Arctic Nations Call for Marine Oil Spill Response Plan, Integrated Management to Protect Natural Resources

NUUK, Greenland–(ENEWSPF)–May 12, 2011.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, a high-level forum of eight nations and their Arctic indigenous peoples, has agreed to develop an Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) initiative for protecting the Arctic’s environment and to negotiate measures for oil spill preparedness and response throughout the region.  

Salazar joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in praising the U.S. proposals for EBM and oil pollution prevention, which were included in the Council’s Nuuk Declaration, issued today. Established in 1996 by the Ottawa Declaration, the Council provides cooperation, coordination and interaction on core issues affecting a region where warming temperatures are creating new challenges. The Council’s members are the United States, Canada, the Russian Federation, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

“Individual Arctic nations as well as Arctic Council working groups have undertaken a number of activities that address ecosystem-based management for the Arctic environment,” Salazar said. “But there has not been a shared set of principles that guide these efforts. Given the challenges facing the Arctic, it is essential to manage the region’s natural resources in an integrated manner to avoid conflicts and provide for greater environmental protection while still operating commercial activities.”

Salazar lauded the commitment to negotiate a measure for oil spill preparedness and response throughout the region, saying it reflects key recommendations of the U.S. National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which called for the United States to pursue strong international standards for Arctic oil and gas development.

“In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the United States recognizes the importance of safely developing our offshore resources and we have redoubled our efforts to do so,” Salazar noted. “Interior has assumed a leadership role in international discussions on the impacts of offshore oil and gas development, including the potential impacts of an oil spill.”

Salazar convened a successful Ministerial Forum on Offshore Drilling Containment on April 14 at Interior Headquarters with a dozen other nations that develop offshore oil and gas and the Department is providing expertise and guidance to the international community on marine oil pollution response measures.

At the Nuuk Ministerial Meeting, the U.S. proposal for an oil pollution preparedness and response instrument built on the momentum of the Search and Rescue agreement and strengthens the Arctic Council as a high-level forum. There has been substantial support for the proposal and consensus among the Arctic nations that this is an important and relevant issue for the Council to address.

In addition to establishing a spill preparedness and response task force ton Arctic marine oil pollution, the Nuuk Declaration also directed the Arctic Council Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response working group to develop recommendations and/or best practices for the prevention of marine oil pollution.

On the proposal for adopting an ecosystem-based management approach for the Arctic environment, the Council established an expert group to help the Arctic nations and the Council working groups calibrate on a shared set of EBM principles to guide the management of Arctic natural resources. This common language will help the Council to foster greater cooperation and develop a body of best practices for adaptive management in a rapidly changing environment.

The EBM approach will require more effective international cooperation and attention to multiple stakeholders, multiple objectives, multiple scales, and targeted science. The goal of EBM is the sustainability of resources and the communities that thrive on them. This effort will also help inform important U.S. domestic initiatives that depend on integrated, transparent decision-making processes, including the multi-agency work with the National Oceans Council and the multi-stakeholder Landscape Conservation Cooperatives at the Department of the Interior.

In addition to its member states, the Arctic Council has Permanent Participants, who are representatives of Arctic organizations of indigenous peoples and including the following organizations: Aleut International Association; Arctic Athabaskan Council; Gwich’in Council International; Inuit Circumpolar Council; Saami Council; and Russian Arctic Indigenous Peoples of the North.

The Arctic Council Ministerial Meetings are held biannually in the country holding the chairmanship, currently the Kingdom of Denmark. The Chairmanship of the Council rotates every two years. More on the Council is at http://arctic-council.org/article/2011/1/arctic_council_-_next_ministerial_meeting.

Source: doi.gov