The Blog Aquatic » Bering Sea http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Smarter Arctic Choices Begin With More Arctic Science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/21/smarter-arctic-choices-begin-with-more-arctic-science/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/21/smarter-arctic-choices-begin-with-more-arctic-science/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 21:01:48 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3064
Today, Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced important new legislation that would establish a permanent program to conduct research, monitoring, and observing activities in the Arctic. If passed, Senator Begich’s bill could lead to significant advances in Arctic science that can then be used to support decisions about the management of a region that is crucial not only to the people who live there, but to the world.

Senator Begich’s bill – the Arctic Research, Monitoring, and Observing Act of 2012 – recognizes that the Arctic is undergoing profound changes. Temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the global average, seasonal sea ice is diminishing rapidly, and there is increased interest in oil exploration, commercial fishing, shipping, and tourism. As the legislation acknowledges, however, lack of integration and coordination among existing Arctic research and science programs has limited our ability to understand the important changes that are taking place in the Arctic. And our understanding of the Arctic marine ecosystem, which provides irreplaceable benefits, is further hampered by a lack of reliable baseline data, critical science gaps, and limited documentation and application/use of traditional knowledge. In addition to urgently needed baseline data and analysis of ecosystem functions in Arctic marine waters, the legislation would enable the gathering of information about subsistence resources and patterns of use in local economies, which are essential to the people and cultures coastal communities in the Arctic.

Senator Begich’s bill takes several steps to address these problems. First, it calls on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission to establish a national Arctic research program plan to help coordinate scientific research activities in the region. Second, it funds a merit-based grant program that will support new scientific research and field-work in the Arctic. Third, the bill provides funding to establish and support long-term ocean observing systems and monitoring programs in the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, and North Pacific.

If these provisions become law and are implemented correctly, they could function as a long-term, integrated science and monitoring program for the Arctic, something that Ocean Conservancy has long advocated. A coordinated research program would help fill important gaps in our knowledge of Arctic ecosystems and identify areas that are especially important to the functioning of the marine ecosystem. Just as important, a long-term monitoring and observing program would help us understand how the region is responding to climate change and industrial development.

This kind of understanding gives policy-makers, decision-makers and stakeholders the knowledge they need to make informed choices about activities such as oil exploration, shipping, and commercial fishing. It can also inform decisions about conservation. For instance, as scientists gain more knowledge about the Arctic marine ecosystem and as they integrate and synthesize that knowledge they will be better able to identify critical areas that should be protected from development activities. And that will help ensure that the Arctic Ocean remains an intact and productive ecosystem well into the future.

Federal agencies are already making management decisions that will have significant impacts on the future of the Arctic Ocean. Americans want those decisions to be based on sound science and to ensure sustainable uses of our ocean resources for this and future generations. The Arctic research, monitoring, and observing activities addressed by Senator Begich’s bill would take an essential step toward that goal.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/21/smarter-arctic-choices-begin-with-more-arctic-science/feed/ 1
An Ocean Louisiana Purchase in the Making http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/22/an-ocean-louisiana-purchase-in-the-making/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/22/an-ocean-louisiana-purchase-in-the-making/#comments Tue, 22 May 2012 18:41:34 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=721 Louisiana Purchase map

Credit: Library of Congress

Imagine if the United States could lay claim over vast stretches of pristine open ocean and coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. What if we could expand our nation’s control over the marine environments in the Arctic, the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea? And how might it benefit our country if we could extend our existing maritime borders along the East Coast, West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico?

It would be like a giant ocean Louisiana Purchase. Except this time, the United States wouldn’t have to pay a dime.

Expansion of U.S. borders may seem like the stuff of history books. But what I’m talking about here isn’t history. And it isn’t fantasy. It’s a very real choice facing the U.S. Senate right at this very moment.

Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin considering ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, a U.S.-initiated agreement that the United States has abided by since the Reagan Administration and yet to this day the Senate has failed to approve.

The treaty is the set of global “rules of the road” for the world’s ocean, and yet the United States – which controls more ocean area than any other single nation – has been sitting on the sidelines unable to reap the treaty’s benefits because of the Senate’s inaction.

Hopefully, that will soon change. At the urging of a vast and non-traditional alliance of environmental, business, labor and national security groups, the Senate is poised to finally consider doing what it has failed to do for so long – ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty.

And the benefits of doing so could be enormous.

Under the treaty, nations can lay claim to the seafloor outside of the traditional 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone if they can demonstrate that the continental shelf extends beyond the limit. The United States has many areas where this shallow coastal environment extends beyond 200 miles, meaning that ratification of the treaty could bring a massive expansion of our country’s ocean borders – and exclusive access to those ocean seabed resources.

Preliminary studies indicate that the United States may be able to lay claim to another million square kilometers of ocean. This would be an expansion of U.S. waters roughly twice the size of California or nearly half the size of the Louisiana Purchase.

Throughout America’s growth as a nation, many of our expansions – from the Louisiana Purchase to the purchase of Alaska – were controversial in the moment. But looking back through the lens of history, each one has proven to be vital to the success of our nation.

As the Senate considers the Law of the Sea Treaty, there will undoubtedly be naysayers, but this is history in the making. By expanding our maritime borders now, we’ll be able to reap the benefits long into the future.

Update: Just to be clear, the expansion of U.S. jurisdiction over additional ocean talked about here is just one part of what is a very comprehensive treaty. The Law of the Sea Treaty also contains extensive provisions on protecting the ocean environment – one of the reasons so many environmental groups support the treaty.

If the U.S. finally became a signatory to the treaty, it would not only help ensure that the U.S. followed the common-sense rules of the road for protecting the ocean, but it would also give the U.S. the international credibility and leverage to ensure that other nations also did their part to help protect the ocean environment. For those who are interested in learning more, you can take a look at Part XII of the treaty on protection and preservation of the marine environment.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/22/an-ocean-louisiana-purchase-in-the-making/feed/ 4