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May 23, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


NEWS FLASH... At today's Senate Foreign Relations oversight hearing, Senator Kerry announced that Law of the Sea will not be considered before the November election. If the Committee decides to try to advance this issue, it will occur in the lame duck session. Witnesses include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. A significant portion of the hearing is dedicated to considering the role of the Law of the Sea in the Arctic. 


In other news, the Senate will consider a motion to proceed on FDA user fee legislation. The bill is expected to be considered all week. The Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the FY 2013 Department of Defense authorization. The House passed its version of the legislation recently. The House is in recess.


Outer Continental Shelf Scientific Committee, May 22-24, 2012. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Scientific Committee (SC) is a chartered entity through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to consider feasibility, appropriateness, and scientific value of BOEM's OCS Environmental Studies Program. The next meeting will occur in Santa Barbara, CA. Issues to be covered at the meeting include:

  • An Integrated Scientific Approach to Arctic Sustainability: An International Partnership on Arctic Science Engineering and Education for Sustainability (ArcSEES)
  • Modeling of the Ecosystem Dynamics in the Alaskan Arctic Ocean
  • Chukchi Acoustic, Oceanography and Zooplankton Study: Hanna Shoal (Extension of CHAOZ)
  • Walrus Seasonal Distribution and Habitat Use in the Eastern Chukchi Sea
  • Subsistence Mapping of Wainwright, Point Lay, and Point Hope
  • Cook Inlet Circulation Model Calculations
  • Arctic Air Quality Impact Assessment Modeling
  • Enhanced Verification and Interpretation of Arctic Ice Formation, Distribution, and Density
  • Physical and Chemical Analyses of Crude and Refined Oils: Laboratory and Mesoscale Oil Weathering
  • A Cultural Resource Survey of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas

A link to the complete agenda is available here.


NOAA's Hydrographic Services Review Panel meeting, May 22-24, 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska. This federal advisory committee will discuss improvements to navigation services that NOAA provides for Alaska and the Arctic. Topics include new nautical charts and navigation safety, emerging commercial shipping needs, accuracy of land elevation data for coastal management, and natural hazard warning and response for the Alaska/Arctic region. The public is invited, and can provide comments during the May 23 and 24 afternoon sessions. For more information, click here.





Kerry: No vote on Sea Treaty before election. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced Wednesday he likely won't bring up the Law of the Sea Treaty for a vote before the November election. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said some lawmakers "on and off the committee" have candidly told him they'd "be more comfortable" if they could avoid having to cast the controversial vote during the campaign season. The Hill 


Joining Law of the Sea Treaty Can't Wait [Opinion]. Wednesday begins a comprehensive discussion about whether the United States should join the Law of the Sea Convention. I've heard from countless military officials and conservative-minded business leaders who say it's urgent. I've also spoken with senators and interest groups who oppose it. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in coming weeks, intends to provide a forum for debate on this issue for the first time since 2007. We'll look at it from all sides to allow members to consider it based on merit and the best interests of the United States. Politico 


United NationsSenate to Rehash Law of the Sea Treaty Today. The Senate will hold on Wednesday its first hearing since 2007 on ratification of the controversial and long-stalled Law of the Sea Treaty. Three top officials- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey-will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that ratification of the treaty will bolster U.S. national security, the ease of naval operations, and economic prospects. Opponents of the treaty, who have prevented it from coming up for a vote before the full Senate, argue that the pact would erode U.S. sovereignty and shackle U.S. operations on the world's oceans. Last week, the House passed an amendment to a defense spending bill that would block U.S. funding for implementation, creating a possible showdown later with the Senate. gCaptain


BowheadImplications of Arctic Industrial Growth and Strategies to Mitigate Future Vessel and Fishing Gear Impacts on Bowhead Whales. The objective of this paper (co-authored by Dr. Cheryl Rosa, Deputy Director of the USARC) was to investigate and illustrate how insights gained from experience managing human activities in order to protect North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) along the heavily industrialized east coast of North America might be applied in the Arctic, where bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) face some of the same risks as right whales. The reduced extent and thickness of sea ice and the resultant longer open-water season have major, complex implications for the Arctic marine ecosystem. Increased maritime ship traffic and commercial fishing in the Arctic are bound to affect bowheads and Native (indigenous) hunting communities who depend on whales for subsistence and cultural identity. Bowheads and right whales were greatly depleted by commercial whaling in the 19th and early 20th centuries. While the Western Arctic bowhead population has been recovering steadily in recent decades, North Atlantic right whales remain highly endangered because of persistent lethal and sublethal vessel strikes and frequent entanglement in commercial fishing gear. Entanglement can be transitory or persistent; with debilitation lasting for months before the animal finally succumbs. Vessel strike and fishing gear trauma has been documented in bowheads, but at a much lower rate than in right whales. Initiatives intended to mitigate the impacts of ship traffic on North Atlantic right whales have included speed limits and routing changes. Those meant to reduce the incidence and severity of entanglements include the modification of gear design and gear deployment practices. Management measures need to be considered in advance in the Arctic in order to minimize the risks to bowhead whales as shipping and industrial fishing expand in the Arctic with ice retreat. Marine Policy 


