March 2018 (11:5)

Issue PDF archive:

The Skimmer is a new MEAM feature where we review the latest news and research on a particular topic. News about the Arctic Ocean region[1] is coming fast and furious these days, and it can be difficult to see how all the individual pieces fit together. In this Skimmer, MEAM pulls together news and research related to Arctic marine ecosystems from the past year. Our takeaway: The situation is grim for the Arctic as we knew it, and this has global repercussions.

How is the Arctic climate changing? Let us count the ways

  • The average surface air temperature in the high Arctic last year was the second warmest since 1900. Only 2016 was warmer.
  • There was a lot less sea ice last winter than there used to be. The winter maximum sea ice recorded in March 2017 was the lowest on record since 1979.
  • The decrease in summer sea ice was even more dramatic. The minimum sea ice extent in September 2017 was 25% lower than the 1981-2010 average sea ice extent and was the second lowest on record (tied with 2007).
  • Sea surface temperatures in the Barents and Chukchi seas were much warmer than average. In August 2017, they were 4°C warmer than average, contributing to a delay in autumn freezing.
  • Primary production has increased in the Barents and Eurasian Arctic seas because sea ice is breaking up earlier in the year, allowing sunlight to reach the upper layers of the ocean and stimulate plankton blooms.
  • Dark surfaces absorb more heat (the albedo effect), and the change from white ice and snow to blue water and green land is increasing regional and global temperatures. One study estimates that that the albedo effect is equivalent to 25% of the global temperature increase from rising CO2 levels over the past 30 years. So, yes, this is a big deal.
  • Warmer air holds more moisture, so the now-warmer Arctic air holds more water vapor than it used to. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, leading to further temperature increases.
  • Meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet runs down holes in the ice sheet called moulins. This lubricates the ice sheet bed below and causes outlet glaciers at the edge of the ice sheet to advance more quickly and calve more icebergs into the ocean.
  • As terrestrial regions in the Arctic get warmer, runoff from snowmelt and other streams flow through warmer land, leading to warmer water flowing into the Arctic Ocean from northward-flowing rivers in Siberia and Canada.
  • Why does all this matter so much to the rest of the world? Because one of the features of current global climates is the circulation of air and ocean currents between the cold Arctic and warmer parts of the Northern Hemisphere. This circulation is driven by the temperature difference between the areas. With a warming Arctic and a smaller temperature gradient, this circulation is diminished. Mid-latitude winds (“jet streams”) weaken and form wavier patterns, slowing down the passage of weather systems. This leads to extreme weather stagnating over places for long periods such that warm weather becomes prolonged heat waves, dry weather becomes droughts (creating conditions ripe for wildfires), and rainfall events cause flooding. (Read more about all this here, here, and here.
  • If you need a bit of a mental break after reading about all of this deeply unsettling information, it’s interesting to think about some of the rather unorthodox and VERY unproven measures that some geoengineers are proposing to deal with what’s going on in the Arctic – proposals include putting glaciers on crutches to prevent their sliding into the ocean, thickening sea ice with wind-powered pumps, and spreading reflective material on polar ice to reduce melting rates.

What does all this mean for marine conservation and management?

  • As Arctic sea ice continues to hit record lows during both the summer and winter, areas of the Arctic Ocean are becoming accessible to ships (or year-long transit) for the first time in 1,500 years. This means the potential for an influx of fishers, shippers, tourists, explorers, scientists, prospectors, drillers, navies, etc. into the area. Conservation and management just got a lot more complicated…

But, brace yourselves, a bunch of competing nations actually did something conservation-minded

  • In a shocking (given the current state of geopolitical affairs) act of proactive and precautionary management, five nations with Arctic borders – Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the US – and other nations with industrialized fishing fleets – China, the European Union, Iceland, Japan, and South Korea – have agreed to sign a legally binding treaty to prevent commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean for at least the next 16 years.
  • After the initial 16-year term, the treaty will be automatically extended every five years unless a country objects or a science-based fisheries management plan is put in place.
  • The agreement will establish a joint scientific research and monitoring program to improve understanding of the area and determine what fish stocks could be harvested on a sustainable basis. This is a good step because we know virtually nothing about harvestable fish in the central Arctic Ocean. Approximately 250 fish species are known to exist in Arctic waters, but very little is known about population sizes, life cycles, habitats, interactions, etc. What we do know, however, is that organisms that live in cold waters are generally slower growing and longer lived and reproduce relatively infrequently. All of these factors make determining sustainable fishing yields pretty hard. So while sixteen years seems like a relatively long time now, it will not seem that way to fisheries scientists who will be starting from scratch in terms of baseline knowledge.
  • This international agreement is a good example of “Arctic exceptionalism,” the historic willingness of Russia and the United States to set aside other geopolitical differences for their common interests in the far north. A new blog describes what’s next for this agreement, including formal ratification.

