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Experts meet on need for new rules to govern world's fragile polar regions

ers, who clearly need to act even faster than the changing environment."

Rising Arctic economic activity

Problems forecast for the Arctic as its ice recedes include:

  • Overfishing;
  • Pollution from ships and offshore extraction of oil and gas;
  • Oil spills; and
  • Invasion of alien species carried by ships' ballast water

"Overfishing, the result in part of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, is already occurring in the Okhotsk and Bering Seas," says conference presenter Dr. Tatiana Saksina of the World Wildlife Fund's International Arctic Programme

"Agreements are needed now to regulate shared and straddling fish stocks and to protect fish migrating to higher latitudes in search of colder waters," she says.

"Arctic sea routes are among the world's most hazardous due to lack of natural light, extreme cold, moving ice floes, high wind and low visibility and the Arctic marine environment is particularly susceptible to the effects of pollution (as demonstrated by the Exxon Valdez oil spill). The same conditions that contribute to high oil spill risks can also make response operations extremely difficult or totally ineffective," she adds. "Yet there are no internationally binding rules to regulate operational pollution from offshore installations. Strict standards for the transportation of Arctic oil are also urgently needed,"

National marine environmental protection regimes that cover significant portions of Arctic waters constitute a fragmented system of governance, with large gaps in jurisdiction, implementation and effectiveness. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), meanwhile, includes environmental rules inadequate to protect the ice oceans, she says.

"Despite the applicability of many global and regional treaties concerned with the protection of the arctic marine environment and effective management of shipping issues by the International Maritime

Contact: Terry Collins
United Nations University

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