Due to climate change it is possible that the summertime Arctic Ocean could become ice-free by mid-century, according to the worst-case scenario of warming. This would open the relatively pristine Arctic marine ecosystem to industrial activities including fishing, shipping, and petroleum exploration and drilling. Arctic nations are already staking claims to portions of the Arctic seabed beyond their traditional 200-nm EEZs, seeking national jurisdiction over the resources there.

In the August 2007 edition of MPA News, scientists and conservationists commented on opportunities for proactive management of the Arctic Ocean – establishing systems for sustainable management of the Arctic Ocean before the ice melts, rather than afterward (MPA News 9:2). This month, two more experts provide their insights:

  • Andrew Constable is a biologist with the Australian Antarctic Division. He helps lead Australia’s delegation to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR – an intergovernmental body that manages resources of the Southern Ocean (www.ccamlr.org); and
  • Jeanne Pagnan, formerly with Canada’s National Energy Board and Environment Canada, has led several international working groups on marine strategy and biodiversity for the Arctic, and is Arctic regional marine coordinator for the World Commission on Protected Areas. As a consultant, she has worked on Arctic protected areas and World Heritage assessments, and with the oil and gas industry on its Arctic marine guidelines. She also has extensive work experience with Arctic indigenous peoples.

Arctic areas outside national jurisdiction should be managed like CCAMLR

By Andrew Constable

If a relatively pristine area of the Arctic Ocean is exposed by climate change, it would make sense for all high seas areas outside of national jurisdiction in the region to be managed by an intergovernmental body similar to CCAMLR.

So far, CCAMLR is the only high seas regional body that has a conservation remit with rational use being allowed. Thus, activities are managed in a way that has to meet environmental objectives: that is, conserving the whole ecosystem, not only fish stocks. In addition, CCAMLR can take conservation actions without their necessarily being related to fishing or other activities. This provides opportunities for the CCAMLR Commission to be proactive. The Commission has a suite of tools explicitly indicated in the Convention that can be used to help achieve conservation objectives. The Commission has adopted a spatial management framework that achieves a variety of objectives, based on the best scientific evidence available. The suite of management measures (known as Conservation Measures) provide for orderly development of fisheries from new fisheries to the more established fisheries. The experience of CCAMLR shows that a multiple-use spatially explicit framework is essential for achieving sustainable outcomes in high seas areas outside of national jurisdiction.

The international mood is to establish regional management bodies in areas outside of national jurisdiction before problems emerge. The experience of CCAMLR would suggest that establishing a regime for such areas outside of national jurisdiction in advance and determining some of the modes of operation such as how to achieve orderly development of fisheries to safeguard the environment is an essential component for achieving long-term ecological sustainability for high seas areas. There is considerable fishing effort available to exploit new areas. The increasing recognition of the global impacts on fisheries resources from illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing indicates the need to have controls in place at the outset.

For more information: Andrew Constable, Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Highway, Kingston, 7050, Tasmania, Australia. E-mail: andrew.constable@aad.gov.au

Three issues in protecting the Arctic Ocean

By Jeanne Pagnan

In response to calls to protect the Arctic Ocean as an MPA, my view is that there are three main issues to be resolved before such an enterprise is feasible. The first is, what would be the geographic boundaries of such an MPA? Second, is there a suitable governance system already in place and, if not, could one realistically be formed? And third, how would the interests of the various stakeholders and of the northern peoples be accommodated?

Geographically, the Arctic marine system includes the Arctic Ocean proper and over a dozen seas, straits, and bays. Six countries already claim large portions of Arctic waters as their Exclusive Economic Zones. However, several existing EEZ boundaries are in dispute and there are proposals to extend some well into the Arctic high seas. There is a new urgency to settle the boundaries since within its EEZ, a country has the exclusive right to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage both the living and non-living natural resources of the seabed, its subsoil, and waters above it. The economic stakes are high and the competition for EEZ rights is heating up.

However, it will probably be at least 10 years before the boundaries are settled. Under the circumstances, the chances of getting the countries to agree to create a single large Arctic MPA are slim indeed since some may feel this might potentially impinge on their sovereign control over their EEZs. That being said, the countries have already been increasing the protection of their marine and coastal waters. For example, the U.S. protects the waters around the Aleutian Islands. Russia protects out to the 12-nm limit around Wrangel Island, a new World Heritage Site. Iceland has established a marine conservation area at Breidafjordur and uses a system of no-take zones to protect important fisheries. Greenland has protected the entire coastline of the Greenland National Park, the largest park in the world, out to the 3-nm limit. Canada and Norway each have marine conservation plans in place and are gradually implementing them. Admittedly progress is slow, but in my opinion these are encouraging trends.

