On thin ice: report identifies “vulnerable Arctic treasures”
Lancaster Sound among the top 13 areas needing protection
A report released April 27 identifies 13 of the richest and most vulnerable places in the Arctic Ocean that should be considered for protection as summer sea ice melts and industrial activity expands into newly accessible areas.
Lancaster Sound, the Bering Strait, the Beaufort coast and Disko Bay are among the hotspots which need protection, according to the report, released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
This is the first-ever Arctic-wide identification of areas most important to Arctic marine life and vulnerable to climate change and additional stresses, such as the loss of sea ice and ocean acidification, said a news release from the IUCN.
The areas identified in the report are unique or particularly rare, it said. They contain threatened, endangered or declining species and habitats, are especially vulnerable, fragile, or slow to recover; or meet other internationally recognized criteria.
They represent top priorities out of a total 77 Arctic areas that should be considered for protection, it said.
The 13 top priority areas featured in the report are: St. Lawrence Island, the Bering Strait, and Wrangel Island (off Alaska and the Russian Federation), Chukchi Beaufort Coast (US), Beaufort Coast/Cape Bathurst (Canada), Polar Pack Refugium, Lancaster Sound/North Water Polynya (Canada), Disko Bay/Store Hellefiskebanke (off Canada and Greenland), White Sea/Barents Sea Coast, Pechora Sea/Kara Gate, Novaya Zemlya, High Arctic Islands and Shelf, and Great Siberian Polynya (off Norway and the Russian Federation).
The report reflects the findings of 34 scientists and representatives of indigenous communities in Arctic countries who gathered at a Scripps Institution of Oceanography workshop last year.
“There is increasing interest in expanded economic activities in the Arctic,” said Thomas L. Laughlin, deputy head of IUCN’s global marine and polar programme. “The information and maps we have available now will allow governments and the international community to make the right choices regarding the conservation and use of the natural resources of the Arctic.”
You can read the full text of the report on the IUCN website.