Sparse Data on Ocean Depth Challenges NOAA in Arctic.The deputy administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the challenges for the agency in Arctic waters are huge as the region opens to more vessel traffic. Kathryn Sullivan says the agency responsible for surveying the ocean bottom and mapping coastlines has its work cut out for it as marine traffic increases with the loss of summer sea ice. Sullivan says much of Alaska's coastline and offshore waters is poorly mapped in comparison to more populated areas. She says early British admiralty charts created with lead lines are not uncommon as a primary data source. Anchorage Daily News 


Ottawa May Grant Nunavut Power Over Its Natural Resources. Ottawa and Nunavut are opening talks on granting province-like powers to the eastern Arctic territory over its natural resources. "Our economic development and our self-reliance depend on reaching an agreement to transfer land management responsibilities to Nunavut," Pemier Eva Aariak said Tuesday as she named Nunavut's chief negotiator for the talks. The territorial government currently doesn't collect any royalties from resources on its land. The money all flows to the federal government. Ottawa also has regulatory authority for the development of those lands. National Post 


NOAA: New AK Chart Makes Arctic Safer. NOAA formally presented today to Alaska officials a new nautical chart for Kotzebue Sound in the Alaskan Arctic, a sparsely charted region that is seeing increased vessel traffic because of the significant loss of summer sea ice. The new chart depicts the full range of depth measurements and object detection acquired during a full ocean bottom survey last summer by the NOAA hydrographic survey ship Fairweather. It replaces a chart showing depth measurements last taken in the 19th century spaced three to five miles apart, leaving room for possible undetected dangers in between. Marine Link 


polar bear iceEmbattled Alaska Polar Bear Researcher Questions Inquiry's Integrity. Alaska polar bear researcher Charles Monnett's career has been in upheaval since the government last year began probing the integrity of his work. His days of studying polar bears are over. He's been reassigned to conduct studies about shipping traffic in the Bering Strait, the bottleneck at the top of the world off of Alaska's coast connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean. But the dispute continues. A 2006 paper Monnett authored about polar bears drowning in storms took center stage in the early stages of an investigation that has since branched out to include whether contracts were appropriately awarded. The high-profile inquiry has raised questions about the intersection of politics and science and whether, when it comes to objectivity, the current administration has a myopic view. Alaska Dispatch

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered yesterday.

Future Events               


The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, June 2012. The conference will be held in Tyumen, Russia, and is organized and hosted by Russia. The last conference was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2008. Click here.  


The Institute of the North hosts Arctic-related events. For details, go here. Three upcoming events, all in Anchorage, AK are: (a) Commercial Applications of Northern Airships, July 31-Aug 2, Federal Research: Priorities and Processes, August 13, and Northern Energy Technology and Science Fair, August 15.


15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health, August 5-10, 2012. This event is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Society for Circumpolar Health, and the International Union for Circumpolar Health.  The forum will consider community participatory research and healthmeetinglogoindigenous research; women's health, family health, and well-being; food security and nutrition; social determinants of health; environmental and occupational health; infectious and chronic diseases; climate change health impacts; health service delivery and infrastructure; and behavioral health. Click here.


98th meeting of the US Arctic Research Commission. Aug. 9-10. Fairbanks, AK. More info coming soon. 


The Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24-28, 2012. The summit will be hosted by Alaska Dispatch and will bring together leading voices in this conversation, including residents from the small villages that comprise Alaska's coastal communities, state, national and international leaders, the heads of shipping and industry, as well as international policymakers and the news media. The goal of the summit is to sharpen the focus on the policy and investment needs of Alaska's Arctic through a series of high level meetings, presentations, investor roundtables and original research. Click here


Arctic/Inuit/Connections: Learning from the Top of the World , October 24-28, 2012.  The 18th Inuit Studies Conference, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, will be held in Washington, DC. The conference will consider heritage inuitconferencelogomuseums and the North; globalization: an Arctic story; power, governance and politics in the North; the '"new" Arctic: social, cultural and climate change; and Inuit education, health, language, and literature.   


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