Arctic coastal states are keen to lay claim on the valuable resources found beyond their national boundaries, and they have all submitted applications to extend their polar seabeds. Governments and industry see the opening of the Arctic as yet another business opportunity to extract more fossil fuels and fish, placing this unique region – and the entire world – at even greater risk.
The Arctic sea ice is melting. Climate change resulting from human activity has removed at least 75% of the summer sea ice volume at rates never before experienced in human history. Soon, the Arctic Ocean will be like other oceans for much of the year: open water that is exposed to exploitation and environmental destruction.
This unique place is extraordinarily vulnerable, but of all the world’s oceans, it is the least protected. Less than 1.5% of this area has any form of protected area status. In the high seas, the global commons, there is none.
The Arctic is thus the defining symbol of unchecked climate change. Its melting sea ice is a miserable product of human endeavour. With large parts once a de facto marine reserve protected by permanent sea ice, the Arctic Ocean has now become the crucial battleground in the fight for a sustainable future for our planet.
Humanity now faces a stark choice. We can exploit the resources of one of the world’s most fragile and precious oceans, or we can manage it responsibly – both for future generations, and for northern and Indigenous communities today, whose livelihoods rely upon a healthy ocean.
Part of the solution is simple: the creation of a sanctuary in the high seas region around the North Pole. An Arctic Sanctuary...