Arctic is suffering from ‘governance gaps’

Maritime Journal, 26 May 2010

The legal instruments relevant to protecting the Arctic’s marine environment are numerous, yet also incoherent and incomplete say the World Wildlife Fund.

The Arctic is suffering from a fractured approach to governance of its resources. Photo: WWF

The environmental organisation considers the existing framework to be too focused either on individual issues or individual places to adequately cover the entire region. It also fails to take into account the cumulative effects of different offshore activities, such as fishing and oil and gas extraction.

A number of gaps appear to have emerged. These include the fact that the Arctic Council cannot impose legally binding obligations on its members, permanent participants or observers and it is not an operational body. It does not systematically evaluate whether its guidelines are being followed. It also has no independent funding and no permanent secretariat.

In short, the legal instruments do not provide sufficient protection for the arctic marine environment and do not provide for sustainable ecosystem based management of the Arctic Ocean. Also, every Arctic state just does its own thing, which has led to inconsistency of the national legislation, according to Dr Tatiana Saksina of the WWF.

However, the corrective options so far appear to be either sectoral based improvements such as adjusting existing fisheries agreements, adjusting existing international frameworks such as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, or reforming the Arctic Council, a meeting place for the eight arctic states and indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

In WWF’s view, all these options either fall short of providing adequate protection for the arctic marine environment or are difficult to achieve.

The WWF commissioned three reports by international legal experts Timo Koivurova and Erik Molenaar. These say that given the pace of change, it is difficult to see how the Arctic and its ocean could be sustainably and coherently managed without an institution with the legal and political mandate to carry out the necessary changes to ensure the arctic ecosystem is protected. Rules alone, especially non-legally binding ones, are hardly enough to govern the new sea emerging from the sea ice. Therefore the authors conclude that one of the best options is to adopt a new multilateral agreement for the protection of the arctic marine environment and ecosystem based management of its resources.

A new, legally binding international framework agreement covering the entire marine Arctic across all sectors would allow for management on an ecosystem level, which is the best tool for ensuring sustainable management of marine resources.

Such an agreement should ensure protection and preservation of the ecological processes in the arctic marine environment, long term conservation and sustainable and equitable use of marine resources, socio-economic benefits for present and future generations, in particular for indigenous peoples, and action to address the unprecedented changes the Arctic is facing.

Indeed, the new Arctic Sea emerging from the melting ice urgently needs a regional regime tailor made for arctic conditions developed under the overarching framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Canada to get tough with Greenland over Arctic drilling: environment minister


(Shannon Montgomery/Canadian Press via Metro News Halifax, 20 May 2010) — CALGARY – Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he will demand the highest environmental standards be followed as Greenland explores offshore oil drilling just outside of Canada’s territorial waters. Prentice said he’ll make Canada’s position very clear at a meeting of Arctic countries next month. “We certainly want to be sure that the highest possible environmental standards are being followed and we intend to make our views known,” he said at an event in Calgary. “Obviously drilling offshore wells in the Arctic environment, particularly deep wells, is something that we are concerned about. Greenland recently accepted bids to drill in Baffin Bay near the mouth of Lancaster Sound, which is close to where Canada hopes to establish a marine conservation area. The territory hopes to drill along thousands of kilometres of the maritime border it shares with Canada starting this summer.

Original article here

Spring floods threaten northern Sweden

(The Local, 21 May 2010) — Sweden’s meteorological agency SMHI has issued flood warnings in several areas across northern parts of Sweden as water levels rise with the spring floods. In Jämtland water levels are extremely high and there are fears that Hammerdal hydro-electric power station remains under threat from flooding despite some easing off during the night. “Water levels have dropped back 2.5 centimetre during the night. But we have been building barriers with sand bags around the station during the night and will continue,” said Nicolas von Essen at the emergency services. Recent flooding has caused a number of road closures in Västerbotten and Norrbotten in the far north of Sweden with water levels suddenly climbing around half a metre as melting snow filtered down into rivers and tributaries. While the situation in the far north is starting to ease, the worst problems remain in Jämtland and around Hammerdal with several properties reported to be flooded. “We are waiting on a new forecast from SMHI at around 10am and will spend the day photographing all the rivers to check developments,” von Essen said. SMHI expects water levels to rise for a couple more days but indicates that the peak has been reached in the far north.

