Governance of Arctic Search and Rescue
Adrianne Dunsmore | BIG Research Reports | #46
In recent years, global interest in the Arctic has grown exponentially; as sea ice melts and previously unnavigable regions become accessible, maritime traffic, including shipping and tourism, has increased. Search and rescue (SAR) responders in both Canada and Denmark have expressed concern, as the waters these vessels traverse are dangerous, remote, and not fully charted (Byers, 2010). As the maritime traffic increases, so too will the number of search and rescue missions, and due to the sparseness of personnel and equipment, these missions are often cooperative efforts between responders from neighbouring countries. Interaction between Arctic states has been largely collaborative, however in the past decade tensions amongst the states have begun to rise as the countries vie for resources and attempt to exert claims of sovereignty. Following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea it was feared that Arctic cooperation might break down entirely1, but amongst this trepidation, cooperation in Arctic SAR operations remained unaffected (Byers, 2015). The first part of this paper will provide an explanation as to the circumstances particular to Arctic SAR, as well as to the governance of Canadian search and rescue. The second part will provide a historical context of international cooperative search and rescue efforts and an examination of current Arctic SAR governance, followed by several preliminary policy recommendations.