Posted Oct. 12, 2015
Meagan Dunphy-Daly was a 2015 John A. Knauss Fellow from North Carolina. She served as a Congressional Affairs Fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, acting as a liaison between NOAA and Congress on issues of marine policy. Dunphy-Daly holds a doctoral degree from Duke University. In February 2016, Meagan was selected as a Presidential Management Fellows finalist.
This piece has been written in her personal capacity.
After a taste of the international stage at GLACIER in Anchorage, Alaska, I had the opportunity to continue my Arctic travels to a meeting of the working groups of the Arctic Council.
This time, I was headed the other side of the globe and way above the Arctic Circle to Tromsø, Norway.
The Arctic Council is the preeminent intergovernmental forum for addressing issues related to the Arctic region. The United States took over chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015. The Council includes the eight Arctic nations and “Permanent Participants” that include indigenous groups within the Arctic nations.
This latter group was particularly relevant for me because I also cover tribal issues for NOAA, and I’ve been interested in tribal engagement in fisheries and how native communities can contribute to sustainable harvests.
I joined colleagues from NOAA’s International Affairs Office as part of the U.S. delegation at the meeting on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment, known as PAME. The sessions focused on marine protected areas, commonly called MPAs, in the Arctic. This meeting was a perfect fit for my interests because my doctoral dissertation at Duke University was on MPAs.
Some of the common themes that kept reappearing included Arctic shipping and the changes that will occur for shipping routes as more of the sea ice disappears, the possibility of an Arctic network of MPAs stretching across various national borders, and engagement with Arctic communities.
Not having had much experience on the international stage, it was interesting for me to see the process of compromise and consensus between the Arctic countries and Permanent Participants.
Now, I’m back in Washington, D.C. with the thoughts, scenes and experiences from my Arctic travels bouncing around in my head.
It is clear to me now, more than ever, that climate change is no longer a far-off problem. I witnessed it firsthand at the glaciers in Alaska and the melting snowcaps in Norway. I heard the Arctic natives tell how their hunting has been affected because of the loss of ice and the increased ship activity.
And while Alaska and Norway are both very far from D.C., climate change is a trend that will affect everyone, whether through sea-level rise, weather patterns, economic stability or food security.
My Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship has provided me with the incredible opportunity to travel to these meetings and witness ecosystem changes in and international discussions about the Arctic. These experiences have shown me how world leaders view Arctic issues — and have taught me more about the changes that our world is facing.
I encourage you to learn more about these changes by attending a science café, lecture or other presentation on climate change. You can also explore online resources on the topic, such as www.noaa.gov/climate.html.
Or, if you can, travel to the Arctic to see the changes yourself — and maybe even save a beluga whale while you’re there.