Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Arctic in the proposed "Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning" of the U.S. Ocean Policy Task Force

On December 14, 2009, the U.S. Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force released a proposed "Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning" (dated December 9, 2009).  The Framework is now open for a 60-day public comment period, through Friday, February 12, 2010.*  As discussed in an earlier entry, the Task Force issued an Interim Report in September 2009, as part of its mandate to work towards a national Ocean Policy.

Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, or CMSP, is one of the nine priority areas identified in the September 2009 Interim Report (so are "Changing Conditions in the Arctic - see p. 6 of that Report). Of CMSP, the proposed Interim Framework states: "CMSP is a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based, and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas."

The proposed Interim Framework contains at least two points relevant to the Arctic:

1.   ALASKAN LMEs.  The proposed Framework adopts Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) as the basic planning unit for CMSP.  Alaska is assigned five - almost half - of the eleven LMEs that the Framework identifies in U.S. ocean and coastal waters.  The five Alaskan LMEs are the West Bering Sea, East Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and the Gulf of Alaska.  As the Framework states in footnote 3: "Given the geographic breadth and multiple LME’s encompassed by the Alaska/Arctic Region, there would be flexibility to develop sub-regional CMS Plans (e.g., Arctic CMS Plan and Gulf of Alaska CMS Plan)."
 2.  SCIENCE-BASED INFORMATION and TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE.  The Task Force says of the proposed Framework that "
Scientific data, information and knowledge, as well as relevant traditional knowledge, will be the underpinning of the regionally developed plans."

* To make a comment on the proposed Interim Framework, visit the Task Force website comment submission page, which may take a few seconds to load.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SCAR releases "Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment"

Those working on issues relating to the Arctic know of the tremendous influence the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) has had far beyond the Arctic since its release in 2004 by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Arctic Council.  A southern hemisphere equivalent has now been published.

In a December 1, 2009, press release the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) publicizes one of its major contributions to the International Polar Year 2007-2008: Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment (ACCE).  Although the report was printed in October in order to be delivered to heads of delegation in advance of the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change, and parts have been published as scientific papers (in Reviews of Geophysics, January 2009), the electronic version is now being publicized broadly.

Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment was edited by Turner, J., Bindschadler, R.A., Convey, P., Di Prisco, G., Fahrbach, E., Gutt, J., Hodgson, D.A., Mayewski, P.A., and Summerhayes, C.P.

As publicity materials indicate, "the report is available from the ACCE page of the SCAR website at http://www.scar.org/publications/occasionals/acce.html, along with copies of the press release, and a document detailing the main 10 points from the report."

Monday, November 30, 2009

US Navy issues "Arctic Road Map"

Announced earlier this year, the U.S. Navy has now published its "Arctic Road Map."  

The Oceanographer of the Navy, Rear Admiral David Titley, discussed plans for the Roadmap at the Naval Academy last June, as part of the 3rd Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations (his presentation is available at the symposium website).  The road map was produced by the Navy's "Task Force Climate Change," (highlighted on National Public Radio in July 2009) which collaborates with the US Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Arctic Council Working Groups and NOAA issue annual Arctic Report Card for 2009

An international group of scientists contributed to the peer-reviewed annual Arctic Report Card, issued this month under the auspices of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and working groups within the Arctic Council -- the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP),  Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), and Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP).  The Report Card summary notes the following key points for 2009:

The Report Card contains sections on Atmosphere, Sea Ice Cover, Ocean, Land, Permafrost, Terrestrial Snow, Glaciers outside Greenland, Greenland, Biology, The State of Wild Reindeer Herds, Marine Mammals, Murres, Fisheries in the Bering Sea, The State of the Barents Sea Ecosystem, The State of Char in the Arctic, and Goose Populations.  Peer review is conducted by topical experts of the Climate Experts Group (AMAP) of the Arctic Council.

The full report, Richter-Menge, J., and J.E. Overland, Eds., 2009: Arctic Report Card 2009, http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard, can be downloaded in PDF form.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Arctic and the proposed U.S. National Ocean Policy

The September 2009 Interim Report* of the U.S. Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force proposes a National Ocean Policy (pp. 13-17), and identifies “Changing Conditions in the Arctic” (pp. 7, 26, 37) as one of nine priority areas for which strategic action plans should be developed (p. 28). The proposed Policy incorporates the “precautionary approach” and “best available science” among its principles. The Interim Report is open for a 30-day public review and comment period, which ends October 16, 2009.

