Key Issue

Preserving the Arctic

Of all the major oceans, only one, the Arctic Ocean, hasn’t been fished, polluted by waste, drilled into for oil and gas or traversed by thousands of ships. Not because we intended it to remain untouched but because it is covered by ice.

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Arctic

Statement of issues

Of all the major oceans, only one, the Arctic Ocean, hasn’t been fished, polluted by waste, drilled into for oil and gas or traversed by thousands of ships. Not because we intended it to remain untouched but because it is covered by ice. By the middle of the century the ice may be gone for much of the year, which creates a dilemma. What should we do? Treat the Arctic as a special preserve or mistreat the Arctic like the rest of the oceans? How do we manage the competing priorities and perhaps hand over at least one unblemished area of ocean to future generations.

At stake is an area of high seas covering some 2.8 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) surrounded by the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Canada, the U.S., Russia, Denmark and Norway.

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Known as the Central Arctic, it contains some of the largest untapped hydrocarbon resources on the planet and is expected to sustain massive fish stocks once the ice is gone. Some argue that a continually growing world population will need those resources and that they should hence be allocated and tapped as soon as possible.

Others counter that the ocean needs protection and that the Central Arctic provides a unique opportunity to protect a sizeable chunk of it, since no one can claim hardship as a result of being evicted from it, at least for the time being. The Central Arctic is being thrust into the centre of the debate on how we should treat the ocean: as a storehouse of resources, living and non-living, to be removed as we see fit, or as an area we are given in custody, developed and managed where appropriate, and preserved and protected where needed.

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Organizations

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What are you working on? Who else might also be working on this? Look through our list of resources and make the connection.

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Conservation ACOPS Advisory Committee on the Protection of the Sea United Kingdom Visit Website
Academic - Arctic Centre, University of Lapland Finland Visit Website
Conservation - Arctic Circle Iceland Visit Website
Action And Engagement - Arctic Council Norway Visit Website
Action And Engagement - Arctic Expert Committee, Nordic Council Denmark Visit Website
Academic AINA Arctic Institute of North America Canada Visit Website
Conservation WWF Arctic Programme, World Wildlife Fund Canada Visit Website
Action And Engagement ARCUS Arctic Research Consortium of the United States United States Visit Website
Education - Arctic Sea Ice Forum United States Visit Website
Academic PMEL, NOAA Arctic Zone, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration United States Visit Website
Indigenous Rights AWRH Association of World Reindeer Herders Norway Visit Website
Academic BAS British Antarctic Survey United Kingdom Visit Website
Action And Engagement CARC Canadian Arctic Resources Committee Canada Visit Website
Academic - Centre for Global Change and Arctic System Research United States Visit Website
Conservation CCU Circumpolar Conservation Union United States Visit Website
Conservation - Clean Arctic Alliance, HFO Free Arctic United Kingdom Visit Website
Academic CRREL Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, 3909 Halls Ferry Road United States Visit Website
Conservation CAFF Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Iceland Visit Website
Conservation - Gallifrey Foundation Switzerland Visit Website
Action And Engagement - Global Ocean Commission United Kingdom Visit Website
Academic ICE-ARC ICE-ARC EU FP7 Project United Kingdom Visit Website
Academic - Visit Website
Academic IARC International Arctic Research Centre United States Visit Website
Academic IASC International Arctic Science Committee Iceland Visit Website
Academic IASSA International Arctic Social Sciences Association United States Visit Website
Conservation - International Declaration on the Future of the Arctic, Greenpeace Netherlands Visit Website
U.n. Agency IMO International Maritime Organisation United Nations Visit Website
Action And Engagement IUCH International Union for Circumpolar Health Denmark Visit Website
Conservation IUCN Switzerland Visit Website
Indigenous Rights IWGIA International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs Denmark Visit Website
Conservation - Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS), Parvati Canada Visit Website
Conservation - National Geographic Society United States Visit Website
Academic NIC National Ice Centre United States Visit Website
Academic NSIDC National Snow & Ice Data Centre United States Visit Website
Conservation NRDC Natural Resources Defence Council United States Visit Website
Conservation NAMMCO North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission Norway Visit Website
Academic - Norwegian Polar Institute Norway Visit Website
Conservation - Ocean Conservancy United States Visit Website
Academic - Visit Website
Conservation - Oceana United States Visit Website
Indigenous Rights RAIPON Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North Russia Visit Website
Conservation - Save the Arctic, Greenpeace Netherlands Visit Website
Academic - Scott Polar Research Institute United Kingdom Visit Website
Academic - The Alaska Climate Research Centre United States Visit Website
Conservation OSPAR The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic United Kingdom Visit Website
Conservation ICES The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea  Denmark Visit Website
Action And Engagement - The Northern Forum Russia Visit Website
Action And Engagement SCAR The Scientific Committee on Antarctic United Kingdom Visit Website
Education UArctic The University of the Arctic Finland Visit Website
U.n. Agency UNDP United Nations Development Programme United Nations Visit Website
U.n. Agency UNECE United Nations Economic Commission for Europe United Nations Visit Website
U.n. Agency UNEP United Nations Environment Programme Kenya Visit Website
Action And Engagement USRC United States Arctic Research Commission United States Visit Website
Action And Engagement WNC West Nordic Council Iceland Visit Website
Action And Engagement - World Economic Forum Switzerland -
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    Glossary

    Missing a term?

    Have you found a term that you really would like to know the definition for? You are probably not alone. Send us the term and let us know the context you have seen it used in and we will research and try and add it to our Glossary with a definition.

    Climate Change

    At the front line of climate change, the ocean plays a central role in regulating the Earth’s climate - a critical role we must protect for our own sake.

    Conservation

    Human population has reached critical mass – It has taken 4.5 billion years for our biosphere to develop and in 4.5 decades we have damaged it perhaps beyond repair.

    Deep sea mining

    There are sources of minerals in the deep sea but we must first understand how to manage and mitigate the risks that come with extracting them.

    Plastic Pollution

    Our insatiable demand for plastic has turned this material into an environmental and public health nightmare. The impact affects he creatures of the sea and humans too.