The Circle

Sea Change: Managing the Arctic Ocean

© Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

The Arctic Ocean plays a key role in moderating our global climate and provides cultural identity, food security and income for many of the region’s 4 million residents. Its unique flora and fauna support ecosystem stability and balance. The climate crisis threatens this valuable marine environment—but WWF has created an innovative way to ensure it remains resilient and full of life.

In this issue

In this issue, we take a closer look at managing the Arctic Ocean.

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Underwater noise regulation: Time for Arctic coastal states to get on board

The Arctic’s underwater soundscape signals life. The calls and songs of walrus, bearded seals, narwhals and bowhead whales are bizarrely beautiful and almost otherworldly to our human ears. But for marine mammals, sending and receiving sound underwater is an essential part of life: they use it to find food and mates, avoid predators and navigate the deep, dark, ice-covered Arctic Ocean.

Elisabeth Kruger / WWF-US

The future of the Arctic Ocean depends on stewardship

The Arctic Ocean is home to diverse marine species and unique ecosystems, and its cryosphere plays a significant role in moderating the Earth’s climate. The Arctic marine environment also provides cultural identity, food security and a source of income for many of the region’s inhabitants.


Elisabeth Kruger / WWF-US

Ocean stewardship: Moving from words to action in the central Arctic Ocean

The central Arctic Ocean is undergoing unprecedented change, and much more is anticipated. States must show leadership by adopting proactive and precautionary plans and measures. Erik J. Molenaar explains why it’s time for states to become stewards.

Shutterstock / tryton2011 / WWF

Ecosystem-based management: Solving the Arctic’s management puzzle

As the climate crisis intensifies and sea ice retreats, the Arctic marine environment is under increasing pressure. The traditional sector-by-sector management approach may not be enough to help the region cope with the emerging challenges and adverse impacts of multiple stressors. Andrey Todorov contemplates whether Arctic states are ready to put the ecosystem at the centre of management.

QIA / Sima Sahar Zerehi

A model for marine conservation in Canada’s High Arctic: The Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area

Tallurutiup Imanga, a conservation area in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, is rich in biodiversity. The Canadian government and Inuit in the Qikiqtani Region have worked together for years to create the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area (TINMCA) to protect marine life from the impacts of non-renewable resource development. As the largest marine protected area in Canada, TINMCA protects more than 108,000 square kilometres of biologically rich Arctic waters in Canada’s High Arctic. / Ingo Arndt / WWF

Monitoring walrus from space to understand their plight

As sea ice retreats dramatically in the Arctic, walrus habitat is changing—and these marine mammals will need our help to secure their future. Understanding how habitat changes are affecting walrus requires broad, detailed, multi-year data about their populations, but currently, we don’t know how many walrus are in the Arctic. Hannah Cubaynes, Rod Downie and Peter Fretwell explain how satellite imagery is making it possible for scientists to monitor walrus over the whole Arctic. In future, citizen science could play a vital role by enabling people to help spot haulouts and count the animals.

Christopher Michel, CC,

Norway’s integrated approach to ocean management relies on a foundation of science and cross-sectoral cooperation

Norway’s ecosystem-based ocean management plans establish a framework and measures for conserving and sustainably using marine ecosystems, writes Hanne-Grete Nilsen. The scientific basis for the plans factors in environmental status, the potential for value creation and industry pressures on marine ecosystems. This knowledge base is prepared through cross-sectoral cooperation between relevant authorities and research institutes.

Natur og Ungdom/Jørgen Karlsen

Youth want a say: Protecting biodiversity in the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the world’s ocean lies beyond any country’s national jurisdiction. Although there are rules that restrict the use of resources in these “high seas”—including for fishing, shipping and mining—the pressures on marine biodiversity are increasing. The UN treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in these areas, known as Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), aims to address this. The proposed amendment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea would fill a number of gaps in the international legal framework governing the biodiversity of the world’s high seas—including those in the Arctic.

The Circle is a magazine produced by the WWF Global Arctic Programme. Our goal is to inform decision-makers, scientists and the interested public about Arctic environmental and development issues.
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The Circle 04.20