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International Push for Marine Mammal Conservation in the Arctic

Sept 2, 2014



Beluga whales in Chukchoi Sea, Arctic Ocean

The Arctic is a unique region with extreme climate, sensitive ecosystems, vast natural resources, and rich wildlife diversity. Changes in the climate are leading to a decrease in ice cover, an earlier seasonal retreat and later formation of ice – providing new opportunities for transport and access to ocean resources. As interest in the region for shipping, tourism, oil and gas, and other industries continues to grow, it is important to identify early on possible environmental impacts, including potential impacts on marine mammals.

To help achieve this vision, the United States hosted an International Whaling Commission (IWC) workshop on March 6-7, 2014, in Anchorage Alaska. This workshop brought together Arctic nations and stakeholders to discuss impacts of increased marine activities, specifically increased shipping and oil and gas activities, on whales and other cetaceans. The workshop facilitated an open dialogue amongst stakeholders on a number of relevant topics, including: what research has been/is being conducted; what management measures have been/are being implemented; what knowledge gaps and concerns exist; and what information the IWC can provide to assist managers in preparing for these impacts. 

 



Single Bowhead Whale in the Actic

One objective for this workshop was to provide the IWC with input on how it could prioritize its future work related to the Arctic. Workshop participants included representatives from intergovernmental organizations, national governments, native organizations, environmental organizations, academia, and shipping and oil and gas industries from the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Greenland, Denmark, Russia and Japan.

A direct outcome of the workshop was the development of a report outlining the major workshop conclusions and recommendations. The workshop report has been provided to the IWC for consideration during the IWC’s biennial meeting coming up September 15-18, in Portorož, Slovenia Exit. The United States plans to encourage the IWC during this meeting to adopt the workshop report, endorse the recommendations of the workshop, as appropriate, and continue to prioritize Arctic issues in its future work.

Cooperation and dialogue among the Arctic states, international organizations, industry, scientists, and civil society organizations are critical to promote sustainable economic growth and jobs in the region, while keeping the environment and the needs of local communities at the forefront.