*NOTE: If the URL for the Interim Report is not responsive, NOAA summarizes some of the report's highlights here.

In the case of the Arctic, the Interim Report calls for the strategic action plan to address “Improvement of the scientific understanding of the Arctic system and how it is changing in response to climate-induced and other changes.” (p. 37).

The Interim Report’s focus on the Arctic is notable and welcome, given the relative dearth of references in other documents leading up to the proposed National Ocean Policy. The slow process leading to an integrated, ecosystem-based national ocean policy traces most recently to two documents: the independent Pew Oceans Commission report in 2003, America’s Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change, and the 2004 report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, titled Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century (whose arctic focus was on fossil-based fuel sources and contaminants concentration). The U.S. Commission was established under the Oceans Act of 2000, PL 106-256, with the mandate to make recommendations for [a] coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy.” The Act also required the President to prepare a formal response to those recommendations, which reply took the form of the 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan (containing one general reference to the Arctic Ocean). President George W. Bush established the U.S. Committee on Ocean Policy (not to be confused with the Commission on Ocean Policy, above) as part of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) by Executive Order EO 13366, effective December 21, 2004.

The Interim Report of September 2009 is a work product of the temporary Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force established by President Obama in a June 12, 2009 memorandum on National Policy for the Oceans, Our Coasts and the Great Lakes. The Task force members comprise senior officials from departments, agencies and offices represented on the Committee on Ocean Policy. CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley toured the U.S. Arctic in August 2009 with NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, and others.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A New Seamount

On the midnight watch we passed again by the seamount discovered last week:

Polar stereographic image (75deg N), 6X vertical exaggeration, measured in meters. For other images visit LDEO

To chart our course we combine information from a variety of maps and data sources. Very little of the historical information we rely on was produced with GPS or the kind of multibeam echosounder equipment we are mapping with on HEALY, which provides very detailed images of the areas being mapped. Thus, last week we had only a previous contour line to indicate that a small rise might protrude from the seafloor in that spot. The earlier maps gave no indication that the feature would rise more than 1,000 meters or .6 miles from the seafloor, which is required for a seamount. Christine Hedge, the NOAA Teacher at Sea (from Carmel Middle School, Indiana), was standing watch when she noticed a feature emerging somewhat starboard of the planned ship track, and contacted the scientists in charge who redirected the ship so we could map the feature more completely.

While the seamount rises almost 1,100 meters from the seafloor, its peak is still over one and a half miles below the surface of the ocean (rising from 3710 meters to 2622 meters; the 3791 mark shown in the image above refers to the surrounding seafloor, not to the base of the seamount itself). It is located at 81 degrees 31.57N 134 degrees 28.80W, is approximately 14 nautical miles long, 4 nautical miles wide, and oriented N-S. Other images of the seamount may be found at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Larry A. Mayer and Andy Armstrong, of the UNH Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center, co-chief scientists for HLY0905, were also leading a mapping cruise on board USCG HEALY in 2003 when the feature now named Healy Seamount (after the vessel and its namesake, Captain Michael Healy) was discovered at 78º40’N, 158º 00’W.

Of the new seamount, Mayer says, in Andrew Revkin's DotEarth report:

"The new seamount is small but unusual in its isolation (at least we think it’s isolated — remember we didn’t know it was there - and I suspect there are many others that we don’t know about) — but this one is sitting in the middle of nowhere in the abyssal plain and will only add to the mysteries of the origin of this part of the Arctic."

Source: NYT DotEarth, September 10, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Operating in Tandem

A year ago, on the HLY0805 leg of Arctic Summer West, after three weeks we had completed our mapping for the summer and were preparing to pack up and disembark. This year, as we enter our fourth week on board HEALY for 0905, we still have the luxury of two and half weeks to continue our work with the Canadian LOUIS S. ST-LAURENT. I continue to marvel at how different one day is from the next, even as we keep a routine watch and regimented daily schedule. And even as the weather has been an almost unbroken string of fog-filled days and nights. Visibility waxes and wanes, but a number of you following the photos on the Aloft Con camera (see link upper right) have commented on the, well, “consistency” of our weather.

