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Canadian Review of American Studies/ Revue amadiemze d'etudes americaines Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 1995, pp. 49-66 Delineating Maritime Boundaries: The 1977-78 Canada-U. S. Beaufort Sea Continental Shelf Delimitation Boundary Negotiations Christopher Kirkey 49 In August 1977, Canada and the United States commenced negotiations for the purposes of resolving four .:iutstanding maritime boundary disputes: the Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank area; seaward of the Strait of Juan de Fuca; the Dixon Entrance; and, the Beaufort Sea continental shelf and water column. The purpose of this paper is to examine the negotiations and related outcome involving the final case, that of the Beaufort Sea maritime boundary. Specifically, the following questions will be examined: what were the respective national interests and negotiating objectives of both parties?; were these objectives fulfilled?; how did the negotiation process evolve?; and, what variables account for the outcome reached? It is necessary at the outset, however, to first explain what prompted Canada and the United States to begin negotiations in 1977 over this issue. A Desire to Resolve the Dispute The discovery of large oil reserves at Prudhoe Bay in June 1968 precipitated, not surprisingly, an unheralded level of hydrocarbon exploration activity in the North. In particular, Canadian and American government sanctioned developmental oil and natural gas efforts-in the late 1960s and into the mid1970s respectively-concentrated on the Mackenzie Bay/Mackenzie River 50 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue cmurdienned'eludes m11ericaines delta region, westward to the Prudhoe Bay area. In turn, the extensive search for hydrocarbons, both on land (i.e., the northernmost parts of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Alaska), and especially along the corresponding section of the Beaufort Sea continental shelf, focused attention on a long-standing Canadian-American boundary dispute; namely, the unresolved delineation of the Beaufort Sea boundary. Conflicting Canadian-American legal positions, and overlapping jurisdictional claims on how and where to delimit the Beaufort boundary, left a promising hydrocarbon maritime area of 6,180 nautical miles open to dispute (Wang 1981, 21). Canada's position, founded on the principles of treaty interpretation and historical/functional jurisdiction, held that the offshore or 11 wet11 boundary was simply an extension of the 141st meridian of west longitude, which onshore serves to divide the Yukon Territory and Alaska. Successive Canadian governments had argued that the language contained in the 1825 treaty between Russia and Great Britain (see U. S. Senate 1825), and the 1867 Cession of Alaska Treaty clearly suggested that the 141st meridian was not exclusively limited to the delineation of land boundaries, but rather also applied to the Beaufort Sea (see figure 1). Furthermore, Canada had used the 141st meridian as a multipurpose functional western boundary in the Beaufort for such purposes as the granting of hydrocarbon exploration licences (beginning in January 1965), and the creation of an Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Zone (April 1970). 1 The United States, on the other hand, had consistently put forth a position based on the rules contained in the 1958 Continental Shelf Convention, its interpretation of customary international law, and criteria established by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In so doing, the United States insisted that the boundary in the Beaufort Sea must be arrived at using equitable principles. Drawing on Article 6 of the convention, the general principles of customary international law, and specific ICJ guidelines laid forth in the court's 1969 ruling on North Sea continental shelf cases, the United States argued that the boundary follows an equidistant line to the northeast of the 141st meridian (see figure 1).2 U.S. officials were also unwilling to recognize the 141st meridian-as laid down in the 1825 and 1867 treaties-as appli- V) 0 C: .., r, !': 0. .., ;,,:;-- (1) ' ..,r, -~ . ... ,.,·or. -~ ..,,.,, UNITED STATES C: * "- ,.,., - 52 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne d'etudes americaines cable for the purposes of delimiting "wet" boundaries (Lawson 1981, 242). Beginning in late 1975, exploratory talks between the Department of External Affairs and the Department of State (headed by legal representatives Maurice Copithorne and Monroe Leigh) ensued, the focus of which was to present and discuss the respective legal position of each party. According to a senior State Department...


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