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.

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.