So what’s going on with Arctic marine ecosystems? How are they changing?

  • Loss of sea ice habitat
  • Shifts in species ranges both within the Arctic and from sub-Arctic regions into the Arctic, and
  • Increases in contagious diseases such as avian cholera.
  • In thinking about all these various factors, the importance of the loss of sea ice to Arctic ecosystems really can’t be overstated. The loss of sea ice is having a massive influence on the climate, oceanography, primary productivity, and all other trophic levels in the Arctic.
  • Furthermore, as sea ice declines, the trophic structures that depends on it are changing. The algae that grow around and under sea ice feed zooplankton that in turn feed fish that in turn feed seals that in turn feed polar bears. A new study demonstrates this link between sea ice algae and polar bear diets and suggests that declines in sea ice (and sea ice algae) may make it impossible for top predators to get the calories they need to survive.
  • The loss of sea ice is a double whammy for upper trophic level species like seabirds and marine mammals, which use it for all sorts of activities such as feeding, resting, mating, and raising babies. For instance, harp seals in the Barents Sea are getting thinner because they have to travel farther to the ice edge to feed. The early sea ice retreat is reducing breeding and pup rearing habitat for ringed seals. And ivory gull populations are on the decline as their sea ice feeding areas disappear. (Read more about these and other changes here.)
  • Some species may be benefitting from these changes, but it’s fairly obvious that it’s not polar bears, or at least not all polar bear populations. A recent study found that polar bears have much higher metabolic rates than previously assumed, and the decreased availability of easy pickings (e.g., fatty seals hanging around on or near sea ice) mean that many are running a calorie deficit and using up their fat stores, endangering their survival and the long-term viability of some populations.
  • In addition, invasive species are rapidly becoming a significant threat to Arctic ecosystems and communities due a warming climate and increasing human activity. New-to-the-Arctic marine species can arrive all sorts of ways including ballast water discharge, hull biofouling, marine debris, docks brought into the region, and the release or escape of live animals. (For example, Russian scientists and managers released the omnivorous red king crab Paralithodes camtschaticus, a monster of a crab – up to 10 kgs and 1.5 m across, into the Barents Sea in the 1960s to establish a fishery.)
  • All of this creates a tremendous need to improve biodiversity monitoring in the Arctic to provide information to policy makers more quickly. The Arctic Council has lots of ideas on how to do this.

Now let’s talk some more about boats in the Arctic

  • And then this winter (Winter 2017-2018), another commercial vessel, another tanker carrying liquid natural gas, transited the Arctic’s Northeast Passage without an icebreaker in the opposite direction in winter. (Check out a pretty amazing time-lapse video of that voyage here.) Shipping firms are now investing in additional ships that can make this transit.
  • On the other side of the Arctic, a Finnish icebreaker transited the Northwest Passage in July 2017, the earliest summer transit on record. (The Northwest Passage is the sea route from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific through Canada’s Arctic archipelago that was first navigated by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen between 1903 and 1906.)  In total, 33 ships made the full Northwest Passage transit in 2017, up from the previous high of 20 in 2012.
  • Of these 33 ships, four were actually tourist vessels. And they weren’t just any old tourist vessels. The 13-story Crystal Serenity, which was the first tourist vessel to make the transit through the Northwest Passage in 2016 and which did it again in 2017, carries over 1,500 guests and crew members. The cost? Over US$20,000 per person.
  • In a bit of other shipping news, China just announced its intent to develop a “Polar Silk Road” through the Arctic in areas opened up by sea ice melt. Chinese ships have transited both the Northeast and Northwest passages in the past few years, and China’s increasing interests in oil and gas development, mining, fishing, tourism, and possibly military deployment in the region are making Arctic nations nervous.
  • Some very positive environmental and safety-minded maritime news did come out of 2017. On January 1, 2017, the International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code went into effect for the Arctic. The Code lays out mandatory guidelines for ships crossing the polar regions, including rules for the design, construction, equipping, and operation of ships working in Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems; training requirements for their crews; and ways they need to protect the environment.
  • These rules are critical for mariner and passenger safety because ships working in the polar regions face unique risks – including extreme weather conditions, a lack of accurate nautical charts and other navigational aids, and lack of search and rescue capabilities nearby. (A good example of these problems is the cruise ship Clipper Adventurer grounding in 2010. It was following a course based on soundings made in the 1960s using old technology, and it ran aground on an unanticipated shoal. The incident dumped ballast and fuel into Coronation Gulf in the Canadian Arctic archipelago. Twenty-eight (28) passengers and 69 crew members were stranded for two days before the Canadian Coast Guard could pick its way through poorly charted waters to come rescue them.)
  • Finally, there are some seafarers who are not appreciating the changing conditions, namely those seafarers traveling below the surface. US Navy submarine operators are reporting that current conditions in the Arctic are the most hazardous they’ve ever encountered there because of the increase in ice floes.

