Experts Examine Arctic Marine Recommendations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 29, 2009
Fairbanks, Alaska — An international group of scientists, policymakers, military and government officials met Oct. 22 – 24 in Fairbanks to decide how to take action on recommendations from the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment. The University of Alaska Geography Program hosted the workshop as part of a new institute established last year by UAF, the University of the Arctic and Dartmouth College.
The University of the Arctic’s Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy, founded in November 2008, was created to explore the many critical policy issues facing citizens of the circumpolar North. Participants in the Fairbanks workshop were from Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
The workshop, entitled “Considering a Roadmap Forward: The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment,” was important because arctic shipping and transportation “are subjects that touch all citizens of the north,” said UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers in the opening session.
“The Arctic is a place of challenges and opportunities where people have lived and thrived for ages. We need to discover a roadmap forward” Hosting the workshop -- the first venue for examining the AMSA recommendations -- was “an appropriate role for UAF to play as America’s arctic university,” said Mike Sfraga, the institute’s co-director.
Mead Treadwell, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, said the AMSA report brought together the eight arctic nations for the first time in hundreds of years. “We asked ‘how do we do it right?’” he said. “We looked at what shipping is in the Arctic as well as what it can be.” The three key words the Arctic Council used in forming the AMSA were “safe, secure and reliable,” Treadwell said.
Denise Michels, mayor of Nome, said marine traffic is very important to her city. In 1990 Nome had 34 port calls and in 2008 there were 234, including four cruise ships. “We’re doing our best to accommodate all this traffic,” she said. Michels said she sees maritime activity as Nome’s next economic focus. “We’re trying to be very proactive,” she said. “These policies affect us immediately and they need to work for all of us who live in Alaska.”
The attendees broke into groups corresponding to the three thematic areas of the AMSA report: enhancing arctic marine safety, protecting arctic people and the environment, and building the arctic marine infrastructure. The groups were charged with identifying primary stakeholders who should be involved, developing action plans, identifying sources of funding and establishing timelines. The findings will be published in a report and distributed widely to arctic communities in early 2010.
“Nearly every square mile of the Arctic Ocean has been traversed by ships,” said Lawson Brigham, a lead author of the AMSA report and a UA Geography Program professor. “We decided with all this marine traffic maybe we should take a look at protecting the Arctic Ocean and its environment and people.” After holding 13 major workshops and 14 town hall meetings, the AMSA report was approved by the eight arctic states in April 2009. “This goes well beyond climate change. It is about [the] interplay of marine use. AMSA is a message of the arctic states to the world.”
The workshop brought an international group of experts to explore how to advance AMSA, Brigham said. “We held rich discussions. We focused on the issue of protecting the arctic people and the place. The meetings were successful because they brought the right mix of actors and stakeholders together.”
Mike Sfraga, director of the UA Geography Program and associate dean of UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, said, “The international community will benefit from the hard work and expertise of those who attended the workshop.” Sfraga and Brigham plan to craft the draft report in the coming weeks and vet it with all workshop participants prior to publication.
CONTACT: Nancy Tarnai, UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences public information officer, 907-474-5042 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Mike Sfraga, director UA Geography Program, 907-474-7494, or mike.sfraga@alaskaedu.