At the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska in May of 2017, ICES - the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea - was one of seven new Observers admitted by Ministers. Get to know ICES and its Arctic connections in the interview below.

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Give us a brief introduction to ICES, and tell us a bit about its connection to the Arctic.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is a global organization that develops science and advice to support the sustainable use of the oceans. 20 member countries around the North Atlantic have signed the 1964 Convention, to commit resources in pursuing this common goal.

The ICES expert network reaches beyond its 20 member countries, includes more than 1,500 active participants annually, contributing to 160 working groups, and representing nearly 60 different countries.

Through strategic partnerships, ICES work also extends into the Arctic, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the North Pacific Ocean.

ICES main objective is to increase the scientific knowledge of the marine environment and its living resources, and to use this knowledge to provide unbiased, non-political advice to competent authorities. ICES is as such not involved in developing governance but supports its 20 Member Countries and international governmental institutions like the EU Commission, NEAFC, NASCO, OSPAR and HELCOM with scientific information and knowledge and advice on ecosystem, fisheries and aquaculture issues. Good governance is reliant on reliable and relevant information for decision-making.

Why is Observer status an important component of the Arctic “profile” of ICES?

All Coastal States to the Arctic are members of ICES and in response to their interest ICES Member Countries have adopted a strategy for ICES work in the Arctic. The strategy is part of ICES Strategic Plan for the period 2014 to 2018, and includes commitment to further develop the science, advisory and data work on the Arctic.

ICES is already active in the Arctic both in terms of coordinating and developing science and monitoring, and in providing advice on management of fisheries in the Arctic. In agreement with the Strategic Plan, ICES is seeking input from strategic cooperation partners such as the Arctic Council on how to address information gaps and needs in a deliberate, well planned manner to avoid duplication and add value to on-going processes.

In terms of governance ICES has the expertise and experience to support the Arctic countries in developing and coordinating marine science and provide advice on the utilisation of the aquatic resources and the impact on the Arctic ecosystem of anthropogenic activities.

ICES is also promoting specific Arctic scientific topics through international symposia and an Annual Science Conference.

As you look ahead, what specific ways do you hope to contribute to the work of the Arctic Council?

ICES is committed to building a foundation of science around one key challenge: integrated ecosystem understanding of marine ecosystems. Current work developing an Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA), including an ecosystem overview for the Central Arctic Ocean, is bringing together experts from ICES, the Arctic Council (PAME), and PICES. This work contributes directly to Goal 1 of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Strategic Plan 2015-2025 to improve knowledge of the Arctic marine environment and continue to monitor and assess current and future impacts on Arctic marine ecosystems.

This IEA work brings experts together across disciplines, relating to the work of the Arctic Council (e.g.; sensitivity and vulnerability in relation to shipping activities), and understanding of climate and ecosystem variability.

While science organizations like ICES and others must work together to provide a transparent and trusted evidence base, it is equally important to have a mechanism for setting priorities and objectives, and to involve governments and the relevant sectors, understanding their objectives and incentives. This is a necessary basis for understanding the implications of trade-off decisions in a multiple use context.

ICES is keen to work with the Arctic Council to improve scientific understanding in the Arctic using our North Atlantic experience as a credible scientific adviser to decision-makers, engagement and dialogue with governments and stakeholders, and professional data management.

(Thanks to Anne Christine Brusendorff, General Secretary of ICES, for providing the responses above.)

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Resources and references (Click any link below)

ICES website
Arctic Council backgrounder

Finnish Chairmanship information
Images for media use
The Arctic Council on Facebook
The Arctic Council on Twitter
The Arctic Council Working Groups: ACAP, AMAP, CAFF, EPPR, PAME and SDWG.