© VDOS Global / WWF-Canada

Arctic marine protection

A new approach

The Arctic Ocean is transforming into open water as sea ice melts due to climate change. Increasing industrial development is exposing more and more marine life to risks.

WWF is partnering with researchers and experts to create a network of marine protection throughout the Arctic Ocean to reduce the loss of biodiversity and cultural identity in this vulnerable and rapidly changing part of the world.

We're identifying a network of areas for marine protection across the entire Arctic Ocean, prioritizing the needs of marine life, cultural values and the important functions of all the region’s unique ecosystems.

By identifying areas critical for marine life that need to be protected and connected, we can help ensure their long-term survival and build resilience to climate change.

Why it matters

We need to protect and connect important areas across international borders where Arctic marine life gathers to feed and breed.
In the Arctic, we are less than halfway to reaching a United Nations target to protect 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020.
Industrial development including shipping, and oil and gas, is increasing in the Arctic as sea ice melts. We need to proactively protect and connect the areas most critical for marine life and coastal communities, and ensure future development is done in a sustainable way.
Arctic communities, governments and experts need to work together across borders and cultures to protect the Arctic Ocean and the life that it supports.

What's happening now?

By late 2019, partners, scientists and marine experts will complete preliminary analysis of Arctic data and produce maps of potential areas for protection. These maps will be subject to further review and refinement with a broader community of stakeholders.

© 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.

© Global Warming Images / WWF

In 2015 the Arctic Council agreed to a Framework for a Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas. Four years later, there is an even greater urgency to establish this network given increasing human pressures, industrial activities, climate change, and very few existing MPAs. The Arctic today has relatively little human industrial impact and this is our chance to get it right from the beginning with a precautionary approach to conservation that is transparent, participatory and meaningful.

© Alexei Ebel / WWF-Canon

Since 2014, WWF Russia has been working 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 achieving connectivity and sustainability.

Priority conservation areas identified during the analysis will be included in the Federal List of Prospective Protected Areas (2020-2030); and some of them are already being implemented (Novosibirskie Islands, Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago). There is ongoing research on the impact of climate change in these areas and on the resilience they are able to provide.

What’s next?

The identification of a network of priority conservation areas throughout the Arctic is an iterative process that will have several outputs in the coming years:

  • A community of practice familiar with common principles and approaches
  • A project report describing the steps of the analysis and decisions taken
  • Scenario maps highlighting possible priority conservation areas
  • Additional and ongoing analyses to assist relevant planning and implementation processes nationally and internationally. As well as incorporating changes occurring in the region due to climate change and industrial impacts
  • Scientific, peer reviewed papers

How to get involved

Some Arctic countries have or are undergoing specific country analysis that will feed into this larger, pan-Arctic analysis that is underway. The Pan-Arctic analysis is neither the same as the sum of lower scale analyses, nor does it replace them. In addition to country specific and the pan-Arctic analysis, there are thematic teams for species such as mammals, birds and fish. The project is also looking to engage with Indigenous communities to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into the analysis.

If you would like to become involved, please contact us at info@arcticwwf.org.

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