Oil drilling may also be ramping up in the Arctic

  • This may be changing, however, as Russia and Norway begin dramatically increasing their offshore oil and gas extraction in the region. Russia currently has four oil wells up and running in the Pechora Sea and plans to add 28 more. And Norway has just granted 10 production licenses in the Barents Sea. Environmental groups that filed lawsuits in Norway to stop the drilling on the grounds that it would violate the Paris agreement on climate change and the Norwegian constitution were just defeated in court.

2017 also brought lots of news about pollution in the Arctic

And, finally, recent news about marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Arctic

  • Finally, IUCN, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and the Natural Resources Defense Council recently identified seven Arctic marine areas that could potentially qualify for World Heritage status. Currently, only one Arctic site is recognized by the World Heritage Marine Programme – the Russia Federation’s Natural System of Wrangel Island.

Photo credits:

Record sea ice minimum in the Arctic in 2007. NASA.

Melt streams on the Greenland Ice Sheet on July 19, 2015. NASA.

Arctic. US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.

Polar bear seen ice cruising in the Arctic. Gary Bembridge. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry. Arctic Council.

Russian cruise ship in Norway. Thomas Hallermann/Marine Photobank.

[1] Different sources use different geographic ranges for what is considered “the Arctic”. In this Skimmer, we use the term loosely to denote the Arctic Ocean and at times the coastal areas and marginal seas around it. If you need more specificity as to what area is encompassed in any individual use of Arctic in this Skimmer, please refer to the accompanying links for more information. Unfortunately, we were not able to cover many other critical aspects of Arctic change, particularly changes to terrestrial ecosystems and impacts on indigenous Arctic peoples.

Editor’s note: A version of this article was originally published by MPA News in February 2018. It is based in part on discussions during a web panel “Impacts of the Trump administration proposed offshore drilling plan on MPAs and regional marine spatial plans” that MEAM co-hosted on February 7, 2018. This version of the article covers impacts on US regional ocean plans and features additional highlights from the web panel.

In early January 2018, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released a draft five-year program to guide leasing of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas for oil and gas drilling, from 2019-2024. The draft reflects the views of the administration of President Donald Trump and would make over 90% of the nation’s total OCS area available to exploration and development. By comparison, the current five-year program makes 94% of the OCS off-limits to oil and gas exploration. (The current program covers the years 2017-2022 and will be replaced by the Trump administration’s eventual final plan.) The new proposed plan has met with strong opposition in many states due to potential impacts to marine ecosystems and local economies.

The public comment period on the draft OCS program closed on March 9, 2018, and there will an additional 90-day period for public comment as the new program is developed. The program may change substantially as it goes through this review process, but we wanted to provide an overview on what the current draft plan could mean for US marine protected areas (MPAs) and regional ocean plans.

What does the draft OCS program say about opening MPAs to drilling?

President Trump initiated the development of the draft OCS plan with an Executive Order in April 2017, which requested a new OCS leasing program to “put the energy needs of American families and businesses first.” In addition to calling for a new, more expansive leasing program, the order directed a review of the energy production potential of all National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments designated or expanded since 2007. (Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has since delivered such a review to the administration, although the contents of that review have not yet been made public.) The Executive Order also revoked the 291,000-km2 Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, which was designated by former President Barack Obama in December 2016 as off-limits to petroleum exploitation.

The draft OCS program states that the following currently protected areas would be exempt from petroleum exploitation from 2019-2024:

  • Any National Marine Sanctuaries “designated as of July 14, 2008”
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

Regarding the National Marine Sanctuaries, technically none of them have been designated since July 2008, suggesting they should be safe. However, a few of them – like the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary in California – have been expanded since then, and it remains unclear whether the Trump administration would consider their expanded areas as exempt from leasing, too.

