Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Experts take close look at AMSA recommendations

From left, Shiji Xu (Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration),Carl Uchytil (US Coast Guard), Denise Michels (mayor of Nome), Pablo Clemente-Colon (US National Ice Center), examine the AMSA report.
For three days last week, an international group of scientists, policymakers, military and government officials examined ways to implement the seventeen recommendations of the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment. Participants in the University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy came from the US, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Canada, China, and Japan.

“This is a subject that touches all citizens of the north,” said UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers in the opening session of the AMSA workshop, hosted by the UA Geography Program and held in Fairbanks Oct. 22-24. “The arctic is a place of challenges and opportunities where people have lived and thrived for ages. We need to discover a roadmap forward.”

Mead Treadwell, chair of the US 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. “We’re doing our best to accommodate all this traffic,” she said. In 1990 Nome had 34 port calls and in 2008 there were 234, including four cruise ships. 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 three groups for the workshop, making recommendations on: 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 roadmaps for each recommendation (what actions are required), naming sources of funding, and establishing a timeline. The findings will be published in a report and distributed widely to arctic communities.

“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 over a dozen major workshops and fourteen town hall meetings, the report was approved by the eight arctic states April 29. “This goes well beyond climate change. It is about interplay of marine use. AMSA is a message of the arctic states to the world.”

Brigham said research opportunities abound, including arctic sea ice, arctic routes and boundaries, pipelines, marine ecosystem responses to arctic sea ice retreat, socio-economic responses to global climate change, noise, emissions, mapping, and effects of cold region spill response technologies.

The workshop brought an international group of experts to explore in-depth the way forward for 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.”

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