Arctic Marine Pollution

shutterstock 597223238PAME’s mandate is to address marine policy measures and other measures related to the conservation and sustainable use of the Arctic marine and coastal environment in response to environmental change from both land and sea-based activities, including non-emergency pollution prevention control measures. These measures include in coordinated strategic plans as well as developing programs, assessments, best practices and guidelines, all of which aim to complement or supplement existing legal and policy instruments and arrangements.

Marine litter
PAME has developed a project plan, which is included in the PAME 2017-2019 Work Plan for the project; Desktop Study on Marine Litter including Microplastics in the Arctic. Based on its outcomes, PAME will explore the possibility of developing an outline for a framework on an Arctic regional action plan on marine litter.

Marine litter is one of the most pshutterstock 401957716ervasive pollution problems affecting the marine environment globally. UNEP defines it as ‘any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment’. Marine litter consists of items that have been made or used by people and deliberately discarded into the sea or rivers or on beaches; brought indirectly to the sea with rivers, sewage, storm water or winds; or accidentally lost, including material lost at sea in bad weather.

The universal challenge of addressing and managing marine litter is a useful illustration of the global and transboundary nature of many marine environmental problems.

Click here to read the project plan for the project Desktop Study on Marine Litter including Microplastics in the Arctic.

Regional Programme of Action
Arctic Council Ministers adopted the Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (Arctic RPA) in 1998 and updated it in 2009. The Arctic-RPA is a dynamic programme of action that uses a step-wise approach for its implementation and recognizes the continually evolving situation in the Arctic environment and the need for an integrated approach. It is the regional extension of the GPA, and as such provides a framework for addressing the main pollution source categories and respond to the global concerns. Marine Litter is one of eight contaminant categories of the GPA and the Arctic RPA.

Arctic Marine Strategic Plan
The Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Strategic Plan 2015-2025 (AMSP) provides a framework to guide its actions to protect Arctic marine and coastal ecosystems and to promote sustainable development. The Strategic Plan addresses both short-term and long-term challenges and opportunities, through forty Strategic Actions. They include:
  • 7.1.3: Improve the understanding of cumulative impacts on marine ecosystems from multiple human activity-induced stressors such as climate change, ocean acidification, local and long range transported pollution (land and sea-based), marine litter, noise, eutrophication, biomass overharvesting, invasive alien species and other threats. 

  • 7.2.8: Actively support efforts, in cooperation with indigenous peoples, to:
    • reduce long range pollution accumulating in the Arctic marine food-chains, and; 

    • address climate change and ocean acidification by reducing emissions and implementing adaptation measures, as a matter of urgency. 

  • 7.3.3: Explore whether there are substances in addition to oil that would benefit from additional pollution preparedness and response cooperation among the Arctic states.

Arctic Ocean Review

Arctic Council Ministers initiated the Arctic Ocean Review (AOR) project in 2009 under the leadership of the PAME working group to provide guidance to the Council on possible ways to strengthen governance, and to achieve desired environmental, economic and socio-cultural outcomes in the Arctic through a cooperative, coordinated and integrated approach to the management of activities in the Arctic marine environment.

AOR includes a chapter on Arctic Marine Pollution, including two recommendations:
  1. Arctic states should continue to identify, monitor and assess the combined effects of multiple stressors – inter alia climate change, ocean acidification, shipping, living marine resource use, regional and long-range pollution, and offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction – on Arctic marine species and ecosystems. Support the ongoing work under EBM, AMAP and CAFF including the initiative “Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic” to achieve this endeavor and strengthen the link between the current known status and future management of Arctic marine species and ecosystems.
  2. Arctic states should reaffirm the importance of their engagement in the UNFCC to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of urgency, recognizing the significant potential threats posed to Arctic marine ecosystems and Arctic biodiversity from climate change and ocean acidification identified by AMAP and CAFF. Arctic states should also increase their leadership role in the study of ocean acidification in Arctic waters.