WWF charity officials will be launching a new set of reports on new guidelines for the protection of a new, warmer Arctic. The International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic reports were launched in Denmark to coincide with the visit of Russian president Medvedev and show that new plans need to be put into place for this highly vulnerable environment. As the region is no longer completely ice covered, the area is more susceptible to fishing and shipping, which in turn will have a profound effect on its natural habitat and resources.
Executive conservation director for WWF-International, Lasse Gustavsson, said –
The melting of the Arctic ice is opening a new ocean, bringing new possibilities for commercial activities in a part of the world that has previously been inaccessible. What happens in the Arctic has a global environmental and economic impact. For instance, more than a quarter of the fish eaten in Europe comes from the region, and yet we do not have effective rules for fishing in newly accessible areas.
With the Arctic possibly becoming ice free within decades, commercial ships will be looking to sail the Northern Sea Route above Siberia. This in turn will see more oil and gas exploration where once there was none, with the major possibility of spills in this highly susceptible environment. Due to a lack of clean up rules and infrastructure, this could have a devastating effect not just on the region, but also cause repercussions across the world.
WWF officials will be looking into the legal side of how the possible rapid change could allow irreparable damage to the marine environment. If resource extraction is to take place it needs to be within sustainable limits, as currently it is unclear what these boundaries are. This in turn will help to prevent overfishing and stop pollution accidents and shipping disasters. A new, legally binding Arctic framework will need to be put into place to help ensure the future protection of this delicately balanced region.
Director of Campaigns at WWF-UK, David Norman, said –
It’s time to recognise that the current international rules just can’t cope with the complex challenges of the Arctic region. The ice has protected the Arctic Ocean for hundreds of years; we have collectively removed that protection though our contributions to climate change, and now we must work together to manage the new risks we have created.
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