2020 has not been easy for anyone, including the Arctic, which faced heatwaves, wildfires and record low sea ice levels.
But there have also been some global conservation wins for the Arctic this year that we can certainly take a moment to appreciate.
Here are some of the conservation highlights from this year.
ArcNet – An Arctic Ocean Network of Priority Areas for Conservation: Significant progress was made in establishing a network of protected areas in the Arctic Ocean. ArcNet, a WWF lead project, supports governments and marine stakeholders as they work together to build a future where Arctic marine life is strengthened in the face of rapidly increasing pressures in the region. This Network will support marine species, ecosystems, and their contributions to the global well-being of nature and people.
ArcNet’s power lies in providing a bigger picture across the entire Arctic while also showing how conservation work in Russia can contribute to biodiversity protection across the whole region, says Irina Onufrenya, acting director of the biodiversity programme with WWF–Russia.
Bear Islands protected by nature reserve: The Russian government established a marine nature reserve for the Medvezhyi Islands, or Bear Islands based on a project conducted by WWF-Russia. These islands have the highest recorded concentration of polar bear dens from the Taymyr Peninsula to Wrangel Island. The waters surrounding the islands are home to bearded and ringed seals and are visited by beluga whales, walrus, and even sea lions.
The Pebble Mine gets the thumbs down: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for developers to build the controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska, marking an important moment in the decade’s long effort to protect Bristol Bay.
This brings us one step closer to protecting Bristol Bay, an irreplaceable ecosystem that serves as one of the planet’s last salmon strongholds and an area that is critical to the livelihoods and well-being of thousands of Alaskans, says Margaret Williams, managing director of the WWF-US Arctic program.
Fat polar bears found in Canada’s central Arctic: A survey found that two polar bear subpopulations are getting fatter and more numerous. Scientists discovered that recovery efforts are paying off and the bears have, at least temporarily, responded well to changes in sea ice. The population increase in M’Clintock Channel is, in part, the result of good management. M’Clintock Channel polar bears are co-managed by governments and local Inuit communities. Unless we drastically reduce emissions, we may lose all but a few subpopulations by the end of this century.
What we’re seeing is the result of temporarily favourable conditions for polar bears, as well as good local monitoring, science and co-management, says Melanie Lancaster, Senior Specialist, Arctic species for WWF’s Arctic Programme.
Silence is golden: Covid-19 turned the volume down throughout our oceans. Whales and other wildlife are heavily impacted by noise pollution from maritime traffic. But this year in Glacier Bay, Alaska, researchers got the opportunity to observe humpback whales in an environment without cruise ships. Researchers observed the whales socializing and even napping in areas normally clogged with traffic.
2019 is coming to an end and it’s time to look back and assess the progress we made this year.
Polar bears in some parts of Canada are getting fatter and more numerous according to recent survey results from two of the world’s 19 polar bear subpopulations.