- Territorial claims in Antarctica
Seven states maintain a territorial claim on eight territories in Antarctica. These countries have tended to site their scientific observation and study facilities in Antarctica within their claimed territory.
It is sometimes said that the Antarctic Treaty defers or suspends these claims. However, Article IV(2) states that it does not affect (neither confirm not deny) existing claims: “No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim, to territorial sovereignty shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.”
Antarctic territorial claims
Seven sovereign states had made eight territorial claims to land in Antarctica below the 60° S parallel before 1961. These claims have been recognized only between the countries making claims in the area. All claim areas are sectors, with the exception of Peter I Island. None of these claims has an indigenous population. The South Orkney Islands fall within the territory claimed by Argentina and United Kingdom; and the South Shetland Islands fall within the areas claimed by Argentina, Chile, and the United Kingdom. The UK, France, Australia, New Zealand and Norway all recognize each others' claims, which do not overlap. Prior to 1962, British Antarctic Territory was a dependency of the Falkland Islands and also included South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Antarctic areas became a separate overseas territory following the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands remained a dependency of the Falkland Islands until 1985 when they too became a separate overseas territory.
Territory Claimant Date Claim limits British Antarctic Territory United Kingdom 1908 (Overseas territory of the United Kingdom) Ross Dependency New Zealand 1923 (Dependency of New Zealand) Adélie Land France 1924 (District of French Southern and Antarctic Lands) Peter I Island Norway 1929 (Dependency of Norway) Australian Antarctic Territory Australia 1933 (External territory of Australia) Queen Maud Land Norway 1939 (Dependency of Norway) Chilean Antarctic Territory Chile 1940 (Commune of Antártica Chilena Province) Argentine Antarctica Argentina 1942 (Department of the province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, and South Atlantic Islands)
Territory Claimant Date Claim limits British Antarctic Territory United Kingdom 1908 Chilean Antarctic Territory Chile 1940 Argentine Antarctica Argentina 1942
Territory Unclaimed limits Marie Byrd Land
Territory Claimant Date Claim limits New Swabia Germany 1939 (Former protectorate of Germany) 1945
Possible future claims
There have been speculation about possible future claims. The US and Russia (as successor state of the Soviet union) have claimed to have reserved rights on claim and there have also been speculations on Brazil making a claim bounded by 53° W and 28° W, overlapping thus with the Argentine and British claims but not with the Chilean.
Subantarctic island territories
Four island territories located north of the 60° South circle of latitude are sometimes associated with the continent of Antarctica. None of these territories has an indigenous population.
- Bouvet Island (Norwegian dependency)
- French Southern Territories
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands (Australian overseas territory)
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (British overseas territory)
The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth's only continent without a native human population. The treaty has now been signed by 46 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and the now-defunct Soviet Union. The treaty set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and banned military activity on that continent. This was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. The Soviet Union and the United States both filed reservations against the restriction on new claims, and the United States and Russia assert their right to make claims in the future if they so choose. Brazil maintains the Comandante Ferraz (the Brazilian Antarctic Base) and has proposed a theory to delimiting territories using meridians, which would give it and other countries a claim. In general, territorial claims below the 60° S parallel have only been recognised among those countries making claims in the area. However, claims are often indicated on maps of Antarctica - this does not signify de jure recognition.
All claim areas except Peter I Island are sectors, the borders of which are defined by degrees of longitude. In terms of latitude, the northern border of all sectors is the 60° S parallel which does not cut through any piece of land, continent or island, and is also the northern limit of the Antarctic Treaty. The southern border of all sectors collapses in one point, the South Pole. Only the Norwegian sector is an exception: the original claim of 1930 did not specify a northern or a southern limit, so that its territory is only defined by eastern and western limits.
The Antarctic Treaty states that contracting to the treaty:
- is not a renunciation of any previous territorial claim.
- does not affect the basis of claims made as a result of activities of the signatory nation within Antarctica.
- does not affect the rights of a State under customary international law to recognise (or refuse to recognise) any other territorial claim.
What the treaty does affect are new claims:
- No activities occurring after 1961 can be the basis of a territorial claim.
- No new claim can be made, except by the United States or then Soviet Union, now Russian Federation.
- No claim can be enlarged.
- ^ Rogan-Finnemore, Michelle (2005), "What Bioprospecting Means for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean", in Von Tigerstrom, Barbara, International Law Issues in the South Pacific, Ashgate Publishing, pp. 204, ISBN 0-7546-4419-7
- ^ The international politics of Antarctica. Page 119 and 124.
- ^ Districts of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands excluding Adelie Land.
- ^ Includes the Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean, which is associated with Africa
- ^ However, the Norwegian government has stated in 2003 that the northern extent of the Norwegian territory conforms to general practice by extending 12 nautical miles (22 km) from the shore.
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