Arctic Council brings big October meetings to Portland, Maine

Under U.S. chairmanship, Arctic Council looks to south-north links


A new website on Maine and the Arctic tells more about events planned for September and October, when the Arctic Council SAO's will meet in Portland, Maine.

A new website on Maine and the Arctic tells more about events planned for September and October, when the Arctic Council SAO’s will meet in Portland, Maine.

When you look at the city of Portland, Maine on the northeastern coast of the United States, it’s more likely that you’ll be reminded of lobsters rather than the Arctic.

But during September and early October, Maine will welcome nearly 250 ambassadors, scientists, representatives of Indigenous communities from around the Arctic and other Arctic leaders to various Arctic Council meetings and workshops associated with the Arctic Council’s working groups, task forces and expert groups.

Delegates to the meeting of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials — the only SAO meeting of four during the two-year U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council to take place outside Alaska — in Portland Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, said a Sept. 1 announcement from the Maine North Atlantic Development Office.

The news release says Arctic change will have a direct impact on Maine’s economy, coastline and natural resources.

If climate change makes the Northwest Passage more navigable, Portland could become a strategic departure point or first point of entry for ships travelling through Canada’s High Arctic islands.

Portland has already forged economic ties with the Icelandic shipping company, Eimskip, which moved its North American headquarters to Portland in 2013 and which links the U.S with Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway and Russia.

As well, the Maine Maritime Academy, located in Portland, has received money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Science and Technology Directorate for the development and delivery of maritime ice navigation and first responder courses.

Portland also can lay claim to some prestigious polar history: Robert Peary, a graduate of Portland High School and Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, is credited as being the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909.

As for the official Arctic Council meetings, these are are closed to the public, but the Maine Arctic Council Host Committee has planned side events so the public can learn about the work of the Arctic Council and Maine’s “growing connection to the Arctic,” the release said.

The University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine School of Law and Pierce Atwood LLP will host a public conference and Arctic showcase Oct. 3 on “The Arctic: Challenges and Opportunities.”

At Portland’s library, you’ll find an exhibit on the History of maps of the Northwest Passage.

And Bowdoin College is developing an “Arctic Trail Map” that will guide people to locations across the state that highlight Maine’s historical connection to Arctic exploration.

You can find more information on this new website, called Maine and the Arctic, here.

Portland, Maine, population 66,000, located 2,235 kilometres south of Iqaluit and 7,301 km from Fairbanks, Alaska, has wanted to play a larger role in the Arctic and the Arctic Council under the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic forum.

Angus King, an independent U.S. Senator for Maine, explained Maine’s Arctic interest this way in a statement released after he accompanied Secretary of State John Kerry to Iqaluit for the May 15 ministerial meeting: “As one of the closest American trade hubs [with the Arctic], Maine will play a central role… as commercial, cultural, and educational exchanges increase in the coming years.”

“Maine has already started looking north,” said King in an earlier statement on his website.

King also helped found an Arctic caucus at the U.S. Senate.

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