UAF Hosts International Arctic Ocean Policy Workshop

The international waters over the high arctic are a new horizon for human activity. That was the driving force behind an Arctic Ocean Policy workshop this week in Fairbanks. University of Alaska Fairbanks professors, and counterparts from a Canadian university, organized the event, which focused on the central arctic, or “donut hole,” outside the 200-mile zone along national boundaries. UAF geography and Arctic policy professor Lawson Brigham says there’s growing interest in the global commons of the high arctic.

Brigham is a former ice breaker captain, and chair of an Arctic Marine shipping assessment. He says secondary to economics, climate change and the retreat of sea ice are helping foster interest in the central arctic. He says impending use and development are being paralleled by an international push to regulate and protect the area. Sixty people from 12 countries participated in this week’s arctic workshop in Fairbanks. UAF vice chancellor and geography department director Mike Sfraga says the conference is part of the university’s effort to be a leader in arctic research.

Sfraga says UAF infrastructure like the new arctic research vessel under construction, and faculty with arctic expertise, position the university to be a player as interest in the polar region increases.  He says UAF is working to develop international partnerships, like the one with Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, that spawned this week’s conference.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.