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.

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.