Via Circumpolar Musings
Original article here

EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland embark on closer cultural partnership


(Nordic Council News, 18 May 2010) — The EU member states, Russia, Norway and Iceland are to work more closely together on cultural issues after the joint International Forum for the establishment of new tools for cultural co-operation in Northern Europe. High-level officials from the countries will sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Saint Petersburg, 20-21 May. The Forum in St. Petersburg brings together individuals involved in the cultural sphere, creative enterprises, cultural institutions and officials from 11 countries to look at ways of boosting the creative economy in the area covered by the Northern Dimension. All of the European countries are currently discussing how to adopt these concepts and develop the potential for a creative economy, a growth sector capable of creating jobs and prosperity but which lacks funding and investment tools. The Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture (NDPC) is a new initiative for Northern Europe scheduled to be up and running in 2011. Its main objective is to facilitate access to funding for long-term projects and for enterprises capable of generating jobs and becoming self-sustainable. The NDPC will complement existing national and international organisations and institutions working on cultural co-operation and exchange, providing an extra platform to facilitate and promote dialogue and the exchange of best practices in the cultural sphere.

Forest Companies, Conservationists Join to Protect Canada’s Boreal Forest

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, May 18, 2010 (ENS) – In a deal that marks the coming together of two traditional adversaries, environmental groups and the member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada today agreed to manage a broad swath of northern boreal forest to the highest environmental standards.

Boreal forest in Manitoba (Photo by Nancy Clark)

Under the agreement, the 21 FPAC member companies, who manage two-thirds of all certified forest land in Canada, commit to the highest environmental standards of forest management within 72 million hectares (277,993 square miles) of public forests licensed to FPAC members from British Columbia in the west to Newfoundland and Labrador in eastern Canada.

Nine conservation groups commit to global recognition and support for FPAC member efforts. “Do Not Buy” campaigns by the groups Canopy, ForestEthics and Greenpeace will be suspended while the agreement is being implemented.

New logging will be suspended on nearly 29 million hectares (111,969 square miles) of boreal forest to develop conservation plans for threatened woodland caribou, while maintaining essential fiber supplies for uninterrupted mill operations.

“This is our best chance to save woodland caribou, permanently protect vast areas of the Boreal Forest and put in place sustainable forestry practices,” said Richard Brooks, spokesperson for participating environmental organizations and Forest Campaign coordinator of Greenpeace Canada.

“Concerns from the public and the marketplace about wilderness conservation and species loss have been critical drivers in arriving at this agreement,” Brooks said. “We have a lot of work to do together to make this agreement successful and we are committed to make it happen.”

“The importance of this agreement cannot be overstated,” said FPAC President and CEO Avrim Lazar. “Together we have identified a more intelligent, productive way to manage economic and environmental challenges in the boreal that will reassure global buyers of our products’ sustainability.”

“It’s gratifying to see nearly a decade of industry transformation and hard work greening our operations is culminating in a process that will set a forestry standard that will be the envy of the world,” Lazar said.

Woodland caribou (Photo by Walter)

The agreement is a three-year roadmap with mechanisms to allow for its extension. To keep the work on track and moving forward, the signatories have created a series of timelines and goals. These touchstones, along with the implementation of the agreement, will be periodically audited by a jointly selected independent auditing firm that will report publicly.

Canada’s boreal forest covers about one third of the circumpolar boreal forest that rings the Northern Hemisphere. Native boreal trees include: black spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, larch, lodgepole pine, jack pine, aspens, cottonwood and white birch, and balsam poplar.

The Canadian boreal forest shelters an estimated five billion landbirds, both resident and migratory species, and contains the largest area of wetlands of any ecosystem of the world.

