The United States and Canada have announced a new partnership
dedicated to the protection of one of the world’s most threatened
marine areas under climate change: the Arctic. We not only are
reaffirming our national goals of protecting at least 17 percent of land areas
and 10 percent of marine areas by 2020, but will also work directly with
indigenous partners, state, territorial and provincial governments to
set a new goal grounded on the best available science.
parts of the Arctic as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is a big step
forward in global conservation. The Arctic is an important habitat to
diverse aquatic animals that serve important economic and ecological
roles, including many organisms in seafood markets both globally and for
indigenous communities. This ecosystem, however, is not only at risk
from more local threats such as overharvesting and pollution, but also
from global challenges like climate change. With areas listed as MPAs, the Arctic would enjoy an unprecedented level of
security against the increasing pressures it has faced, and the global
consequences can be tremendous and long-lasting.
The Nature Conservancy has strongly valued MPAs as a tool
for advancing marine conservation while balancing economic progress.
But to work effectively, MPAs must be integrated into broader management
regimes that aim for 100 percent sustainable ocean use. Local management
strategies should include ongoing dialogue with local communities and
indigenous people and be specific about how the local monitoring and
evaluation goals complement and support the larger goal for fully
sustainable global ocean use.
This new partnership is an exciting
moment for ocean conservation, but what happens in the months and years
ahead will determine whether the Arctic will become an example of a
“paper park” or a successful model of how marine protection can balance
the needs of economies, communities and ecosystems.