Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ)

Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), commonly called the high seas (or the donut hole in the case of the Arctic, because of its shape), are those areas of ocean for which no one nation has sole responsibility for management. In all, these make up 40 percent of the surface of our planet, comprising 64 percent of the surface of the oceans and nearly 95 percent of its volume.” The Arctic represents around 3 – 4 % of the Earth’s ocean surface, around 14 million square kilometers. 2.8 million square kilometers of this are ABNJ. The remaining area is governed by the existing legal systems of eight states (Russia, Sweden, Denmark, United States, Norway, Finland and Canada) who own land areas and the marine territories of their EEZs (see definition for EEZ). In the Arctic ABNJ, clear legal instruments are lacking, but sector-specific regulations do exist. For example, the IMO (see definition) has established special protective measures in defined areas (see definition for Special Areas and PSSA) and has outlined an international code of safety for ships operating in polar areas (see Polar Code).