The 12,720-km2 Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, although given a reprieve from oil/gas exploitation in the draft Bureau of Offshore Energy Management OCS program, has been recommended for reopening to commercial fishing by US Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and awaits a decision on that by President Trump. It is currently closed to all commercial resource extraction. No other Marine National Monuments are mentioned in the draft OCS program. They are all in US Western Pacific waters – Hawaii and territories farther south and west – which are believed to be low in petroleum resources and are not included in the draft Bureau of Ocean Energy Management program.

So does this mean that National Marine Sanctuaries and most Marine National Monuments would or would not be opened to drilling under this draft program?

This is unclear. MPA News co-hosted a web-based panel discussion on the draft OCS program on February 7, 2018, and panelists indicated they saw ways the Trump Administration could still open National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments to drilling. (Watch a recording of the web-based panel discussion here.)

Panelist Richard Charter of the Ocean Foundation noted that the review by Commerce Secretary Ross could result in recommendations to rescind part or all of some Sanctuaries in the name of petroleum exploitation or other issues. “The concern is that any National Marine Sanctuary that might be rescinded, or any part of one that might be rescinded, instantly finds itself up for OCS oil and gas leasing in this five-year program,” said Charter.

Panelist Jay Austin of the Environmental Law Institute said the same could be the case for Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. He cited President Trump’s plan to reduce the size of two terrestrial national monuments, as well as Secretary Zinke’s recommendation to open up Northeast Canyons to commercial fishing. “The trend is definitely toward reducing areas and protections for these recently designated monument areas,” said Austin.

Are there legal obstacles to opening these MPAs to drilling?

As discussed by our panelists, there are several legal obstacles. In the process of being designated, each National Marine Sanctuary underwent years of public hearings, US Congressional approval, and some state-level approval processes as well. National Marine Sanctuaries off the state of California, for example, all had to be found consistent under the state’s Coastal Zone Management Act with the state’s coastal plan. So undoing that would likely need to be found consistent as well, which seems unlikely. “I think there’s probably six or seven layers of litigation there if something were to happen in terms of a rollback,” said Charter.

Austin noted that the Antiquities Act of 1906, under which US Presidents designate national monuments, remains unclear on whether future presidents can undo or even downsize their predecessors’ designations. “There's an issue about whether they can reduce the size or relax restrictions that were in the monument proclamations,” he said. “That has been done in the past but the question of whether the Act actually authorizes it is still open.” He noted that Trump’s downsizing of the two terrestrial monuments has already been challenged in court by environmental groups and indigenous tribes. “Some of these questions are going to get tested for the first time. And that in turn may establish how far the administration is willing to try to go with the marine monuments.” (Austin noted that Trump’s revocation of Obama’s Bering Sea closure is also now being contested in court by conservation groups.)

There is also the issue of state waters. In the US in most cases, the waters of individual states extend 3 nm from shore. So oil and gas drilled offshore in federal waters must typically transit state waters to get to onshore facilities and pipelines. States that are opposed to new offshore drilling off their coasts – like California, for example – could make things difficult for industry. “In California in the mid-1980s, 24 local communities adopted ordinances that either banned outright or put to a vote of the local people the construction of any onshore facilities for offshore oil and gas,” said Charter. “Those were challenged in court by the oil industry and all of them survived.”

On February 7, 2018, the California State Lands Commission notified the Trump Administration that the state would not approve new pipelines or allow the use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases ashore. The Commission chair said, “I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump's new oil plan ever makes landfall in California.”

Where does the petroleum industry want to drill?

Panelist Tim Charters of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore energy producers and other sectors, said that the MPA subject is making the discussion more difficult. “I would certainly prefer to spend a lot less time talking about Sanctuaries and focus instead on areas that have not obviously had the same level of protection, but which have resources that are available to benefit the American people,” he said.

That being said, Charters acknowledges that California – which has four National Marine Sanctuaries – would be an attractive place for the petroleum industry to expand its drilling efforts: there are proven offshore petroleum reserves there, and existing infrastructure onshore. He says the state could save significant money by helping to produce more oil off its own coast rather than importing oil from overseas.

Charters also discussed other areas that might be of interest to the oil and gas industry for exploration and drilling. “The eastern Gulf of Mexico probably has the most prospects, both from an infrastructure [perspective] and a knowledge base of what may be available,” he said. He also mentioned that the northern coast of Alaska “clearly remains a priority area to examine” and the mid-Atlantic (for oil and gas) and the North Atlantic (for gas) would be intriguing to examine. “We haven't looked at the Atlantic and what may or may not be there [in generations]… It’s going to take some time to figure out what's actually there once the process starts rolling,” he said.