The second issue is governance. At the moment, the Arctic Council (www.arctic-council.org) is the only circumpolar intergovernmental body that could potentially establish and manage a large multinational Arctic MPA. However, the eight countries of the Arctic Council are not bound by legal instrument; they cooperate voluntarily through ministerial declaration and operate by consensus. The Council was set up as a high-level forum for dialogue and cooperation rather than to design and implement circumpolar management regimes. In terms of marine issues, the Council’s track record is checkered. The countries have collaborated to produce some very useful reports on, inter alia, Arctic pollution, climate, and species. However, it has been less effective in dealing collaboratively with marine conservation. For instance, several years ago the Arctic countries decided to establish a Circumpolar Protected Area Network (CPAN) that would include a marine component, and eventually developed a CPAN Strategy and Action Plan. However, the initiative stalled and is now dormant. As 2012 approaches, they may decide to resuscitate it in response to the target of the World Summit on Sustainable Development that there be representative networks of MPAs worldwide by that date. On the question of establishing and collectively managing a single, large multiple-use MPA and assuming that the EEZ boundary issues are sorted out: the Arctic countries might find it beneficial to pool their efforts as a means to conserve the Arctic marine ecosystem and its economic resources.

The third issue is how to accommodate the interests of various stakeholders and northerners. By stakeholder, I speak here of industry. By northerner, I speak of the Arctic’s indigenous peoples. As the ice melts, there will be easier access to the Arctic’s resources, increased shipping along the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, and major infrastructure development. These will place heavy burdens on the Arctic ecosystem. Under these circumstances, how can it be protected? In my view, the answer is neither to ban exploitation nor to expect the industries to take the lead in environmental protection. After all, the primary objective of the oil and gas, mining, shipping, and fisheries industries is not to conserve wildlife or ecosystems but to supply energy, foodstuffs, ores, and minerals and to move goods across oceans. That being said, they should not do so with utter disregard for the environment in which they operate. In fact, industry is already issuing guidance for its Arctic operations: for example, in 2002 the Oil and Gas Producers Association published its guidelines for Arctic offshore activities. Governments are also strengthening their own regulations for marine activities and are banding together to produce common sets of guidelines for various marine activities. Protecting the Arctic marine environment must also include a strong regulatory regime based on reasonable, fair, and practical standards and an organization to back it up. Such a regime should include strong environmental protection and conservation measures and be strictly enforced. This is a task I can see eventually taken on in a cooperative venture by the Arctic Council somewhere down the line.

My final point concerns the people of the Arctic. They fall into two main categories: those who have moved up from the south and those whose homelands have always been the Arctic – i.e. the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Some of those groups are the Saami, found mainly in the Nordic countries, the Koryak and Chukchi of Russia, the Upik and Aleuts of Alaska and Russia, and the Inuit groups who reside primarily in Greenland and Canada. Today, those traditional peoples make up only a fraction of the greater population of the Arctic and while many still live in small communities and practice their traditional skills, many more have basically been marginalized in a region increasingly driven by global and national politics, economics, and the “bottom line”. Many indigenous people have adapted their skills to this new reality. For example, wealthy Americans or Europeans will pay an Inuit scout upwards of US $50,000 to stalk and kill a polar bear. Others have joined the growing workforce associated with industrial development. But most remain on the sidelines of economic prosperity. In terms of protecting the marine environment, most countries have given their indigenous populations rights of traditional marine harvest and use. But in these changing times, that is insufficient to provide them with adequate livelihoods and is often not embraced by indigenous youth. Unless they are economically and socially secure, it will be difficult to engage indigenous peoples in environmental conservation. The answer is to provide training and build professional capacity, and give them a real stake in the industrial development of the Arctic marine environment that will soon be upon us and in protecting it. This could also mean setting quotas and guaranteeing long-term employment and management opportunities associated with MPAs, or with emerging industrial development such as, for example, the growing marine transport industry.

For more information: Jeanne Pagnan, Twin Dolphins Inc. (environmental consulting), c/o 1845 Prestwick Ave., Ottawa, ON K1E 2R7, Canada. Tel: +1 819 777 1767; E-mail: jpagnan@cyberus.ca

BOX: Clarification on Antarctic Treaty System

A mention of the Antarctic Treaty System in the August 2007 MPA News requires clarification. An editor’s note on page 3 suggested that the phrase “Antarctic Treaty System” referred specifically to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR. Reader Lee Kimball writes that the treaty system covers more than just CCAMLR:

“The reference is to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, including its Protocol on Environmental Protection (1991) as well as the other components of the system, which include CCAMLR (as noted) as well as the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972). CCAMLR’s conservation mandate regarding marine living resources relates to harvesting and associated activities. The Antarctic Treaty is the ‘framework’ convention through which a broad range of Antarctic activities, including emerging issues, are considered and, hopefully, addressed.”

NOTE: A draft resolution (S.J. Res. 117) has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that calls on the U.S. to initiate international discussions to negotiate an agreement for managing migratory and transboundary fish stocks in the Arctic Ocean. For a copy of the draft resolution and to track its progress, go to www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=sj110-17.