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One famous exception is the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, signed in 1973 by the five Arctic coastal states Canada, Denmark, Norway, USSR and USA.
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The Permanent Participants have full consultation rights in connection with the Arctic Council’s negotiations and decisions.
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UNCLOS, Art. 234: “[C]oastal states have the right to adopt and enforce non-discriminatory laws and regulations for the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution from vessels in ice-covered areas within the limits of the EEZ, where particularly severe climatic conditions and the presence of ice covering such areas for most of the year create obstructions or exceptional hazards for navigation, and pollution of the marine environment could cause major harm or ecological disturbance of the ecological balance [….].”
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Originally conceived as “Treaty between Norway, the USA, Denautical Milesark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland and the British Overseas Dominions and Sweden with regard to Svalbard”, it gathers about 40 state parties at present.
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Interestingly, the shipping sector seems to stand aside from this debate, as the new developments within the International Maritime Organization (IMO) suggest that a new International Mandatory Code for Shipping in Polar Water is unfolding and may enter in force in 2014 or 2015. Should this happen, the creation of a Polar Code will likely disclose tremendous opportunities to enhance sustainable navigation in the Arctic, decreasing threats to human safety and environmental integrity.
In this regard, Fjellheim and Henriksen (2006) note the potential conflict of interests between offshore oil activities and indigenous peoples’ fishing interests.
Arctic Human Development Report, 125. Akureyri: Stefansson Arctic Institute, 2004.
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