Arctic Council Working Group Deep Dives

Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Deep Dive

Ms. Renee Sauvé, who serves as Chair of the Arctic Council Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group (WG), was invited to discuss PAME priorities and projects with Alaskan stakeholders.  Sauvé explained that Arctic Council (AC) Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) can also create short term task forces, which have a defined agenda mandate with a particular deliverable, typically within the Chairmanship it was created.  They often align with a priority of the Chairmanship.  By contrast, the WGs are always there as the “delivery arm” of the AC.  PAME focuses on non-emergency maritime issues, like best practices, while the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) WG focuses on more acute marine issues.  PAME has a policy focus.  One area of their work is the chronic side of pollution.  The Arctic Contaminants Action program (ACAP) WG focuses on the contaminant side of this for pollution.  ACAP is also working on the natural gas flaring issue related to land-based pollution.  This requires clear communication and careful coordination between WGs.

Nils Andreassen (Institute of the North) asked if in development of onshore guidelines, what kind of outreach is conducted, i.e. whether industry is involved.  Sauvé stated that under PAME, like the other WGs, they have smaller expert groups who are generally from government departments.  Those experts often do reach out to industry.  It is not a very formal process, but the expert groups already have relationships with industry experts.

A question was asked about how experts from Arctic Council Observer members contribute.  Sauvé commented that there are no detailed rules for all situations, but WGs are encouraged to facilitate the expert contributions of Observers to appropriate Arctic Council projects.  The last couple of Arctic Council Chairmanships have been clear that AC Observer states have expertise that should be used in WG projects.

Sauvé commented about reporting methods.  She acknowledged Drue Pearce’s (Crowell & Moring) comments that reporting methods are geared toward a western science peer-review process, and the process may not capture traditional knowledge.  Sauvé commented that since PAME is geared towards policy, there shouldn’t be a problem with gathering factual information, as PAME is not recreating it, rather PAME is working with studies that have already been done.  But, in terms of the policy documents, PAME is negotiating every line.  So, emphasis may change, because each country has the ability to emphasize the area they choose.

Margaret Williams commented on the issue of peer review.  She said that there is a lot, even when a WG is just preparing a project.  Williams said she would be happy to bring forward advice on how to be a more effective organization.  One of the things that has changed is that there is now an active AC Secretariat.

Later Sauvé stated that PAME has taken on the topic of shipping in its 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment.  She said it was one of PAME’s better reports.  This shipping assessment was done with leadership from Lawson Brigham from Alaska, Canada, and Finland.  It was a timely report and described what Arctic shipping looks like based on 2004 conditions.  It put together 17 recommendations on the full range of issues related to shipping.  This assessment still has practical applications.  It is the WG’s responsibility to produce and follow up on these reports.  When that reporting is done, it is passed on to AC SAOs where it can become more political.  Sauvé also mentioned the PAME Arctic Marine Tourism Project that is in progress.

Sauvé brought up another PAME project which is early in its development – Meaningful Engagement of Indigenous and Local Communities in Maritime Activities (MEMA).  This is an area that PAME hasn’t done a lot of work in in the past, and it will be a good collaboration.

John Boyle (North Slope Borough) said that the MEMA project is something entities in the North Slope Borough would be interested in participating in, in terms of helping give some guidance in how local communities and indigenous groups can become more involved in maritime activities.  They have also formed the Voice of the Arctic Initiative, which consists of local, tribal, and corporate entities.  The reason this group was formed was to bring together all relevant leaders of the community so organizations can come speak with them, and it also enables local leaders to develop consensus.

Andreassen said that alongside MEMA activities, some sort of workshop with Alaska stakeholders could possibly be developed.  He said this seems directly of interest to a lot of Alaskan communities and stakeholders.  It would it be worth it – even if it was outside the project scope – to have an Alaska-based workshop and come out with a printed report.

Sauvé commented on PAME’s work related to the pan-Arctic network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).  This project was started during the Canadian Chairmanship and it is now in the second phase.  The U.S. has taken the lead in some of the next steps.  Area-based management is not something new, and it has been quite effective on land.  Marine spatial planning is not much different from land-based planning.  Someone added that one of the strengths of this initiative is that it could strengthen area based management tools and inventory.  There are some places in Greenland where communities are creating tools to limit industrial intrusion into subsistence areas, which will be an interesting project to exemplify where local people are taking action to protect coastal areas.  This is a community- and local-driven response to development activities, as opposed to top-down national or international approach.


Conservation of Arctic Flora & Fauna (CAFF) Deep Dive

Mr. Gilbert Castellanos, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, serves as the U.S. Head of Delegation for the Arctic Council’s (AC) Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group (WG).  Castellanos gave an overview of CAFF priorities and projects with Alaskan stakeholders; further details of these can be found here.

Craig Fleener (Office of the Governor, Alaska) asked whether the CAFF’s conservation approach is at odds with human activity in the region, much of it traditional but also in support of improved living and economic conditions.  Seemingly, CAFF’s approach is one that does not allow people to adapt to the changes that are occurring around them on their own.  Resilience needs to be approached in a way that empowers people, rather than imposing regulations on them.  Castellanos clarified that the term “Conservation” in the name of the CAFF working group is intended to mean “wise use” of Arctic Flora and Fauna, so it should not be seen as at odds with human growth and development.  Instead it is the mandate of the CAFF working group to provide science and information that can help decision-makers make better informed decisions.

Another Alaskan stated that the model the federal government should promote is working with co-management entities.  Most Arctic species are subsistence species, so when federal agencies implement a top-down management approach instead of co-management, it creates angst.  Building on co-management partnerships is also something that the federal government could benefit from and is something the AC should promote.

Drue Pearce (Crowell & Moring) asked if it is CAFF’s mission to avoid all negative impacts, or mitigate them.  In response, Castellanos stated that it is CAFF’s mission is to provide information and facilitate sustainable development.  CAFF does not make decisions, but gives Ministers information to base their decisions off of.

Castellanos’ presentation included information on high-resolution elevation data it is working with the Arctic Spatial Data Infrastructure to highlight in the Arctic Council to advance the U.S. Chairmanship.  This data is important for modeling and ideally predicting risks and opportunities in the Arctic, and will allow people to better see what is going on with things like shifting tree lines that are going from greening to browning.  Additionally, progress was made with Alaska’s online digital elevation mapping – this mapping will be done for the entire Arctic by the end of the U.S. Chairmanship (mid-2017).

Among the initiatives of the current CAFF work plan are those of invasive species, sea-ice associated marine mammals, and CAFF’s State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report.  Some of CAFF’s recent actions involve the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program.  They have an action plan to implement the 17 recommendations of the 2013 Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA).

Castellanos also commented on his position as the current U.S. Head of Delegation for CAFF, and that he is proud to be serving in this role as someone that is from Alaska.  In response, Nils Andreassen (Institute of the North) suggested it would be good to see an Alaskan as a co-chair for each of the WG Head of Delegation positions.  Castellanos responded that this would probably be difficult to approve given the current structure.