In May 2008 the five Arctic coastal states adopted the Ilullisat Declaration in which they asserted their role as stewards, for the international community, of the Arctic Ocean ecosystem. This paper discusses the legal basis for their claim to stewardship with particular reference to the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean, and their assertion that no need exists for a new comprehensive legal regime in respect of those high seas waters. It is argued that while the high seas regime of the Arctic may be extensive, it is not comprehensive. Thus, the legitimacy of the claim to stewardship rests on the willingness and ability of the Arctic coastal states to work to fill the lacunae and address the shortcomings in the legal regime for the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean.
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