29 October 2015The Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC) was established at the 2015 Arctic Council ministerial meeting to assess the future needs for a mechanism for increased cooperation in Arctic marine areas. The Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC) held its first meeting in Oslo, Norway on September 21-22, 2015. The Task Force was established by Arctic Council Ministers at the Iqaluit Ministerial meeting on 24 April 2015 to assess the future needs for a regional seas program or other mechanism, as appropriate, for increased cooperation in Arctic marine areas. The meeting was co-chaired by Kjell Kristian Egge (Norway), Brian Israel (US) and Jóhann Sigurjónsson (Iceland). Sixty two delegates attended the meeting, including representatives from all eight Arctic States, three Permanent Participant organizations, and nine accredited Observers. Ten invited experts made presentations, including the Chairs of Arctic Council Working Groups AMAP, CAFF and PAME, representatives of the International Council for the Exploration of the SEA (ICES), North Pacific Marine Sciences Organization (PICES), International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission/HELCOM), OSPAR, the Sargasso Sea Commission, and Alf Håkon Hoel, former Research Director at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.At this first meeting of the TFAMC, the Arctic Council Secretariat spoke briefly with the co-chairs of the Task Force about their backgrounds and expectations for the work of the Task Force. Brian Israel, Co-chair, United States Q: What’s your background, and how did you come to be one of the co-chairs of this Task Force? I work for the U.S. Department of State, in the Office of the Legal Adviser for Oceans, International Environmental, and Scientific Affairs. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Arctic Council colleagues over the past four years, including in the Task Force on Institutional Issues during the Swedish Chairmanship, and the Task Force on Oil Pollution Prevention during the Canadian Chairmanship. I was involved in the development of the proposal for the Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation and the formulation of its mandate, and the SAO Chair asked me to serve as a co-chair shortly after the Task Force was established by Ministers. Q: What are you most looking forward to about your work as a co-chair of this Task Force? I am very much looking forward to our dialogues -- amongst delegations, within our respective governments, and with stakeholders -- as we work to answer fundamental questions about the future of our cooperation in a rapidly changing Arctic marine environment. Q: As you look ahead, what is one of the most challenging questions that you think this Task Force will tackle in the course of its work? The questions with which we have been tasked are inherently complex. We have been asked to look ahead into the future, and thus to grapple with a measure of uncertainty. We have some idea of the future challenges we will confront in relation to the Arctic Ocean, particularly as they relate to a changing climate and increased human activities. But there will surely be some we cannot predict. Jurisdictional divisions under international law and the extensive latticework of existing regional and global cooperative mechanisms add additional layers of complexity, but also present opportunities for creative solutions. Jóhann Sigurjónsson, Co-chair, Iceland Q: What’s your background, and how did you come to be one of the co-chairs of this Task Force? I am a fisheries scientist by training, and I have served as the Director of the Marine Research Institute in Iceland for many years. The Marine Research Institute has the principal responsibility of giving advice on sustainable harvest of marine resources. In my current capacity I have been involved with this by providing both the government and the private sector in Iceland with advice on these matters. Through my previous work experience as part of the Icelandic team in fisheries and ocean matters and as Iceland’s head of delegation for negotiations on fish stocks, the matters this Task Force will handle are within the range of my expertise, although this experience is not from the Arctic Council context. Q: What are you most looking forward to about your work as a co-chair of this Task Force? The questions this Task Force will be dealing with are very timely and extremely important to address. The changes in Arctic waters have occurred faster than was anticipated 20 years ago, so it is important that we try to understand whether we are doing the right things when it comes to monitoring and managing these important ocean areas now and in the future. Therefore, I feel that carrying out a gap analysis initiated at this meeting will be of great importance. It will also help us to understand how we are currently coping with our challenges. These aspects make the work of this Task Force extremely interesting from my point of view. Q: As you look ahead, what is one of the most challenging questions that you think this Task Force will tackle in the course of its work? Working towards a common solution within the existing structures will be easier than if the group identifies a need for structural changes; the latter would of course require immense effort. However, I come to these negotiations with an open mind and have no presumptions. In any case, first we need to identify the needs and gaps to see how to proceed with the work assigned to this Task Force. Kjell Kristian Egge, Co-chair, Norway Q: What’s your background, and how did you come to be one of the co-chairs of this Task Force? I work as an international law adviser at the Legal Department of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have been mainly focusing on issues related to the Law of the Sea and at the UN and in regional processes for a number of years, such as OSPAR and NEAFC. Norway decided that the Legal Department would have the main responsibility for the work of this Task Force. Based on my previous experience, it was suggested that I take up the role of a co-chair. Q: What are you most looking forward to about your work as a co-chair of this Task Force? It is exciting to be part of a process where one is so openly asking the questions: Is what we are doing enough? Are our existing structures enough? Or do we need to establish something new? That open approach is very exciting. In a way, the mandate of this Task Force offers a practical point of view related to the questions I have previously been working on; that makes the work of the Task Force very attractive to me. Q: As you look ahead, what is one of the most challenging questions that you think this Task Force will tackle in the course of its work? One challenge we may need to tackle is that the mandate of this Task force is very broad and there is no specific list of tasks we need to address. Therefore, we need to start by narrowing down the scope and then focus on the issues identified to the extent this Task Force has been mandated.