The purpose of this meeting was to learn more about the international legal regimes as pertaining to scientific research, both current and future, as coastal States begin to confirm and assert continental shelf rights beyond 200 nautical miles as provided for under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The presentations provided an overview of the legal regime in the US and other Arctic littoral states, highlighted the important role of international collaboration and coordination for Arctic research, reported on successful collaboration between Russian and US scientists in the NABOS program, and provided a perspective on the importance of legal regimes in the context of an evolving Arctic Observing Network.
Discussion at the meeting focused on a wider range of issues, ranging from different interpretations of what constitutes "marine scientific research" both as a legal and an applied term, the potentially important role of "non-designated areas" within the extended continental shelf region that may be exempt from the consent requirement for marine scientific research, the question whether drifting sensors qualify as operational or hydrographic surveying instruments, and more.
Concluding from these discussions, there was some consensus among participants that it is important for the scientific community to engage in discussions of how marine scientific research is defined legally and how UNCLOS and other legal or regulatory regimes are applied to the Arctic. In light of the strong history of international collaboration and the significant logistic constraints on Arctic research, it appears that building on the concept of enlightened self-interest among Arctic littoral states may help promote a legal and regulatory regime that is supportive of international scientific collaboration and access for scientific or operational research. Of particular interest as potential models or starting points for a discourse on these issues are the International Ocean Drilling Program which coordinates platforms between signatory states and addresses access, the International Arctic Ocean Buoy Program and other buoy/weather station programs with a link to the operational sector, and potentially others.
Participants agreed to consider these issues further and discuss joint work on a white paper that builds on our current understanding and practice of research access as well as anticipated changes under UNCLOS to develop a vision for an optimal scientific access model. This document might then serve as a starting point for further communications and collaboration between the different stakeholders and the scientific community, in order to arrive at a viable vision for Arctic research collaboration and access.
Vermont Law School
International ocean law, marine scientific research, and intersections with national legal regimes
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Department of Geology & Geophysics, UAF
UNCLOS Article 76 and possible impacts on scientific access
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IARC - UAF
Collaborative research in Russian Arctic seas - Brief overview of regulations, organizational structures and recommendations for improved coordination
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GI/IARC - UAF
The emerging Arctic Observing Network - Critical needs for international collaboration and coordination
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Discussion and recommendations on potential future contributions from IARC, North by 2020 and the UA Geography Program