August 27, 2008

Canada Expands Arctic Ocean Claim

Canada has laid claim to a large swath of the the Arctic Ocean where it will police pollution violations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

Canada is expanding its territory in the region by 193,000 square miles. All ships entering the waters will be required to report their presence, the Globe and Mail reported. Currently, they only are encouraged to do so.

"These measures will send a clear message to the world: Canada takes responsibility for environmental protection and enforcement in our Arctic waters," Harper said during a stopover in the village of Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.

The prime minister said the competition for mineral and petroleum wealth in the polar region, along with the melting Arctic icepack, has resulted in a record number of ships in the area.

"The proliferation of international shipping in the North raises the potential for shipwrecks, smuggling, illegal immigration and even threats to national security," the Globe and Mail quoted Harper as saying.

"But more specifically it raises the potential of environmental threats, like oil spills, poaching and contamination."