What about the US regional ocean plans?

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US adopted regional ocean plans in 2016. According to panelist Sarah Winter Whelan, director of ocean policy with the American Littoral Society, the plans are a tool to better integrate consideration of ocean ecosystems into state and federal agencies and tribal nation management of ocean uses. When the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions drafted their plans, they focused on current and emerging ocean uses. Since oil and gas leasing in federal waters was not expected, Whelan said, “neither region explicitly deals with oil and gas” as a potential use of the region's waters.

What are the next steps for the draft OCS plan?

Another draft of the five-year OCS program (the “proposed program”) will be created and made available for public comment in the coming year. After that, a proposed final plan will be created and made available for presidential and congressional comment. And after the final plan is released, there are likely to be lawsuits. “You can kick off the process with whatever kind of rhetoric you want,” said Austin. “But ultimately the plan gets written, and then it gets reviewed in court.”

Additional highlights from the February 7 web panel

This plan, like a lot of things, has an ‘in-your-face’ character to it. So the question becomes, ‘Can they do what they want to do?’ And I think that ultimately gets decided in court. They can say, ‘we want to flip the script from 90% of everything is off-limits to 90% is open for development,’ but that's not much of a principle by itself. You can call that ‘energy dominance,’ and maybe that's a principle by itself. But it's sort of a thin one, given what markets have already accomplished.

“[T]o be fair to the people who drafted the proposal, we know the administration isn't into incremental change. They don't feel bound by history or precedent or long-term thinking – they're very transactional. So this is their idea of a ‘strong opening bid,’ and that's probably okay under OCSLA [the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act]. The Secretary gets to balance a lot of different factors… I think the only problem with some of the rhetoric that's out there, or having too freewheeling of a process, is that it might get you in trouble at the judicial review stage.

---Jay Austin, Environmental Law Institute, in the February 7, 2018 web panel “Impacts of the Trump administration proposed offshore drilling plan on MPAs and regional marine spatial plans”. Read more of Jay Austin’s commentary on the draft OCS plan.

[The April 2017 Executive order] makes it extremely difficult, if not almost impossible, to make any new National Marine Sanctuary designations, even through the National Marine Sanctuaries Act’s legitimate process. We're seeing a rollback of the laws that protect America's oceans pretty much wholesale across the board. And I don't think the American public, from what I can tell, is anywhere near ready for that. I don't think the industry benefits from it because it makes the issues surrounding ocean management so much more contentious. And I would suggest that we had a pretty good thing going. We realize that we have a new administration, but that doesn't really justify blowing up the way… Republicans and Democrats have [historically] figured out how to manage the oceans. It's not easy on the best of days, but there’s no need to make it impossible, which is what I think the administration has now done.

----Richard Charter, The Ocean Foundation, in the February 7, 2018 web panel “Impacts of the Trump administration proposed offshore drilling plan on MPAs and regional marine spatial plans”

Hear more from the February 7 panel, including what the proposed program could mean for seismic testing in US federal waters, particularly along the Atlantic coast.

Want to comment on this plan? Although the formal comment period on the draft OCS plan has ended, US citizens can still contact their elected officials at the local, state, and national levels to comment on the plan.

Photo credit: Oil Rig off California Coast. Maria Petueli/Marine Photobank.

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM. Email: tundiagardy [at]

In a very short time, the story of the Arctic has seemed to morph from a case study in international law that only a policy wonk could love to a sobering story of a dystopian future. As the ice recedes and access to the riches of the pole opens up, Arctic nations are clamoring to secure rights and wield new technologies in shipping and oil and gas exploration and extraction that will promote short term profitability while likely threatening long term sustainability. Environmental conditions, and their rapid rate of change, have turned a laboratory for negotiation and cooperation into the Wild West.

If there were ever a case for a holistic approach that takes the long (and big) view, it is the newly transformed, and increasingly vulnerable, Arctic region. With the loss of ice and new ability to crisscross the northernmost latitudes, the future of the Arctic is no longer the domain of surrounding countries with their established Exclusive Economic Zones. Where previously the fate of the tundra, ice cap, hydrocarbon-rich seafloor, and intensely productive marine waters in between could be determined by bilateral agreements between neighboring countries and indigenous communities, the fate of the new Arctic is a global issue. But no governance mechanism currently exists to represent global interests in the debate, and the Arctic Council – the intergovernmental forum of Arctic nations, observer nations, and permanent participants representing Arctic indigenous communities – will have to decide the future of the region on behalf of the world. 