Left: The Louis S. St-Laurent seen through the fog

The weather is in stark contrast to the brilliantly clear, light-infused days of HLY0805 and is revealing a different – and evidently more typical – picture of August weather in this part of the Arctic Ocean: fog and more fog, snow, some rain, sleet and, more rare, hoar frost. Tookaq Neakok, the community observer from the North Slope Borough who also traveled with us last year, says his family back on shore is reporting rain in Barrow. Ice conditions have been generally acceptable for mapping (you can see our tracks using the upper right links) both near the Chukchi Cap and across the Canada Basin, northward to our northernmost point on 2009-08-28 (roughly 122º70’044 W 84º22’211 N). Nonetheless it has been especially useful on the northern portion of our joint track to have the ability to break ice for one another.
Helo transfers of Coast Guard and scientific crew between ships have also been fruitful.

Friday, August 14, 2009

How Geoscientists Think - and Lawyers

The Louis S. St. Laurent and the Healy are now underway together, having rendezvoused on August 10th. Three members of the Healy science crew are blogging on day-to-day science operations on board: Barbara Moore, for the Extended Continental Shelf Interagency Task Force, Christine Hedges, a NOAA Teacher at Sea, and Jon Pazol for the Armada Project.

Being surrounded again by marine geophysicists is a good reminder of the ways in which our different disciplines see the world. An excellent piece in the August 4, 2009 EoS, How Geoscientists Think and Learn (and the Supplementary Material published online) is especially illuminating with respect to how their spatial and temporal perceptions differ from the general population, emphasizing perceptions of geological time, spatial thinking and understanding of complex systems. The piece is one result of the Synthesis of Research on Thinking & Learning in the Geosciences Project, Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Cathy Manduca, SERC, Carleton College, PIs.

Lawyers and legal academics are also building on developments in cognitive science, but more to investigate its implications for legal and social policy than to understand how lawyers themselves think (perhaps even this difference in how the two disciplines use cognitive science says something about our view of the world and our roles in it?). The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center is self-described as a resource for those “with an interest in understanding the implications of social psychology, social cognition, and other related mind sciences for law, policymaking, and legal theory.” Also of note is Law, Mind and the Brain, by Michael Freeman and Oliver Goodenough, a Law and Mind Project contributor and a Vermont Law School colleague, who investigates how cognitive science is changing Anglo-American approaches to responsibility.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In Barrow: One Year Anniversary; Forest Fires in Fairbanks; Recent Developments in Law, Science, Policy

Dear Readers,
Greetings from Barrow (more specifically from BASC and the Ilisagvik cafeteria), where we are preparing to transfer to HEALY today, for its 09-05 cruise. Many operations in and around Barrow have been delayed by forest fires near Fairbanks and the ensuing transport-domino effect up and down Alaska’s airways.
First, thank you for your enthusiastic support over the last year. You have visited from many places around the U.S. and the globe. Because my postings will become less regular once we are on board, and through mid-September when we are scheduled to disembark, I wanted to take time now to thank you for reading along since I began this weblog one year ago, as we embarked on Healy 08-05.
Over the next few weeks my focus will be more on science operations on board and less on the policy and news I have tried to emphasize over the past 12 months. However, I wanted to send one last short listing of links about important developments in the last week.
U.S. and Canada: As many of you know, Alaska’s Senator Mark Begich introduced seven arctic-related bills this week. As Institute of the North points out in its Top of the World Telegraph, the bills are called “the Inuvikput legislation after the Inupiaq expression meaning “the place where we live.” In Canada, “Bill C-3, an Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, came into force on August 1, 2009, effectively doubling the area of Canada’s jurisdiction to enforce certain environmental and shipping regulations, from 100 to 200 nautical miles.
With the late summer /early fall arctic research season in high gear, more stories about potential effects of global change are making their way into the media. As always one needs to sort carefully through the range of reporting available online. I offer just one example, highlighted by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, which dubs itself as offering “peer review within science journalism.” The Tracker questions aspects of report this week in the New Scientist feed that the Beaufort Gyre could contribute to exponentially increased pollution of the Arctic Ocean as temperatures warm and ship traffic increases. Not surprisingly, the blogosphere picks up the dramatic headlines without always questioning the conclusions.
For readers not yet acquainted with the Federation of American Scientist project on Government Secrecy, I recommend its Secrecy News blog as an excellent source of information about data and declassification policies within the U.S. government. Recent posts include reference to the Department of Interior press release that “some 700 classified images of Arctic sea ice have been declassified and released.
With thanks one last time from shore, I look forward to updating you from time to time between now and September 16 about life and work on HEALY 09-05. Barbara Moore of the US ECS Task Force as well as two teachers, Christine Hedge and Jon Pazol, will also be blogging from HEALY.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Canada and the United States announce details of joint Louis-Healy mission

The Canadian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources and Fisheries and the U.S. Department of State, Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, have released the details of the joint icebreaker mission to map portions of the Arctic Ocean continental shelf (reported on in last week’s entry).  See the State Department announcement and reports of the Canadian statement. 