The agreement covers development and implementation of “world-leading, on-the-ground sustainable forest management practices that best reflect the principles of ecosystem-based management in the Boreal Forest.”

There will be joint proposals for networks of protected areas and for the recovery of species at risk, including woodland caribou.

The agreement provides for action on climate change as it relates to forest conservation and forest product life cycles.

Boreal owl in Ontario (Photo by Larry Scacchetti)

The plan features support for the economic future of forest communities and for the recognition of conservation achievements in the global marketplace.

Work in the early stages will include identifying the areas of climate and energy policy that intersect with forest management and conservation, and creating a work plan for developing joint positions.

Signatory environmental organizations, as well as FPAC and its member companies, have begun meetings with provincial governments, First Nations and local communities across the country to seek their leadership and full participation in advancing the goals of the agreement.

The Pew Environment Group and Ivey Foundation worked to support the two sides coming together and to facilitate the negotiations.

“For years we have helped bring opposing parties together to conserve this global treasure, Canada’s boreal forest,” said Steve Kallick, director of the Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign.

“We’re thrilled that this effort has led to the largest commercial forest conservation plan in history, which could not have happened without both sides looking beyond their differences,” Kallick said. “As important as today’s announcement is, our ultimate success will be measured by how we tackle the work ahead to put this plan into practice.”

Forestry Companies Participating in the Agreement:
AbitibiBowater, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, AV Group, Canfor, Cariboo Pulp & Paper Company, Cascades Inc., DMI, F.F. Soucy, Inc., Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, Kruger Inc., LP Canada, Mercer International, Mill & Timber Products Ltd, NewPage Port Hawkesbury Ltd, Papier Masson Ltee, SFK Pulp, Tembec Inc., Tolko Industries, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd, Weyerhaeuser Company Limited – all represented by the Forest Products Association of Canada.

Environmental Organizations Participating in the Agreement:
Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canopy (formerly Markets Initiative), the David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, Ivey Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s support for boreal forest conservation has been critical to the collective efforts of these groups.

Via Circumpolar Musings.
Original Article here

Walrus attacks on spectacled eider ducks caught on film

You gotta click the link (bottom) to see the film!

(Jody Bourton/BBC News, 12 May 2010) — Walruses have been filmed attacking spectacled eider ducks in the Bering Sea, behaviour never seen before. Walruses are known to feed on bottom-dwelling animals such as clams, so it is highly unusual to see them attempt to catch and eat ducks. A BBC natural history crew captured footage of the odd behaviour from a distance using a specialist camera mounted on a high-flying helicopter. Details are published in Arctic, the journal of the Arctic Institute of North America. The spectacled eider (Somateria fischeri) is a large sea duck that breeds on the coasts of Alaska and northeastern Siberia. During winter and spring migration they gather in huge flocks on the Bering Sea, concentrating in relatively small areas of open water within the sea ice. “This is where the world’s entire population of spectacled eider comes during winter,” says Mr Jeff Wilson, who directed the shoot for the BBC natural history documentary Frozen Planet due to broadcast in 2011. Studying and filming this spectacular gathering is difficult, due to the remote location. However, in March 2008 the film crew joined a scientific research expedition to the region. … Using a ship-based helicopter, Mr Wilson and cameraman Mr David McKay flew over the sea ice to film the ducks from high-altitude. As they did so, they noticed some unusual activity on the surface. “There were certain pockets of ducks that started to fly away in big starbursts. It’s not normal for ducks to expend energy like that,” says Mr Wilson. “Suddenly in the middle of the starburst a walrus came up. It then started to chase the ducks. It was pretty obvious it was hunting them.” During 75 minutes of filming the walrus made eight attempts to catch a duck. The behaviour is so unusual that it has been studied by zoologist Professor James Lovvorn from Southern Illinois University, Illinois, US, who wrote up his findings in the journal. Walruses have previously been known to feed on birds, but the majority of their diet consists of molluscs and small prey found on the sea floor. “No one has reported such attacks on large flocks of ducks by walruses before,” Prof Lovvorn told the BBC.

Original article here