Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 12

12 Arctic Yearbook 2015 years, the Council, established in 1996, has increased its effectiveness. For example, Council discussions initiated and resulted in binding, multilateral agreements on search and rescue, and on oil pollution preparedness and response. A third agreement is currently being negotiated to enhance and strengthen Arctic scientific cooperation. I hope this agreement will provide additional incentives to improve access and sharing of observations and information among all nations. A recent example of progress toward effective Arctic cooperation and governance can be found in the topic of fisheries. Two consensus views emerged from informal discussion among parties from Arctic coastal states. First, that the commercial fishing industry may be enticed to the high seas region of Central Arctic Ocean, where waters previously covered by multi-year ice are increasingly experiencing thin ice, and even open water. Second, as minimal scientific research has been focused on the fisheries and ecosystem of this region, the state of knowledge about Arctic fish stocks is inadequate to support sustainable management of them. As a result, five Arctic coastal states signed a declaration in July 2015, agreeing to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean. Other countries are encouraged to join them. Two other examples are worth noting. One is the recent adoption by the International Maritime Organization of the mandatory Polar Code governing shipping, which enters into force in 2017, and addresses shipping requirements related to safety and the environment. The second is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which, by providing a firm foundation for freedom of the seas and the limits of national boundaries, reduces the potential for unresolvable jurisdictional issues. As many have argued, for years now, the US needs to accede to this treaty. I remain optimistic that Arctic nations will continue to work together respectfully and cooperatively. It is in their collective best interest to assure the region is governed with clear rules reflecting the shared values of environmental protection and sustainable development. It is also in the best interest of future generations that all nations focus on actions that will protect this valuable and vulnerable region from melting, thawing, and transforming into an entirely different ecosystem. The health of the comfortable planet we call home depends upon it. Notes 1. Quote in a 2011 interview with EarthSky. See: http://earthsky.org/earth/sylvia-earle-an-openocean-in-the-arctic-in-summer 2. Hufty, Marc. (2011). Investigating Policy Processes: The Governance Analytical Framework (GAF) in U. Wiesmann, H. Hurni, et al. (eds). Research for Sustainable Development: Foundations, Experiences, and Perspectives (pp. 403–424). Bern: Geographica Bernensia. Ulmer