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Experts meet on need for new rules to govern world's fragile polar regions
Date:9/7/2008

ough, for example, interactions with wildlife and leaving behind organic wastes.

According to a 2005 UNEP report: "Governments may be reluctant to impose thorough quarantine controls on tourists for fear of damaging the industry [and] tourists are likely to be moving between similar sites (for example, wildlife viewing areas), increasing the risk of spreading invasive alien species."

It also notes that "researchers may pose a particular risk to biodiversity because they have access to sites of high conservation value that may be closed to the general public, and may carry equipment or organisms to those sites."

Law professor Tullio Scovazzi of the University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, says States should make full use of existing provisions under maritime law to establish measures to protect polar regions from harm, including shipping traffic separation schemes, recommended routes, deep- water routes, areas to be avoided, compulsory pilotage and other vessel traffic services.

He notes a UNCLOS provision devoted to "ice-covered areas" which refers to the right of coastal states to adopt and enforce laws and regulations within their exclusive economic zones, "where particularly severe climatic conditions and the presence of ice covering such areas for most of the year creates obstructions or exceptional hazards to navigation and pollution of the marine environment could cause major harm or irreversible disturbance of the ecological balance."

Given changing environmental circumstances, however, he anticipates potential new questions arising, such as:

  • At what temperature are climatic conditions considered particularly severe?
  • Do laws and regulations adopted by the coastal States for ice-covered areas apply also in the part of the year when the areas are not covered by ice? and
  • What happens if in certain years the waters are ice-covered for most of the year, but in other years they are not, also conside
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
United Nations University
Source:Eurekalert

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