Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Notice of Public Review and Comment Period for NOAA’s Arctic Vision and Strategy EXTENDED to JUNE 25, 2010

Extended comment submission deadline: Friday, 25 June 2010

Download the document at:

For further information, please go to:

. . . . . . .

NOAA, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, requests comments on its "Arctic Vision and Strategy", which was published in April 2010 and is available here.  The full notice of this public review and comment period is available in the Federal Register and sets  June 10, 2010 deadline for submission of comments.

The NOAA Arctic Vision and Strategy document (AVS) envisions an Arctic where:
“• Conservation, management, and use are based on sound science and support healthy, productive, and resilient communities and ecosystems; and
• The global implications of Arctic change are better understood and predicted.” (AVS, p. 5)  NOAA has identified six priority goals as “needed to realize this vision”:

    1) Forecast Sea Ice
    2) Strengthen Foundational Science to Understand and Detect Arctic Climate and Ecosystem   Changes
 3)  Improve Weather and Water Forecasts and Warning
 4)  Enhance International and National Partnerships
 5)  Improve Stewardship and Management of Ocean and Coastal Resources in the Arctic
 6) Advance Resilient and Healthy Arctic Communities and Economies.

The document draws connections to the U.S. extended continental shelf mapping efforts (NOAA is a co-vice chair of the ECS Task Force). Acknowledging it to be beyond the scope of ECS efforts, the document nonetheless refers to "collecting the baseline ecosystem-level data [which] would enhance the existing information and provide the U.S. with a better understanding of the nature, extent, and economic value of [ECS] resources, as well as insights into issues such as climate variability; marine ecosystems; and undiscovered or unconventional energy, biological, and mineral resources." (AVS, p. 17)

The Arctic Vision document identifies Guiding Principles for NOAA Arctic activities in the next five years, as well as Goals and Strategies.  The Principles section opens with the notable phrase “the U.S. and its partners,” continuing on to say that they “will greatly benefit from enhanced and better coordinated NOAA efforts in the Arctic region.” The phrase “international partners” appears five times in this short document, which is replete with  references to international implications of actions in the Arctic and the need for coordinated activity to address changes there (as detailed in the document’s discussion of fourth priority area identified above).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tracy Rouleau, Office of Program Planning and Integration, at strategic.planning@noaa.gov or (301) 713–1622 x187.

Monday, May 10, 2010

US and Canada scheduled to map the Arctic Continental Shelf together again in 2010; Canada also maps with AUVs

The icebreakers USCGC Healy and CCGS Louis S. Saint-Laurent are scheduled to sail together again this summer, continuing the bilateral Canadian-US cooperation in mapping the extended continental shelf (ECS) in the Arctic Ocean.  This summer’s joint efforts will focus on the Canada Basin. 
The Healy ECS mapping cruise is scheduled from August 2-September 2, 2010, so as to coincide with the Louis’ schedule.The Healy’s proposed cruise track and proposed cruise plan are both posted on icefloe.net which provides science planning information for the U.S. icebreaker fleet. The U.S. Chief Scientist for HLY 1002 is Brian Edwards  of the U.S. Geological Survey, Western Coastal & Marine Geology Program.

General information on the Canadian ECS effort is available from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).  As reported by both DFAIT and in the media, this spring Canadian scientists have also been gathering data for Canada's ECS submission from their base at the Borden Island Ice Camp, in Canada’s western Arctic archipelago.  In April they first deployed a Canadian-made autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), the Arctic Explorer, designed and built by International Submarine Engineering Ltd (ISE) of Port Coquitiam, B.C. Media reports tell of the AUV obtaining detailed multi-beam images of the Sever Spur on a three-day deployment. The Arctic Explorer is one of two such AUVs that Canada acquired in September 2009 to map its Arctic seabed and is equipped with a 200 kHz multi-beam sonar.  

Canada is expected to make its submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in December 2013, so as to meet its deadline under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The United States has not yet acceded to the Convention.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic - WWF Report proposes treaty framework

In the same week that Russia and Norway announced their agreement on a longstanding maritime boundary dispute in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, WWF released a new iteration of its ongoing study International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic [PDF].

The document released this week builds on the initial 2009 Gap Analysis and now combines three elements:  I. Overview and Gap Analysis, II. Options for Addressing Identified Gaps and III. A Proposal for a Legally Binding Instrument.   The proposed instrument seeks to move beyond the position that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and existing political and legal framework are adequate to address the rapidly changing situation in the Arctic.

The Report (III.§3.2) identifies eight basic features the framework instrument would exhibit, the first three of which are: 
"•  It would be a regional, legally binding framework instrument that complements and is compatible with the LOS Convention;
 •  The Arctic Council would become the primary body or forum of this instrument, with a mandate focused on providing strategic guidance rather than on regulation; 
The spatial mandate of the Arctic Council would be limited to the marine environment  of the Arctic within (a) the area north of 60° North, (b) left undefined, or (c) the Arctic Ocean, as defined."

Part III of the Report also identifies which components of the Antarctic Treaty System the authors deem suitable for modification in an arctic agreement (e.g. use for peaceful purposes only)  and which they do not (e.g. an indefinite ban on mineral resource activities).

The exhaustively researched Report analyzes numerous existing agreements that have the potential to serve as models, in part, for an Arctic marine environment framework instrument.

The Report was commissioned by the WWF International Arctic Program and authored by Timo Koivurova and Erik Molenaar.  

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.