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.