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea all emphasized the exceptional partnership between the two countries, Shea also touching on the millions of dollars each country saves by working together on mapping the Arctic Ocean.

Readers who also subscribe to Caitlyn Antrim’s Ocean Law Daily will already know of the new Canadian Northern Strategy report and supporting website, launched this month.

Press reactions are already flowing in on both the joint mapping details and the Northern Strategy.  Not suprisingly, the Canadian press is devoting much more attention than its U.S. counterparts to these developments.  The New York Times report ties the mapping story to the Obama administration’s desire to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention.   

Arctic Shipping:  Also in the NYT (DotEarth blog) this week are reactions to Andrew Revkin's story about Trans-Arctic shipping.  Traffic is increasing, as documented formally by the Arctic Council's AMSA (Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009) as well as anecdotally.  According to an audio report from Alaska Public Radio Network, as transmitted by the Top of the World Telegraph, the waters off of Barrow, which has no deepwater port, are crowded this week:  "At least one icebreaker and three sailboats attempting to navigate the Northwest Passage have been anchored off of the northern city while crews stock up on supplies."  The Telegraph is prepared by  the Anchorage-based Institute of the North, which was also integrally involved in AMSA.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Canadian and U.S. Icebreakers Poised for Joint UNCLOS Mapping of Arctic Ocean

The Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Louis S. St-Laurent is scheduled to embark Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Monday, July 20, en route to an early August rendezvous with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20) in the Arctic Ocean.  There the two vessels will begin their second joint Canadian-United States mission to map the Arctic Ocean under the process established by Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  The Healy left its home port of Seattle earlier this month and is currently (July 18) transiting from the Gulf of Alaska along the Aleutian Peninsula to the Bering Sea.

Both ships can be tracked online, the Louis here and the Healy here.

Accounts of the 2008 joint cruise are available from the U.S. Geological Survey (Jon Childs and Deborah Hutchinson) and the U.S. Coast Guard (Captain F.J. Sommer), and in academic publications (e.g. Eos, D. Hutchinson /H.Ruth Jackson et al). A complete Cruise Report (Larry A. Mayer and Andy Armstrong) from the Healy 0805 solo cruise just prior to meeting the Louis in 2008 is available from the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center at University of New Hampshire (CCOM/JHC), as is data from all CCOM/JHC Law of the Sea cruises.  The two countries work together on mapping while abiding by their different approaches to how much of the data can be made public; some have called for Canada to return to greater transparency with respect to its seafloor data.

The 2009 Cruise Plan for the Healy component (0905) of this year’s joint cruise is available from Icefloe.net, as is the Joint Healy-Louis Science plan for last year’s cruise.  Natural Resources Canada provides an excellent overview of the Canadian UNCLOS Bathymetric Mapping Program prepared by J. Richard MacDougall, Wendell Sanford and Jacob Verhoef for the Canadian Hydrographic Conference and National Surveyors Conference 2008.  Finally, an e-brochure recently published by the U.S. Minerals Management Service discusses the basics of the U.S. effort to map its extended continental shelf (a term of convenience, it should be recalled, that does not appear in the Law of the Sea Convention).

The Louis S. St-Laurent is named after Louis Stephen St. Laurent (1882-1973), who served as Canada’s Minister of Justice 1941-46 and Secretary of State for External Affairs 1946-48 before becoming Prime Minister of Canada in 1948, a post which he held until 1957.

The Healy is named after Michael Augustine Healy (1939-1904) the U.S. Coast Guard’s first African-American captain, who commanded several vessels that patrolled the vast waters off of the new Alaskan territory after its purchase from the Russian Empire in 1867.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lavrov and Clinton to coordinate joint Russian-US Presidential Commission

The Barents Observer reported July 6, 2009, on the joint commission created by Presidents Medvedev and Obama as part of the latter’s visit this week to the Russian Federation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will serve as Commission Coordinators, overseeing its 13 working groups. While the Arctic was not named specifically in either the Kremlin or White House Fact Sheets about the Commission, at least two working groups have the potential to address issues relevant to  arctic mapping and scientific cooperation.  The Energy and Environment Working Group will be headed by Sergei I. Shmatko, Minister of Energy, and Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, and the Science and Technologies Working Group by Andrei A. Fursenko, Minister of Education and Science, and John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mention of the Arctic was also notably absent from yesterday’s joint Medvedev-Obama Press Conference.

