Arctic Council Working Groups ACAP, AMAP, CAFF and PAME all met during the week of 13-18 September 2015 in Tromsø, Norway. To mark the historic occasion, we’ve been highlighting a series of projects from their portfolios. This article focuses on some of the work that Working Groups PAME and CAFF do on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

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“Identifying and safeguarding important areas for marine biodiversity and their protection from the results of human activities” -- the Arctic Council has a long history of addressing issues such as these. The Council released the first Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) in 2013. In addition, the Council recently completed a process to identify ecologically and culturally sensitive marine areas with regards to shipping (2013), and in 2015 it will release a framework for a pan-Arctic network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA), which will set out a common vision for international cooperation in Arctic MPA network development and management based on international best practices and previous Arctic Council initiatives. Recently, attention has also been focused via multilateral environmental agreements such as the CBD, OSPAR and IMO and their activities relating to the identification of sensitive marine areas (e.g. the identification of EBSAs and the consideration being given to Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas by the IMO).

Together these achievements provide a framework and ways forward to allow Arctic States to take action to identify and safeguard important areas for biodiversity and their protection from the results of human activities, and to facilitate collaborative planning, management and actions for the conservation and protection of the Arctic marine environment.

Building upon the framework and information generated by such activities, PAME and CAFF have joined forces and are working on a project on Arctic Marine Protected and Important Areas that consists of three phases, each building upon the other, over a three-year period (2015-2017). The aim is to integrate and harmonize existing data on the Arctic’s marine protected and important areas; identify gaps and priorities in the Arctic’s network of protected areas; present science-based suggestions for next steps; and inform and guide policy and decision making.

Link: MPA

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Image: Polar bears in the Arctic. Photo: Getty Images.