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Canada-US Arctic strikes a major win for unique ecosystems

Canada-US Arctic strikes a major win for unique ecosystems

This year, US President Obama and Canada Prime Minister Trudeau announced a new partnership to embrace opportunities and confront challenges in the changing Arctic, with Indigenous and Northern partnerships, and responsible, science-based leadership. Over the past year, both countries have engaged a range of partners and stakeholders, including Indigenous peoples and Northern communities, state, provincial and territorial governments, nongovernmental organizations and businesses.

Today, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau are proud to launch actions ensuring a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem, with low-impact shipping, science based management of marine resources, and free from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity.

In response to today’s Joint Arctic Leaders’ Statement by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Barack Obama, WWF-Canada president and CEO David Miller, and Paul Crowley, vice-president of Arctic Conservation, are available to comment and have issued the following:

David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada president, says:

“Today the governments of Canada and the United States have taken significant steps toward the protection of the Arctic’s unique ecosystems. As climate change warms the planet and sea ice diminishes, the Last Ice Area will become a refuge for the Arctic’s ice-dependent wildlife, including polar bears, narwhal, seals, walrus, and beluga and bowhead whales. WWF first identified the need to create an Arctic Ice protected area in 2008 and has been working toward protecting this Last Ice Area ever since. We applaud the government’s commitment to work with Inuit to keep this refuge alive for wildlife and communities.

“For over a decade, WWF has worked to show both government and industry that unpredictable weather, remote locations and lack of resources create an unnecessary level of risk when it comes to oil and gas extraction in the Arctic. Today’s announcement shows an impressive commitment to protect one of our most ecologically sensitive areas. We urge industry to see the ban of offshore drilling in the Arctic as an opportunity to invest in habitat-friendly renewable energies to help meet our fuel and energy needs.

“WWF welcomes the opportunity to work with the governments of both Canada and the United States to ensure the commitments made today create lasting protections for the entire North American Arctic region.”

Paul Crowley, WWF-Canada’s vice-president of Arctic conservation says:

“As ice-free Arctic summers become a more frequent reality, ship traffic is only expected to increase in the Arctic. Today’s announcement reaffirms that there is an opportunity now to enact regulations to ensure the safe passage of ships through Arctic corridors, with minimal disruption to marine habitats. Today’s commitment to phase down the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic is an important step toward safeguarding ecologically diverse regions such as Lancaster Sound for the long-term survival of species and Arctic communities.

“Changing conditions in the Beaufort Sea and the High Arctic are creating unprecedented levels of access to potential new fisheries. We welcome today’s announcement to restrict industrial fishing activities in these highly sensitive areas until proper and complete scientific evaluations have been completed. These protections will conserve these important fish populations while the Canadian government follows through on today’s commitment to work with Northern and indigenous communities to build sustainable fisheries that benefit Northern communities first.”

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