Melting Moments: The Future of Polar Oceans Governance in a Warming World



Climate change poses significant physical, ecological, social and economic challenges to environmental, human and national security in polar regions. From an oceans governance perspective, increased human access to formerly ice-covered areas, and the potential for increased activities such as fishing, shipping, tourism, bioprospecting, off-shore mining, and oil and gas exploration, present significant legal challenges. While the issues are not unique to polar areas, the geopolitical, geographical and physical characteristics of the polar regions provide a unique and demanding framework in which to identify and address jurisdictional issues and issues relating to the protection of polar marine environments. This article attempts to identify the legal challenges ahead and to provide preliminary observations as to how the polar oceans governance regime might develop in the future.