Members of the Arctic Marine Mammal Coalition visited Bowdoin College’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center the week of April 5, 2015. The Coalition is made up of representatives of the Alaskan indigenous marine mammal co-management groups. It was established in 2012 to provide the United States Coast Guard input on the impact of increased shipping traffic on subsistence hunting. Their visit, the second in three years, gave the Alaskan group a constructive place to do some of their work, while providing the Bowdoin community an opportunity to talk directly with marine mammal hunters and leaders about the challenges and opportunities they are facing in the rapidly changing Arctic. The visit was funded by a grant from the Oak Foundation.
Coalition members attended Anthropology, Arctic Studies, Sociology, and Government courses where they engaged students on wide variety of topics. A key theme was how hunters work with both traditional ecological knowledge and western science. Members also addressed the challenges they face as they deal with a dizzying array of US and international regulations that directly affect their ability to feed their families, and the steps they have taken to minimize the possibility that commercial ships traversing Alaskan waters will disturb migrating marine mammals and indigenous hunters.
The Coalition also participated in a public presentation with Jessica Lefevre, an attorney advising them. They discussed many of the problems that have emerged as the world becomes increasingly interested in the Arctic and shows up on their coast. Also on Thursday, Martin Robards of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who has helped facilitate the Coalition’s work and who was at the Bowdoin meeting, reported on the Bowdoin visit and the Coalition’s work on NPR’s call-in program, Maine Calling, which featured a “Maine and the Changing Arctic,” program that day. The complete NPR program can be heard at http://news.mpbn.net/post/maine-and-changing-arctic
“We were honored to host the Coalition members and welcome them back to campus,” said Susan A. Kaplan, director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center. Today, members of the Coalition sit on the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, where, in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, they are helping develop best shipping practices for the Arctic. Kaplan observed, “The Coalition is being proactive on many fronts to ensure that the wellbeing of indigenous Arctic communities are factored into national and international policy decisions. They are also concerned that safe and environmentally sound practices are adopted by companies and nations operating in the north.”
Faculty and students from Bowdoin College began working in the Arctic in 1860, and today they continue to do research in the region. The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, on the Bowdoin campus features exhibitions that explore Arctic-related environmental, historical, cultural, and artistic topics. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Sunday from 2 to 5 pm. The galleries are closed on Monday and on national holidays. Admission is free.