Arctic Council advances its marine stewardship role

Starting on Tuesday, 29 September, policy makers, Indigenous peoples and marine experts from the Arctic States and the Arctic Council’s Observers will gather online for a four-week webinar series on Arctic marine matters. The interactive online meetings provide a platform for the Arctic Council to enhance cooperation and coordination on marine issues. The format includes pre-recorded keynote addresses and expert presentations that will be shared publicly following each webinar.

The Arctic Council launches a new marine cooperative initiative to discuss the increasing pressures on the Arctic marine ecosystem and coastal communities in the circumpolar North. The creation of the Senior Arctic Officials based Marine Mechanism (SMM) was first recommended by the Council’s Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation and endorsed at the Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland in 2019.

The SMM platform is designed to stimulate discussions on Arctic marine matters with participation from marine experts from the Arctic States, Indigenous peoples’ organizations with Permanent Participant status in the Council, Council Working Groups, and Council Observers. The virtual panels will be tailored to facilitate policy, expert and knowledge-holder interactions with the objective to improve collaboration and coordination of marine activities within the Council.

“The health of the Arctic marine environment is just as important to the prosperity of Arctic communities as that of the land. Therefore, the Arctic States and the Indigenous Permanent Participants have a role as stewards of the Arctic marine environment and the Arctic Council offers an ideal setting for addressing marine issues in an all-encompassing manner. Our goal with this series of webinars is to bring together marine experts in a variety of fields, to discuss how we can jointly pave the way forward on some of the Arctic’s most pressing marine-related issues,” stated Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials.

The virtual meeting series will open with an introductory session that outlines the scope and objectives and will be followed by four thematic webinars. A closing session will give Senior Arctic Officials and marine experts the opportunity to reflect upon the conversations and to discuss areas for additional work. The four thematic webinars will focus on the Council’s Arctic Marine Strategic Plan, sustainable Arctic shipping, regional coordination of marine issues, and global commitments and ecosystem-based management. Keynote speeches and presentations by marine experts from the Arctic States, Indigenous Permanent Participants, Working Groups, and Observers will set the scene for these thematic discussions.

“The Arctic Council’s extensive work on marine issues has influenced international arrangements such as the IMO’s Polar Code. The Council has also provided a venue for the negotiations of two legally binding agreements amongst the Arctic States related to safe and sustainable operations in the Arctic Ocean – the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, and the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic. We are committed to continue taking further steps towards a sustainable Arctic Ocean,” said Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson.

Participation in the webinars is limited to Arctic Council delegates and invited external experts. However, keynote and expert presentations will be shared publicly on the Arctic Council’s Vimeo channel after the respective thematic session.

SMM Agenda

  • 29 September – Setting the scene: SAO Marine Mechanism plenary session
  • 1 October – Thematic session: Arctic Marine Strategic Plan
  • 8 October – Thematic session: Sustainable Arctic Shipping
  • 15 October – Thematic session: Regional Coordination of Marine Issues and Global Commitments
  • 22 October – Thematic session: Ecosystem-Based Management
  • 29 October – Closing session - plenary