Given both countries’ emphases on the importance of scientific cooperation and/or continental shelf mapping in recent statements relevant to their respective interests in the Arctic  (the United States Arctic Region Policy of January 2009, "The fundamentals of Russian state policy in the Arctic up to 2020 and beyond"and the Russian Maritime Strategy, anticipated this summer), it is to be hoped that the Lavrov-Clinton Commission will also lead to new opportunities for scientists from both countries working together in the Arctic.

Update July 8:  In keeping with last week's entry, the Center for American Progress has pointed out that, contrary to misguided "land grab" perceptions, Russia is following agreed legal procedures in pursuing its continental shelf claims. The Center also integrates bilateral cooperation in the Arctic into its proposed new agenda and strategy for United States relations with the Russian Federation.

Also of note this week:

Also this week, USCGC HEALY embarked Seattle for the Arctic Ocean.  You can follow the ship’s missions for the rest of Summer 2009 as it supports such research as deployment of oceanographic moorings and whale hydrophones (0904), and continental shelf mapping with the Canadian Coast Guard’s Louis St. Laurent (0905).  As part of its Arctic West Summer cruise, the HEALY has already completed 2009 projects on the Bering Ecosystem.

On an (admittedly) unrelated but timely note about scientists in the Arctic, your blogger begs her readers’ indulgence in pointing them to a recent arctic tribute  from researchers at Toolik Lake Field Station to a cultural icon, as well as information about GIS and other projects at this University of Alaska-Fairbanks research station.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Refuting Arctic Misconceptions and Misinformation

On 22 June 2009, the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a noteworthy article by Alastair Cameron, “The Arctic Uncovered: Refuting the Last Colonial Grab Theory.”  The article (summarized here) appears in the institute’s monthly Newsbrief and is available for purchase at the RUSI website.

The article makes a short but useful contribution to correcting the rampant misconceptions in the media and elsewhere that the circumpolar Arctic states are heading for conflict or engaged in some form of land grab.  Cameron disagrees that an “energy free-for-all” is underway in the Arctic, pointing to the fact that many of the major petroleum fields identified by the USGS in recent studies are believed to be within Russia’s EEZ.  He lays out the orderly legal process by which states are gathering data under the Law of the Sea Convention for submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf; and speaks of “spirit of international co-operation which has so far been fostered through the Arctic Council and the Ilulissat Declaration.”  He counters perceptions of a military buildup by speaking of the special challenges in the Arctic, observing that these are “best tackled in partnership” yet also speaks of the special and difficult relationship between NATO and Russia, querying what role the alliance should have in the High North.  The complete article expands cogently but significantly on each of these points.


Camreron is Head, European Security Programme, of RUSI, which is self-described as an “independent think tank engaged in cutting edge defence and security research.”  RUSI is based in London, with offices in Doha, Qatar and Washington, D.C.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rep. Young introduces Bill HR 2865 in US House proposing increased icebreaker capacity

On June 12, 2009, US Representative Don Young ( R ) Alaska  introduced the HR 2865 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Implementation Act of 2009 in the US House of Representatives.  

The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA)is a negotiated document of the Arctic Council approved by its Ministers at Tromsø, Norway, on April 29, 2009.   AMSA is a comprehensively researched and detailed and usefully presented study of the multiple issues arising from melting ice and increasing shipping in the Arctic Ocean.  AMSA lays out specific recommendations in three broad areas: Enhancing Arctic Marine Safety, Protecting Arctic People and the Environment, and Building the Arctic Marine Infrastructure. 

Among the  “Findings” in the Bill, HR 2865, are that:

 (7) The United States has continuing research, security, environmental, and commercial interests in the Arctic region that rely on the availability of icebreaker platforms of the Coast Guard. The Polar Class icebreakers commissioned in the 1970s are in need of replacement.”


and, that


“(9) Building new icebreakers, mustering international plans for aids to navigation and other facilities, and establishing coordinated shipping regulations and oil spill prevention and response capability through international cooperation, including the approval of the International Maritime Organization, requires long lead times. Beginning those efforts now, with the completion of an Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment by the eight-nation Arctic Council, is essential to protect United States interests given the extensive current use of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas by vessels of many nations.”


