Arctic Frontiers Emerging Leaders Days 3 & 4| January 2020

Days No. Three & Four: Learning in and about the Lofoten Archipelago

During the course of my MSc, I read many an article about the United Nations’ and its protocols. One I became particularly familiar with is the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea. In fact, I’ve become so familiar with it that I am delighted when I stumble upon its acronym in any article or presentation; UNCLOS and I are good friends by now.

UNCLOS and the SDGs are well-paired in the Arctic context. With SDG 14 being “Life Below Water”, conservation and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources are particularly relevant to an increasingly-depended-upon Arctic. Our focus this morning is Arctic Marine Resources, and Guri Hjallen Erikson is teaching our group about current regulatory and policy frameworks in Norway’s Arctic region. From SALT Lofoten and the University of Oslo, Ms Eriksen is a completing her PhD Fisheries Law, and begins her presentation by explaining how UNCLOS provides an international framework for how fisheries regulation and collaborative practices are created in the High North.

We learn how Norway has three main fisheries acts; the Marine Resources Act, the Fish Sales Organisational Act, and the Pariticipation Act. Additionally, there is the Harbour Act, which aims to “facilitate good access, safe passage and management of the waters” (Barents Watch, 2013). I reflect on the International Supply Chain Management course I took during my Spring semester at University of Hertfordshire, where much of our focus was on how public and private sector organisations can implement the SDGs into their value chains. Norway is presented as an exceptional case study of how the SDGs are being used to shape good practice in the fishing industry.

Our next speaker is Benedicte Nielsen, who has joined us from the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation, Norges Råfisklag. Ms Nielsen captures our attention with some interesting facts about Norway’s cod industry; not only does Norway sell cod to over 100 countries, Portugal consumes approximately 1/3 of Norway’s cod! With such an extensive reach, Norges Råfisklag is focused on “traceability, sustainability, documentation, and securing fish stocks” (Nielsen 2020). This work again relates back to SDG 14, where targets include that nations will “by 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics” (United Nations 2016).

Silje Ramsvatn concludes this morning’s learning by sharing how CERMAQ, one of the world’s largest fish farmers, is focused on making operational improvements, developing new sustainable technology, and becoming more engaged in the community. We are reminded in the role corporations play in the management of ocean resources, and how they can act as a barrier to SDG 14B’s target, which is to provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets. I am left with the impression that Norges Råfisklag will be key to managing this target. However, I also recognise the importance of for-profit entities like CERMAQ in serving as exemplars of how corporations can lead in the sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems “to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans” (Target 14.2, United Nations, 2016).

There is limited daylight in the High North, and we aim to make the most of it. Poor weather conditions prevent us from a cod-fishing excursion, however, we are able to head out on Zodiaks for a few hours in the afternoon. We zip around, taking in the fishing village’s coastline and observing Eagles and Orcas. As darkness falls and the snow sets in, we hunker down at a local pub, where we face our fears by presenting Pecha Kuchas to our peers. Pecha Kucha is derived from the Japanese term meaning ‘chit-chat’ and requires the presenter to limit their speech to 20 seconds per slide. I am fortunate to be one of the first to present, and then get to sit back and listen to my new friends share their diverse research interests and experiences.

Our fourth day’s theme is Arctic Energy, and with many of our own cohort being from the energy sector, it is their turn to teach us about their work and how their organisations are striving to meet UNCLOS’ mandate to acheive a balance between use and protection of the seas. We hear from Kaja Klocker, who addresses the Oil and Gas sector’s importance for the relevant Arctic States’ economies and employment opportunities in the North. Kaja’s presentation is well aligned with SDG Nine, which advocates for industry, innovation and infrastructure, and she uses the example of Hammerfest, a city that was revitalised upon the establishment of the LNG plan drawing from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea (Equinor, 2020), as a success story, where the plant “brought the future back to Northern Norway” (Klocker, 2020).

We also learn from Ådne, Alexandra, and Hannah Mary about questions related to “what is Norway’s oil and gas contribution to the global energy demand?”, “what are the non-fossil fuels in the Arctic, and how big are they?”, and “How can renewables be better utilised in the Arctic when companies must contend with remote, scattered communities, geographical isolation, lack of infrastructure, and weather?”

These questions inspired me once again to reflect on the importance of SDGs as they pertain to the Arctic. The World Maritime University (WMU)’s 2018 publication of “Sustainable Shipping in a Changing Arctic” intends to promote and advance specific SDGs that best serve Arctic ocean governance. WMU identifies a selection of “marine-related, interconnected goals” (2018) that should work concurrently with goal 14, these being: four (quality education), five (gender equality), seven (affordable and clean energy), nine (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 13 (climate action), and 17 (partnerships). By employing these goals, the WMU seeks to facilitate improved economic, environmental, and social conditions in the maritime Arctic. The World Wildlife Fund echoes this sentiment, noting that responsible business engagement in the Arctic has “significant potential to advance the global goals” (Grooten and Almond 2018).

It is hard to shape policy and frameworks for contending with these big questions without context of the regional history or scientific background. Our mentor Salve Dahle spends the remainder of our shared time in Lofoten teaching us us about how the harvest of the right whales (1600-1700) led to their extinction, which in turn created an abundance of cod. Compounding this history are the impacts of climatic variations of the Barents Sea ecosystem, as well as the reduction of winter ice along the Barents Sea.

Deeply immersed in our programme work, the time to pack our bags and continue on our journey up to Tromso has snuck up on us.

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