International Council Agrees to Cooperate on Marine Oil Pollution Issues in the Arctic
An iceberg captured during a mission in 2012 to map areas of the Arctic.
An iceberg captured on camera during a 30-day mission in 2012 to map areas of the Arctic aboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather. (NOAA)

JANUARY 18, 2012 -- Since 1996, the eight Arctic nations (the U.S., Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) and NGO representatives have worked through an intergovernmental forum called the Arctic Council to protect the Arctic environment and promote sustainable development.

From January 7–9, 2013, technical and legal representatives from the Arctic Council countries met in Ottawa, Canada, to develop operational guidelines for implementation of the "Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic." The U.S. delegation included experts from the U.S. Coast Guard, the oil industry, and NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration. The focus of the agreement is on cooperative response to incidents in international waters of the Arctic where no country has clear jurisdiction, as well as incidents in a country's waters when that country seeks international assistance to augment their national capacity to respond.

These operational guidelines will be appended to the international agreement on Arctic oil pollution response finalized in 2012 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

"The future of the Alaskan Arctic almost certainly will see increased development, and along with it, greater chances of oil spills," said Office of Response and Restoration Director Dave Westerholm. "It is imperative that everyone—governments, industry, nonprofit, academic, tribe, and resident—work together to understand the benefits and risks of these activities and make decisions founded on sound science."

Learn more about the Office of Response and Restoration's various activities in the Arctic.