Importantly, the Bill places these icebreaking capacity questions in the international framework provided by the International Maritime Organization and emphasizes the need for circumpolar agreements to coordinate activities amongst the Arctic coastal and other seafaring states:



To carry out the purpose of this Act, the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating shall work through the International Maritime Organization to establish agreements to promote coordinated action among the United States, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark and other seafaring and Arctic nations to ensure, in the Arctic—

(1) placement and maintenance of aids to navigation;

(2) appropriate icebreaking escort, tug, and salvage capabilities;

(3) oil spill prevention and response capability;

(4) maritime domain awareness, including long-range vessel tracking; and

(5) search and rescue.”



See also this unofficial Coast Guard blog entry on the proposed bill.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alaska and Law of the Sea Convention: Senators Begich and Murkowski, Governor Palin, and the Alaskan Legislature all call for ratification of UNCLOS

At the opening day of the 3rd Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations, sponsored by the National Ice Center and the US Arctic Research Commission, Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) called for ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention in his speech to the conference, as did Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in a letter read on her behalf.  Senator Begich proposed four additional policy recommendations, including U.S. ratification of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, designation of a US “Arctic Ambassador”, more investment in arctic science and, finally, strengthening arctic infrastructure, including “replacement of America’s aging ice-breakers, ensur[ing] that new Virginia class submarines are fully Arctic capable and new Coast Guard facilities from which to base aerial surveillance and emergency response capabilities” (from the related press release).

 Over the past few months, Alaska’s governor and Legislature have also made separate calls for the U.S. Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention.  Governor Sarah Palin (R), spoke recently in a radio talk show of “having to do some educating there in conservative circles” about the importance of the treaty and reiterated that the U.S. has “got to be a player” by joining the Convention.  In May, the Alaska Legislature passed Joint Resolution JJR 222, which details Alaska’s particular interest in US ratification of the treaty.  Caitlyn Antrim, of OceanLaw.Org, has reported on both developments more extensively in her daily email service, saying of the Joint Resolution that it “was introduced on March 2nd, 2009, passed the House on April 8th, the Senate on April 16, was enrolled and transmitted to the Governor on May 27th.  Hearings were held, out of state witnesses testified and the issue was debated in both houses, all in a period of less than three months. ”

The NIC/USARC conference at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis continues for two more days (June 9-11).  For more information now, visit the conference website.  Of special note is that of the speakers at the Symposium's opening day who mentioned the Law of the Sea Convention, every one of them called for U.S. ratification. These included the Hon. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, and Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cooperation, not conflict, in the Arctic: Postcript to COLP Conference in Seward; Conference Presentations posted

As a postscript to the previous entry regarding Changes in the Arctic Environment and the Law of the Sea, the 33rd annual conference of The Center for Oceans Law and Policy (COLP), it is important to broadcast at least one message emphasized repeatedly by conference participants. That message is that there is great cooperation in the Arctic Ocean by littoral states, especially regarding submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and in managing existing disagreements regarding maritime boundaries.

John Norton Moore, Director of COLP, in an interview for Alaska Public Radio, emphasized “very substantial cooperation at an operational level, for example Coast Guard to Coast Guard and that governments are working closely together to try to resolve the remaining issues of boundary problems, for example."  Moore emphasized that the eight arctic nations are  “working on cooperative solutions.”  This message was reiterated by Rear Admiral Arthur E Brooks, Commander, 17th USCG  District,  in his description of cooperation between the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards and by the many diplomatic representatives in attendance.  For a related story from the Canadian perspective see the Petroleum News coverage of a Commonwealth North forum in Anchorage last week (discussing Canada's joint Arctic Ocean surveying with the U.S. and a separate memorandum of understanding with Denmark for joint surveying, as well as Canada's exchange of scientific data about Arctic Ocean ridges with Russia).

