New Assessment for the Arctic

18 May 2009 | News story

IUCN welcomes the first comprehensive study of arctic marine transportation

The 21st century has presented a period of change for the Arctic, with natural resource development, climate change, governance challenges and marine infrastructure issues influencing current and future marine uses.

In light of the challenges that lie ahead, IUCN welcomes the release of a brand new report released by the Arctic Council - an intergovernmental forum that addresses environmental protection and sustainable development issues, as well as challenges faced by the Arctic governments and people - that outlines an extensive list of recommendations for the eight Arctic states but also the international community.

Led by Canada, Finland and the United States, the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) 2009 Report is the result of a four-year effort that began following the Arctic Ministerial decisions made in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2004 and has since been approved at the 2009 Ministerial meeting in Tromsǿ, Norway. The assessment was conducted under the Council’s working group Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).

The central focus of the assessment is shipping: the use of ships in the Arctic Ocean, their potential impacts on humans and the marine environment and their marine infrastructure requirements.
AMSA is a baseline assessment and in many ways a strategic guide for the Arctic states and for the global maritime industry. The report comes following a five month negotiation process that saw the United States, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden approve the key findings of the assessment and agree to a set of plausible futures for Arctic marine navigation.

The AMSA Report is a message from the Arctic states to the rest of the world,” explains Dr. Lawson Brigham, Distinguished Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and co-editor of the report. “We have identified the issues facing the Arctic, and we are now in a position to respond positively and protect the region’s environment and natural resources for future generations.”

The recommendations fall into three broad, inter-related themes that are fundamental to the understanding of the complexity of responding to increased Arctic marine use: enhancing Arctic marine safety; protecting Arctic people and the environment; and building marine infrastructure.

For the United States, as a lead country in this effort, AMSA is not only an important and lasting contribution to the future of the Arctic and its people, but a key guide for addressing the many challenges of marine use along Alaska’s extensive maritime Arctic.

“We can not ignore the fact that human activity in the Arctic will continue to expand,” says Thomas Laughlin, Deputy Head of IUCN’s Global Marine Program. “These guidelines provide the basis from which to develop new rules and legislation that will allow us to preserve and protect the Arctic marine environment.”

In terms of protecting Arctic people and the environment, key recommendations from the AMSA report include:
 

  • Recognizing areas of heightened ecological and cultural significance in light of the changing climate conditions and increasing multiple marine use, and to protect these areas from the impacts of Arctic marine shipping.
  • Considering the ratification of the IMO International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments, to protect the Arctic region from invasive species.
  • Supporting research and technology transfer to prevent the release of oil into Arctic waters.
  • Working with international organizations to further asses the effects of marine mammals due to ship noise, disturbance and strikes, and where appropriate develop and implement mitigation strategies.
  • Support improved practices and innovative technologies for ships in port and at sea to help reduce current and future emissions of greenhouse gases, Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur Oxides, and particulate matter.

To learn more and to download a copy of the AMSA report visit the PAME website