute between the US and Canada concerns their shared maritime boundary in the Beaufort Sea. A 6,250 nautical mile overlap between the two nations' exclusive economic zones consists of exploitable fishing resources. By utilizing a comparative analysis of the joint management approach implemented by Russia and Norway in the Svalbard Zone, this Comment seeks to bring about a sustainable fisheries management plan in the Beaufort Sea. It first analyzes the tragedy of the commons as it applies to open-sea fisheries. It then reflects on how the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the relevant legal mechanism for resolving an international dispute concerning ocean resources. This Comment acknowledges that several commentators have suggested that this device is not suited to manage the Arctic's ecological conditions nor does it successfully remedy either nation's territorial claims. Other commentators have denigrated a cooperative model by claiming that successful resource use and conservation requires single-state management within well-defined jurisdictions. Rather than delimiting each nation's territory in an inherently unsatisfactoU method, this Comment posits that application of the Convention's overarching principle of conservation could yield a satisfactory accord between the US and Canada concerning fish resources. But in order to achieve such a result, the US and Canada must undertake four tasks: (1) sharing research, (2) developing a common understanding of the issues, (3) pursuing a course of indirect coercion, and (4) bringing about voluntary participation.