Powerpoint presentations from the Seward meeting are already posted on the COLP conference website; the papers will appear in the ongoing series of COLP conference reports published by Brill.  The conference website also provides conference notes prepared by student rapporteur Lisa Campion of Vermont Law School, who is interning this summer at Trustees for Alaska  and is a member of the VLS Institute for Energy and the Environment research team.  Note: the book referenced in her notes on Ted McDorman’s talk is Transit Management in the Northwest Passage: Problems and Prospects, Cynthia Lamson and David L. VanderZwaag (eds), Cambridge University Press 1988 (ISBN 978-0-521-09337-8)

Of particular note for continental shelf mapping is the presentation by Brian Van Pay, Maritime Geographer with the U.S. Department of State Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs.  His talk provided a comprehensive overview of the status of each arctic state’s preparations for and submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf  (sketched in much less detail here).   The presentations from the session dedicated to Continental Shelf Limits and Jurisdiction (offering a Canadian, United States, Danish and Russian perspective) are also available at the COLP conference web site.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Changes in the Arctic Environment - 33rd Annual Conference of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy (UVa), Seward, Alaska

Changes in the Arctic Environment and the Law of the Sea, the 33rd annual conference of The Center for Oceans Law and Policy of the University of Virginia School of Law, concluded this past week (May 20-22, 2009) in Seward, Alaska, having drawn some 150 attendees from North America, Asia and Europe. A remarkable array of experts, many from the diplomatic corps and governmental agencies of Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States, addressed topics ranging from continental shelf limits in the Arctic Ocean to arctic offshore oil and gas, the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, and arctic living resources and marine biodiversity.

Of the many valuable contributions by the U.S. Department of State, Oceans and Fisheries Directorate, two are especially noteworthy:

David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, offered a clear articulation of the precautionary approach as embodied in the effective ban on commercial fishing in U.S. federal arctic waters contained in the Fishery Management Plan for Fishery Resources of the Arctic (under Secretarial review). The plan was adopted by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in February 2009. NOAA recently opened the public comment period on the policy, which closes July 27, 2009. Balton framed the discussion as acknowledging that relatively little is known about arctic fisheries, and as thinking now about fisheries management later, a message similar to his remarks to the FAO radio agency in Rome earlier this year.

Margaret F. Hayes, Director, Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, spoke of the evolving approach of the United States to extended continental shelf issues. In discussing the United States response to Russia’s 2001 submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf she observed that, in hindsight, the response reflected an inadequate appreciation of the complexities and subtleties of arctic geology.

The formal program included representatives of most arctic stakeholders, with the notable exception of the native Alaskan communities. Earl Kingik, member of the Native Village of Point Hope, Alaska and Inupiat subsistence hunter and whaler, graciously accepted an 11th-hour invitation to join the panel on Arctic Marine Environment and Biodiversity, a gesture all the more remarkable given that Point Hope was in the midst of whaling season.

One of the gems of the conference was the very last session on the Svalbard treaty area. Even under severe time limitations, Robin Churchill, University of Dundee and Geir Ulfstein, University of Norway, gave masterful overviews of the potential complexities of competing claims in Svalbard offshore areas and the status of maritime zones around Svalbard.

Canada was especially well represented amongst panelists and moderators (see the program for their individual topics): Nigel Bankes, Aldo Chircop, Rob Huebert, Suzanne Lalonde, Ron Macnab, Ted McDorman, Lori Ridgeway (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in absentia) and David VanderZwaag.  Those interested in Canadian - United States relations regarding ocean affairs are encouraged to consult McDorman's very recent and topical book, Salt Water Neighbors.

Notable for observers concerned about translating science for policy-makers was the common reaction from many in the audience to Stephen Macko’s sobering presentation on changes in the arctic marine environment. His emphasis on acidification of the oceans built on information known to most audience members in connection with coral reefs but emphasized the less often realized potential for that acidification to weaken the shells and protective layers of crustaceans and other forms of marine life.

This year the Law of the Sea Institute at Berkeley Law joined COLP as a sponsor of the annual conference.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Deadline Day at the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf

May 13, 2009 was the deadline for all States Party who joined the LOS Convention prior to May 13, 1999, to file a submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Commission has now received fifty full submissions from 44 states, and another 42 filings of “Preliminary Information indicative of the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf.”** The CLCS home page lists both the full submissions and the Preliminary Information filings.

Russia was the first Arctic Ocean coastal state to file a full submission relating to the Arctic Ocean, followed by Norway. (The Comission issued its Recommendations regarding the Norwegian submission in March 2009.) Denmark made a submission with respect to the area north of the Faroe Islands in April 2009 but was not subject to the May 2009 deadline, having joined the Convention in 2004. Neither Canada, which joined the Convention in 2003, nor the United States, which is not yet party, was subject to the May 2009 deadline.

Given the expense and difficulty of mapping the Arctic Ocean, joint mapping activities by various combinations of arctic states continue to take place. Whether any of this cooperation in mapping will lead to eventual joint submissions remains to be seen. At least one source, Canada’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Alain Cacchione, reports Russian interest in a joint submission by Canada, Denmark and Russia.

