IAB8: Status, challenges and opportunities for Arctic Ocean protection and governance

Date: Friday October 12, 2018

Location: Kero, Lappia Hall

Time: 10:30-12:00

While recent assessments of the state of the Arctic marine biodiversity point to several alarming trends, protecting that biodiversity in a representative network of marine protected areas and reserves is lagging far behind both internationally agreed targets and scientific understanding of the protection needs. If the network of marine protected areas in the Arctic seas is developed with the rate of the 11 years 2005-2016, 10% protected area coverage will only be reached in 2113. We present an assessment of the current situation, highlight important gaps in the protected area network, and outline a way forward. The UN negotiations towards a new implementing agreement that would create a tool to protect biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction are beginning. We discuss these trends and opportunities in a series of presentations followed by a panel discussion.

Chair: Laura Meller, Greenpeace Norden

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion


  • Arctic Ocean on track to meet 2020 protection target - in the year 2113: Elena Sakirko, Greenpeace Russia pdf
  • Governance of the Arctic marine environment – current state of play and future challenges: Stefan Kirchner, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland pdf
  • A Methodology for Identifying Important Ecological Areas in the Arctic: Jon Warrenchuk, Oceana pdf
  • How can a new legally binding agreement under UNCLOS help protect the Central Arctic Ocean? Laura Meller, Greenpeace Norden pdf



Arctic Ocean on track to meet 2020 protection target - in the year 2113

Elena Sakirko, Greenpeace Russia; Mikhail Kreindlin, Greenpeace Russia

While the impacts of rapid climate change on the Arctic wildlife and ecosystems are increasingly well understood, measures to protect the unique ecosystems are lagging far behind internationally agreed targets, not to mention the scientific understanding of conservation needs. Less than 5% of Arctic seas are currently under any form of protection. Gaps are most notable in the Central Arctic Ocean, where there are no marine protected areas, as well as other areas identified as Ecologically and Biologically Significant - less than one percent of those areas have been protected. At the same time there are examples of worrying developments at national level. In Russia, spatial protection around Franz Josef Land has been decreased by 40 000 km2 in order to give way for oil exploration interests, and those same interests threaten protected areas in Laptev Sea. While new instruments for protecting areas beyond national jurisdiction are being developed, Arctic coastal states need to make a step change to become responsible stewards of the Arctic Ocean. If present rate of 2005-2016 continues, the Arctic seas will reach the globally agreed target to protect least 10% of oceans and coastal areas only in the year 2113. Scientific consensus suggests 30% of oceans need to be protected by 2030 in order to secure the vital functions healthy ecosystems of the oceans are providing. We take stock of the current status of the marine protected areas in the Arctic and outline opportunities to develop the network further, through both existing policy instruments as well as those currently under development.


Governance of the Arctic marine environment – current state of play and future challenges

Stefan Kirchner, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland

This presentation will look into how Arctic marine environment is currently governed. It is of use to first examine who is competent in what marine areas to govern the Arctic marine environment and under what rules. Specific emphasis will be on the role of the Arctic Council in advancing both marine protected areas and ecosystem-based management in the Arctic waters.


A Methodology for Identifying Important Ecological Areas in the Arctic

Jon Warrenchuk, Oceana; Molly Zaleski, Oceana; Brianne Mecum, Oceana

Finding an appropriate balance between economic development and environmental impacts with the goal of ecological sustainability is arguably the most daunting problem confronting marine resource managers. The problem can become more tractable by identifying the important ecological areas of the ocean for maintaining ecosystem health; and then adopting targeted management measures to protect those areas’ ecological integrity. We define Important Ecological Areas (IEAs) as geographically delineated areas which by themselves or in a network have distinguishing ecological characteristics, are important for maintaining habitat heterogeneity or the viability of a species, or contribute disproportionately to an ecosystem's health, including its productivity, biodiversity, functioning, structure, or resilience. Determining “importance” required a process for establishing and comparing relative contributions of individual or multiple ecological features. Oceana developed a mathematical methodology for that process that allows data from different sources (binary, ordinal, categorical, continuous, etc.) to be combined and analyzed together. This methodology is ideally suited for utilizing all available data sources including local and traditional knowledge. The spatial extent of a study area must first be defined and divided into equal-sized grid cells and overlaid with the distribution of data layers for ecological features. Values are assigned for data layers, and the mean of these values is averaged over the number of cells. To provide a common basis for integrating data from different layers, results are represented in terms of standardized deviates. Guided by our definition of IEAs, all negative standardized deviates are set to zero. Cells greater than zero therefore contribute "disproportionately" toward the total value of the ecosystem feature within our area of interest. Excluding values for ecological features that are below average (less than zero) ensured that results are strictly additive and do not ‘penalize’ and detract from the importance of other layers in the cell. Cluster analyses can then be used to identify consistent IEAs. A case study is discussed using datasets representing distribution and abundance of primary productivity, zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and subsistence use from a synthesis document, The Ecological Atlas of the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas.


How can a new legally binding agreement under UNCLOS help protect the Central Arctic Ocean?

Laura Meller, Greenpeace Norden

Ocean sanctuaries, or highly protected large marine reserves, are the most effective means to enable marine life to flourish, recover and adapt to the changing environment. The need to establish a representative network of ocean sanctuaries is urgent, as at least 30% of the world’s oceans should be protected by 2030 according to a motion adopted by the IUCN and following scientific advice, in order to help tackle climate change, provide food security and protect marine biodiversity. Right now, less than 3% of the oceans are protected, and a mere 1% of the international waters beyond national jurisdiction. The absence of globally-agreed rules for creating large-scale networks of marine reserves in international waters has been a major barrier to protecting the oceans. The new legally binding agreement under UNCLOS for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction which entered negotiations in September provides an opportunity to complement existing frameworks, building on them and fill current gaps in ocean governance. Greenpeace vision for the new Agreement is to set up a global process for the designation, management, and enforcement of marine sanctuaries in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Regional bodies with a mandate to establish high-seas MPAs in their region as well sectoral bodies responsible for activities taking place in the proposed area will play an important role in the creation of these sanctuaries by inputting via a consultation process. The Central Arctic Ocean has been recognised as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and warrants urgent protection based on its unique environmental characteristics and unprecedented pressures facing the region. Through constructive engagement in the UN negotiations, Arctic states and bodies such as the Arctic Council now have an opportunity to become the true stewards of the Arctic sea and help protect healthy ocean ecosystems worldwide.

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