Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention

The Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act (AWPPA) is Canadian legislation that established a maritime environmental protection zone around the waters surrounding the land and islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Enacted by the Canadian Government in 1970, it was developed to demonstrate Canadian sovereignty over the North West Passage. It was precedent setting in that Canada was the first coastal nation to claim an extended maritime zone of control in order to protect the marine environment in its surrounding waters.

The AWPPA was created following the voyages of the USS Manhattan through the North West Passage in 1969 and 1970. The United States Government has never recognized Canadian claims of sovereignty over the Passage and views it as an international strait. Canada has always maintained that the waters of the North West Passage are internal waters. This is based on historical claims and by virtue of the fact that the waters of the Passage are indistinguishable from land by being frozen for much of the year. Due to the opposing positions, when the United States Government wanted to test the possibility of shipping oil from the North Slope of Alaska to the continental United States by supertanker, it did not request the Canadian Government's permission. The Canadian Government did not wish to directly challenge the American Government, but did want to take some action to reaffirm its claims of control over the North West Passage. It elected to develop legislation that allowed for a functional form of control by asserting the right to enact unilateral environmental protection.

The Act created a set of regulations in a zone extending from the baselines of the Canadian northern territory seaward to a distance of 100 nautical miles 185.3 km. It banned the discharge of all wastes in these waters and regulated the design, construction, and navigation of all vessels that would operate in the waters within the zone.

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