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Increase in Arctic shipping poses risk to marine mammals
Date:3/16/2012

NEW YORK (March 16, 2012)A rapid increase in shipping in the formerly ice-choked waterways of the Arctic poses a significant increase in risk to the region's marine mammals and the local communities that rely on them for food security and cultural identity, according to an Alaska Native groups and the Wildlife Conservation Society who convened at a recent workshop.

The workshopwhich ran from March 12-14examined the potential impacts to the region's wildlife and highlighted priorities for future management of shipping in the region. The meeting included participants from the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Eskimo Walrus Commission, Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, Ice Seal Committee, Indigenous People's Council for Marine Mammals, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Other participants included the University of Alaska, government agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Arctic Research Commission, and the Marine Mammal Commission, and regional Alaska Native groups such as Kawerak Inc., North Slope Borough, Northwest Alaska Borough, and Association of Village Council Presidents.

At issue is the effect of climate change on Arctic waters, which over the last few decades have become increasingly ice-free during the summer and fall. The lengthening of the open-water season has led to new industrial developments, including oil and gas activities and a rising number of large maritime vessels transiting either the Northern Sea Route over the Russian Arctic from Europe, or the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic from the Atlantic. Whichever route is being used, the only gateway to the Pacific is through the Bering Straitan important migratory pathway for marine mammals. In spring and fall for example, almost the entire bowhead whale and walrus populations migrate through this narrow strait.

Workshop participants gathered to discuss the impact of more shipping traffic in both international and national waters between A
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Contact: Stephen Sautner
ssautner@wcs.org
718-220-3682
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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