UNCLOS protections necessary to preserve U.S. research rights in Arctic waters
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As most of the Arctic Ocean has not been explored, one of the U.S. policy goals in the Arctic is to increase understanding through scientific research.60 Currently, the foremost scientific research interest for the United States is to obtain data regarding the geologic composition of the continental margin. In addition, the United States is pursuing research in climate variability, Arctic marine ecosystems, oil spill effects, and unconventional energy and mineral resources.61 Marine Scientific Research (MSR) in Russian arctic waters, where Russia has the longest Arctic coastline, is hampered by Russian reluctance to permit U.S. researchers access to Russian waters.
The United States has long accepted the UNCLOS regime for marine scientific research. UNCLOS gives coastal states exclusive control over scientific research in the territorial sea.62 Coastal states also have extensive rights in the EEZ, including the right to reject a request by a foreign nation or company for access to its EEZ or continental shelf if the project is of direct significance for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources63 or involves drilling into the continental shelf, the use of explosives, or the introduction of harmful substances into the marine environment.64 The convention provides all states the right to conduct marine scientific research in the high seas.65 A state’s ability to perform scientific research in the area is subject to the provisions of Part XI, the deep seabed mining regime.66 Article 143 states that all member states can conduct marine scientific research in the area, but they must provide the results of their research and analysis to the international community through the International Seabed Authority.67
U.S. based oceanographers and others conducting marine research are at a significant disadvantage due to U.S. non-party status to UNCLOS as they have to seek slow slow and complicated approval from foreign governments from access to their exclusive economic zones or continental shelves to conduct scientific research. Ratification of UNCLOS would resolve this because they could take advantage of the more favorable "implied consent" provisions under UNCLOS to further marine research.