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New report stresses urgency of protecting the Arctic

Posted on Apr, 25, 2017
Contributed to WCHV by Danielle
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A recent report just published earlier this month (April 2017), calls for urgent need for the protection of The Arctic Ocean. According to experts, due to the melting sea ice in the Arctic ocean, previously inaccessible areas are opening up to activities such as shipping, bottom trawl fishing and oil exploration. According to a recent scientific report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in partnership with the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, the experts identify seven globally significant marine sites in the Arctic Ocean that warrant protection and could potentially qualify for World Heritage status. The Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, Carl Gustaf Lundin said recently that the Arctic Ocean plays a crucial role in shaping global climate and hosts a diverse range of species.
Currently, the climate change is posing a serious threat to the Arctic region, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The Arctic Ocean stretches across the northern most side of the planet, spanning 14 million square kilometers. Environmentalists have reported that the arctic is home to wildlife found nowhere else on the planet, including bowhead whales, narwhals and walruses. As one of the most unspoiled oceans on Earth, it provides critical habitat for threatened species, such as polar bears and Atlantic puffins, both assessed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The sites identified in the report that could potentially qualify for World Heritage status include: the Remnant Multi-Year Sea Ice and  Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion, which boasts the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic and may give polar bears the greatest chance of survival through the 21st century; the Bering Strait Ecoregion, one of the world’s great migration corridors for millions of seabirds and marine mammals; the Northern Baffin Bay Ecoregion, which supports the largest aggregation of a single species of seabirds, the little auk; the Scoresby Sound Polynya Ecoregion, the world’s largest fjord system which supports the Critically Endangered Spitsbergen stock of bowhead whale; the High Arctic Archipelagos, which support 85% of the world’s population of ivory gulls; Disko Bay and Store Hellefiskebanke Ecoregion, a critical winter habitat for the West Greenland walrus and hundreds of thousands of king eiders; and the Great Siberian Polynya, where the seasonal formation and melting of ice influences oceanic processes on a large scale. 

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