Figure 24. Protected areas of the Arctic as recognized by the IUCN in the World Protected Areas Database at UNEP-WCMC, 2005. Some areas, like the Dehcho territory in Canada have been placed under interim protection. Information from Russia may be incomplete. Note the lack of marine protected areas, despite their ecological significance and importance to indigenous peoples.
The Arctic appears to hold the world’s last remanining undeveloped coastal ecosystems – but less than 1 percent of the marine coastal areas are currently protected. Only 7% of the Arctic coastlines were impacted by development in 2002 and only 0.8% had severe impacts, apart from coastal fisheries. Hence, the Arctic now appears to hold the world’s last remaining undeveloped coastal ecosystems – but less than 1 percent of the marine coastal areas are currently protected. Indeed, while large land area in some regions have been set aside, the marine component – so critical to arctic food chains and coastal ecosystems – remains vastly unprotected. These ecosystems also represent those at the highest risk as access increases for industrial trawlers, fisheries and industrial exploration of minerals and petroleum along the coasts, and as new infrastructure and the receding sea ice open up new areas for exploitation.
Progress on protected areas network in the Arctic
Figure 25. Percentage of the Arctic in different biomes (left) and the proportion of them currently protected (right) (CAFF, 2000).
The Arctic region is shared by eight Arctic nations, each of which individually and as a group has committed to the conservation of its diverse biosystems using a variety of techniques, including establishing protected areas as an important tool for ecosystem, habitat, and species conservation. Under the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), and later, the Arctic Council (AC), the eight countries agreed to work together to create a protected areas network to encompass the circumpolar Arctic. The Circumpolar Protected Areas Network (CPAN) Expert Group falls under the CAFF Working Group of the Arctic Council. CPAN’s members are representatives from each Arctic Council national government, Permanent Participants (six indigenous organizations), and Official Observers.
The CPAN process is a cooperative effort to protect important areas of the unique Arctic environment, including all levels of biodiversity through a system of protected areas. CPAN is intended to help member nations in a number of ways, including providing a baseline for identifying the most significant gaps in national protected area networks, and by being an instrument for practical cooperation among participants. Additionally, CPAN promotes extant domestic and international policies and legislations with regard to protected areas throughout the Arctic.
The activities of CPAN are guided by the CPAN Strategy and Action Plan, ratified by the AC Ministers in 1996. Participation in CPAN meetings is open to any environmental and protected area experts interested in Arctic conservation and protected area management. Further information regarding CPAN may be obtained by contacting the CAFF International Secretariat at www.caff.is.
As part of its conservation mandate, CAFF completed the CPAN Strategy and Action Plan in 1996. The overall aim of CPAN is to maintain the biological diversity of the Arctic in perpetuity through establishment of a well managed network of protected areas, representative of the wide range of Arctic ecosystems. It further aims to improve the physical and managerial links among circumpolar protected areas. The CPAN Strategy and Action Plan specifies a series of actions to be taken both at the national and circumpolar levels to address gaps in habitat protection and to advance the functioning of the network. The CPAN Strategy and Action Plan has received Ministerial endorsement by the Arctic Council.
After the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, the governments in the Arctic region made major advancements in providing specific commitments through the Reykjavik Declaration to indigenous peoples and in protecting the marine environment, including:
“..Endorse the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (AMSP) and encourage its implementation through the working groups and other mechanisms and in cooperation with regional and global bodies”.. ”..Support the continued implementation of the Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (RPA) and note the ongoing efforts of the Russian Federation and other Arctic States to implement their respective National Programmes of Action for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment”… ”Encourage continued and enhanced efforts of CAFF in promoting the implementation of the Circumpolar Protected Area Network and relevant initiatives of the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan” and “…Support the continued cooperation with indigenous peoples of the Arctic, the use of their traditional knowledge of flora and fauna, and efforts toward community-based monitoring of the Arctic’s living resources”.
This declaration brings hope that the governments will now take responsibility to fulfil these commitments through implementation at the country level of larger coastal and marine protected areas.