A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in partnership with the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, has identified seven globally significant marine sites in the Arctic Ocean — including two in Canada — that warrant protection and could qualify for World Heritage status. The report was supported by WWF.
The Canadian sites include:
• Remnant Arctic Multi-Year Sea Ice and the Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion, encompassing the entire Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the North Water Polynya.
• The North Baffin Bay Ecoregion, which includes Lancaster Sound.
Together these sites make up the Last Ice Area, the region where summer sea ice is expected to last the longest. These sites, identified by WWF more than 10 years ago, can be a refuge for ice-dependent species that will move northward as the planet warms.
The remaining Arctic sites include areas off the coast of Greenland, parts of Siberia, and the Bering Strait, the body of water that separates Russia from Alaska.
David Miller, WWF-Canada president and CEO, says:
“The Last Ice Area is a crucial habitat for many of Canada’s ice-dependent species, including polar bears, walrus, seals, narwhals, belugas and bowhead whales. This winter we once again saw a record low amount of sea ice formed in the Arctic. We must act now to slow the warming of the planet, and protect these important refuges. It is encouraging that bodies such as the IUCN and UNESCO acknowledge this region is a worthy world heritage site. We look forward safeguarding the Last Ice Area for Arctic species and the people who depend on them.”
Quote from Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Program
“The Arctic Ocean plays a crucial role in shaping global climate and hosts a diverse range of species, many of them threatened. The World Heritage Convention has great potential to increase global recognition and protection of the region’s most exceptional habitats.”