EBM could put the Arctic on the path to rational resource use

The drama at the North Pole also creates an opportunity. A commitment to EBM could put the Arctic region on a path to rational use, proactive and adaptive management, and holistic governance that includes Arctic communities dependent on the polar ecosystem. This is a region where the typical gaps that serve as an excuse for inaction do not exist. There is plenty of science, and reams of data, to support an EBM approach. There is the governance framework of the Arctic Council. Critical areas for conservation have been carefully identified (e.g., here, here, here, and here). There are heart-tugging flagships, like the starving polar bears, to attract international attention and launch campaigns for conservation. Watchdogs carefully track the progress of Arctic nations against the promises made in treaty commitments and in Council agreements. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), for instance, produces the Arctic Council Conservation Scorecard – rating the Arctic countries on how well they are doing in place-based conservation, fisheries, black carbon, oil spill prevention, shipping, and EBM.

Let’s hope that the narrative quickly moves away from the dystopian future and back to the necessary diplomacy that would allow the nations on the Arctic Council to chart a sustainable future. That would require an open acknowledgement that EBM is not just one of many things that nations might or might not do, but rather the essential core that should be at the heart of all future agreements and action plans. (See the WWF scorecard for which nations score high in this regard, and how national attention to EBM compares to attention to other aspects of environmental management.)

Such a step might require a new ‘language’, or new way of assessing and addressing collective values. Peter Neill, director of World Ocean Observatory, sees a well-intended but failed conversation taking place at the multi-national policy, governance, and action levels. Differences in colonial vs native and scientific vs cultural vocabularies mean that people are using the same words with different meanings, and speaking and hearing without understanding each other. In his upcoming book Cryotopia - A Vision for Sustainability in the New North, he will argue for a new vocabulary and method for conflict resolution to resolve the enduring conflict between consumption and sustainability in the Arctic.

Imagine an ecosystem-oriented agreement for the Arctic

Obviously, the North and South Poles have very different situations – the Antarctic is an uninhabited continent in which territorial claims cannot be extended to the continental shelves while the Arctic is an inhabited region with sovereign jurisdictions of coastal states as well as the Central Arctic Ocean beyond national jurisdictions. However, I ask you to imagine an Arctic CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) – an international agreement focused not on fisheries, shipping, or energy, but on all the above, with maintenance of subsistence use, ecosystem functioning, and biodiversity conservation as the primary underlying goals. Indeed, it is precisely because the Arctic region is inhabited, and because the transformations taking place there present both need and opportunity, that an ecosystem-oriented agreement could be a game-changer.

The Arctic Council should work to achieve harmonized EBM that places the interests of indigenous peoples above maritime industries, commit to lasting protections for sensitive and important Arctic ecosystems within Arctic nations’ borders, and develop a plan for the central Arctic Ocean beyond national jurisdictions that protects critical areas in perpetuity. In these times of nativism, populism, mistrust, and erosion of international institutions, such utopian ideals may seem a hopelessly naïve contemplation. But Arctic nations have an opportunity here to show true leadership – leadership that represents the interests of all humanity, for today and for the tomorrows to come, rather than just special interests.

Know of any great marine conservation and management trainings?

MEAM is doing a major expansion of its Training Opportunities page and will roll the new resource out in the April newsletter. We are looking for short courses, graduate programs, tools trainings, elementary/secondary/university-level resources, and other miscellaneous opportunities such as video trainings and interactive games related to marine conservation and management for possible inclusion in the compilation. If you have any suggestions for us, please send them to meam [at] at any time. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and helping to build this unique and valuable resource!

Add your photos to the Marine Photobank!

As you will see in coming issues, MEAM is going to be including more graphics with its articles. We wanted to let you know about a great source for amazing and oh-so-relevant photos of marine conservation and management issues – the Marine Photobank (MPB) run by SeaWeb/The Ocean Foundation. The Marine Photobank is a global resource to collect, share and download marine photos, images, and graphics that show how humans have affected the oceans. It was founded in response to a lack of readily available, high quality ocean conservation images. Images in the Photobank are available at no cost for non-commercial purposes as well as for the media. We at MEAM are very grateful that the Marine Photobank exists and encourage all of you photographers out there to add your photos to the photobank get them used for marine conservation/management! You can also check out Photobank images on Instagram and Facebook.