**The States Party to the Convention created the category of “Preliminary Information” in June 2008 (SPLOS/183) as it became clear that many states, especially those that lack access to the necessary technical support, would have difficulty meeting the May 2009 deadline. As mentioned here last month in the context of Somalia’s preliminary filing with the Commission, that decision was reached at the 18th Meeting of the States Party and specified that States could meet the ten-year filing deadline set out in Annex II to the Convention, article 4, by filing such Preliminary Information.  

Martin Pratt, Director of Research, International Boundaries Research Unit, Department of Geography,
Durham University,  first posted the following comments on the int-boundaries list

"The Bahamas provided preliminary information on the outer limit of the continental shelf on 12 May. So it may be that all coastal states with continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles and which  became parties to UNCLOS before 13 May 1999 have fulfilled their obligations under Article 4 of Annex II of the Convention and subsequent agreements by States Parties."  

This builds on Martin's earlier comments: 

" By my count there are five States which (i) became parties to UNCLOS before 13 May 1999, (ii) are not zone-locked,  and (iii) have not provided at least preliminary information to the CLCS, namely: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Guatemala, the Marshall Islands and Nauru.
My sense is that of these five States only The Bahamas might have a physical continental shelf extending beyond 200 nautical miles, but I am open to correction on that point. Equatorial Guinea submitted preliminary information to the CLCS on 14 May, technically missing its ten-year deadline by a day. I don't suppose that it will be penalised when its full submission is eventually considered by the Commission! There are ten States Parties which are not zone-locked whose 10-year clock is still ticking: Nicaragua (deadline = May 2010), Maldives (November 2010), Bangladesh (July 2011), Madagascar (August 2011), Tuvalu (December 2012), Kiribati (February 2013), Canada (November 2013), Denmark (November 2014), Morocco (May 2017) and Liberia (September 2018). Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru and the USA are non-zone-locked which have yet to become parties

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canadian Senate Committee calls for Canadian Leadership on Shelf Issues

The Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has published a comprehensive report on maritime issues in the Canadian Arctic: "Rising to the Arctic Challenge: Report on the Canadian Coast Guard".  While focusing on the Canadian Coast Guard, the 73-page report provides a thorough overview of issues ranging from continental shelf mapping to shipping, NORDREG registration,  Resource Canada's Polar Continental Shelf Project and its support of international arctic research,  search and rescue, continuous Inuit use and occupation of the Canadian Arctic, and environmental response in the Arctic.

The Report's discussion of Canadian and other continental shelf submissions in the Arctic Ocean emphasizes the need for international cooperation in mapping and later phases of determining the extent and division of the extended continental shelf (ECS).  Just two excerpts indicate the scope and measured tone of the Report on ECS  issues:

Excerpt I:
"Recommendation 5:  The Committee recommends that Canada assume a leadership role in promoting international cooperation on:  (a) issues relating to continental shelf claims; and (b) the development of a mandatory common code relating to the construction, manning and equipment of all vessels operating in the Arctic Ocean equal to Canada’s domestic standards.  (See pages 43 and 44.)"

Excerpt II:

In discussing the mapping process, the Report states:

"Alan Kessel, Legal Adviser to [Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade], noted in his presentation to the Committee that Canada had been collaborating with other countries on mapping.  This, he said, not only makes good economic and scientific sense, but will also help avoid the potential overlapping of national claims and reduce the need for future arbitration.  Mr. Kessel also emphasized that the Article 76 process had been incorrectly portrayed in the media as an adversarial scramble for natural resources."

Notwithstanding this measured tone, the very first paragraphs of the Report mention potential challenges to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, including possible disagreements with neighbors over continental shelf submissions:

"Canada faces a number of actual and potential challenges to its sovereignty and sovereign rights in the Arctic. Canada and Denmark both claim ownership of Hans Island in the eastern Arctic.  Canada also has longstanding maritime border delimitation problems with its circumpolar 

neighbours.  As for the continental shelf beyond the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, the extent to which other Arctic coastal countries will lay national claims to the seabed will be a matter to be determined in accordance with specific rules laid down in the 1982 

UN Law of the Sea Convention.  However, disputes concerning overlapping claims could arise." 

This April 2009 report follows on the Committee's excellent Interim Report from June 2008, available here and mentioned in an earlier post.  The Committee's press release on the latest report provides useful background information on the latest report and links to its fourteen Recommendations.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.