© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock/WWF-Canada


An Arctic Ocean Network of Priority Areas for Conservation

The Arctic Ocean is transforming. Climate change is causing sea ice to melt, opening this region to significant industrial development and exposing more marine life to risks in this vulnerable and rapidly changing part of the world.

ArcNet – An Arctic Ocean Network of Priority Areas for Conservation – 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. A cooperatively established Network will support marine species, ecosystems and their contributions to the global wellbeing of nature and people.

What is ArcNet?

  • A mapped vision of an Arctic Ocean network of Priority Areas for Conservation that can be used as a concrete proposal for marine planning and management;
  • A comprehensive and systematically designed conservation network that considers the Arctic Ocean’s entire marine ecosystem and accounts for the key functions, needs and benefits of its’ unique wildlife;
  • A transparent approach that can be reproduced with a set of tools to support open and inclusive cooperation between governments and marine stakeholders as they work together to establish priority areas for conservation;
  • An iterative engagement process that allows for establishing, adjusting, and managing the Network over time as the Arctic and its marine life adapt to rapid change.

Why it matters

There is still time to protect the Arctic Ocean. It is home to many unique species that have nowhere else to go. Thirty-four species of marine mammals and 633 species of fish call the Arctic home. Thirty species of marine birds breed only in the Arctic.
Due to declining sea ice, industrial development is booming in the Arctic. This includes shipping, as well as oil and gas. We need to protect and connect the areas most critical for Arctic nature and people to ensure future development is done in a sustainable way.
The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth. By identifying areas critical for Arctic marine life, we help provide for their long-term survival and resilience to the climate crisis.
In 2015 The Arctic Council agreed to a Framework for a Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas. Five years later, there is an urgency to move forward and establish this network. Efforts need to significantly ramp up to achieve the United Nations’ expected new target to protect 30 per cent of coastal marine areas by 2030.
ArcNet does not replace country-level marine conservation planning, and because it takes the entire Arctic ecosystem into account, produces different results. Governments, marine experts, Indigenous Peoples and local communities must come together across borders and cultures to protect the Arctic Ocean and the life it holds.

What's happening?

© WWF / Henry Harrison

In 2017, WWF-Canada began to examine the protection of areas in the Arctic Basin, Arctic Archipelago, Eastern Arctic and Hudson Bay Complex marine bioregions. Relying on both scientific and Indigenous knowledge, priority conservation areas are being identified that will lead to a network of Arctic marine protected areas in Canada and connect into a broader pan-Arctic system.

© Alexei Ebel / WWF-Canon

Since 2014, WWF Russia has worked with marine experts and the Russian Academy of Sciences to identify 47 conservation priority areas in the Russian Arctic seas. The resulting network covers almost 25% of the Russian Arctic seas and guarantees proportional representation of their biodiversity as well as connectivity and sustainability. Priority areas for conservation identified during the analysis will be included in the Federal List of Prospective Protected Areas (2020-2030); and some are already being implemented in the Novosibirskie Islands and parts of the Great Siberian Polynya. There is on-going research on the impact of climate change in these areas and the resilience they can provide.

ArcNet complements the national network and highlights some of the areas as having global Arctic significance.

How to get involved

This is our chance to get it right from the beginning with a pre-cautionary approach to conservation in a cooperative and sustainably minded region. WWF invites governments, biodiversity experts, marine scientists, and local and Indigenous knowledge holders to become partners in establishing a network of Arctic Ocean Priority Areas for Conservation.

To become a part of ArcNet, please contact us at info@arcticwwf.org.

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