CoverPAME released the framework for a pan-Arctic network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in 2015. It sets out a common vision for international cooperation in MPA network development and management, based on best practices and previous Arctic Council initiatives. This framework aims to inform the development of MPAs and networks of MPAs that are located within the national jurisdiction of Arctic States, and chart a course for future collaborative planning, management and actions for the conservation and protection of the Arctic marine environment.

The framework offers guidance; it is not legally binding. Each Arctic State pursues MPA development based on its own authorities, priorities and timelines.

The purpose of the pan-Arctic MPA network, composed of individual Arctic State MPA networks and other area-based conservation measures, is to protect and restore marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features, and preserve cultural heritage and subsistence resources for present and future generations.

Having a joint framework in place confers a number of advantages that can support and enhance the work of individual Arctic States, such as:

  • Advancing cohesion and conservation effectiveness by strengthening ecological linkages among MPAs and MPA networks across the Arctic;
  • Applying best practices for establishing and managing MPAs and MPA networks to the Arctic environment;
  • Supporting achievement of domestic conservation objectives and international commitments and targets;
  • Strengthening intergovernmental cooperation on MPA management and scientific issues among Arctic MPA authorities; and
  • Addressing some issues of concern for shared species.

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MPA toolboxPAME’s “Toolbox” project aims to develop guidance to assist Arctic states in advancing their MPA networks by providing theory and tools that can be used to assess and protect the diversity of genes, species, populations, habitats, features, and ecosystems; their interactions and processes; and the ability to adapt to change.

This guidance is intended to inform decision-makers, practitioners, Indigenous peoples, and stakeholders involved in developing MPA networks and ecosystem-based management in the marine Arctic. Most Arctic states have established some MPAs, but are still in the early stages of filling gaps and connecting and managing MPAs as ecologically functional MPA networks (CAFF & PAME 2016).

The project also intends to foster collaboration on MPA network development between Arctic countries, Permanent Participants, Arctic Council Working Groups, and the conservation and science communities. Scientific literature, traditional and local knowledge, and experience from elsewhere in the world show that a systematic and participatory approach to building MPA networks greatly improves conservation effectiveness (Cicin-Sain and Belfiore 2005).

Enabling collaboration and participation is an important aim of this project. As the stated in the Framework, the purpose of a pan-Arctic MPA network is both “to protect and restore marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features” and to “preserve cultural heritage and subsistence natural resources for present and future generations”.

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shutterstock 1164058507 copyPAME is currently developing a Regional Action Plan on Marine litter which is co-led by Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, USA, AIA and OSPAR with close collaboration with other working groups.

The Regional Action Plan will address both sea and land-based activities, focusing on Arctic-specific marine litter sources and pathways that will play an important role in demonstrating Arctic States’ stewardship efforts towards reducing the negative impacts of marine litter, including microplastics, to the Arctic marine environment.

The Regional Action Plan may be updated in subsequent bienniums to address new and emerging information and priorities; therefore, the structure needs to be realistic and adaptable.

Project Objectives:
  1. Develop a first version of a Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter in the Arctic based on the Desktop Study on Marine Litter (Phase I) and other resources and information, as relevant and specific to the Arctic.
  2. Collaborate with other Arctic Council Working Groups working on marine litter activities, such as AMAP’s work on monitoring, CAFF’s work on impacts of marine litter on wildlife, ACAP’s work on solid waste management, and others as relevant to marine litter in the Arctic to ensure that this work is adaquetly reflected in the first version of the Regional Action Plan.
  3. Continue the development of outreach and communication material.
PAME's Desktop Study on Marine Litter in the Arctic concluded that "Developing a Regional Action Plan (RAP) on marine litter in the Arctic is timely, recognizing that the RAP can be modified over time based on the state of knowledge. Developing a monitoring program as part of, or in parallel to, the development of a RAP is particularly valuable to establish a baseline of marine litter, understand changes in distribution and composition, and inform decision-making."

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MPA INdicator forsidaThe Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environments (PAME) working groups of the Arctic Council developed the 2017 Arctic Protected Areas - Indicator report.

It provides an overview of the status and trends of protected areas in the Arctic. The data used represents the results of the 2016 update to the Protected Areas Database submitted by each of the Arctic Council member states.

This report uses the above-mentioned IUCN Categories, consequently, the level of protection and governance of these areas varies throughout the circumpolar region and its countries.

Report outline:
1. Overview
2. Introduction
3. Arctic Protected Areas (Marine and Terrestrial) Overview
4. Arctic Areas Recognised Under International Conventions
5. Marine Protected Areas
6. Other Area-Based Measures Important for Arctic Marine Biodiversity
7. Terrestrial Protected Areas
8. References

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Desktop Study on Marine LitterPAME conducted the “Desktop Study on Marine Litter, including Microplastics in the Arctic” as part of the first phase of a Marine Litter Project included in the 2017-2019 Work Plan. This Study contains five sections:

  1. Rationale, Objectives and Geographic Scope
  2. Applicable Governance Frameworks;
  3. Literature Review;
  4. Knowledge Gaps; and
  5. Main Findings and Next Steps

The development of the Desktop Study was driven by the need to better understand the state of knowledge of marine litter in the Arctic. The objectives of the Desktop Study are to:

  1. evaluate the scope of marine litter in the Arctic and its effects on the Arctic marine environment;
  2. enhance knowledge and awareness of marine litter in the Arctic;
  3. enhance cooperation by the eight Arctic States to reduce negative impacts of marine litter on the Arctic marine environment; and
  4. contribute to the prevention and/or reduction of marine litter pollution in the Arctic and its impact on marine organisms, habitats, public health and safety, and to reduce the socioeconomic costs litter causes.

The Desktop Study improves our understanding of the status and impacts of marine litter, including microplastics, in the Arctic region. This kind of compilation has not previously been done for the entire Arctic region and is by no means comprehensive.

Section II contains a brief review of the governance frameworks applicable to combatting marine litter, including not only Arctic Council efforts, but also other international and regional instruments designed explicitly either to tackle marine litter or address pollution more broadly.

The core of the report, Section III, is a literature review that considers the sources, drivers, and pathways of marine litter, including microplastics, entering the marine environment, information on current knowledge of its distribution, how it interacts with and impacts marine biota, and efforts underway to monitor marine litter. In Section IV, the Study identifies a number of knowledge gaps before summarizing main findings and possible next steps in Section V.

The Desktop Study identifies potential next steps to further examine and address marine litter, including microplastics, in the Arctic Ocean and inform future work under the Arctic Council as summarized in Section V. "There is a need for more comprehensive knowledge on Arctic-specific marine litter, including microplastics, sources, pathways, and distribution, as well as effects on the Arctic marine environment. Developing a Regional Action Plan (RAP) on marine litter in the Arctic is timely, recognizing that the RAP can be modified over time based on the state of knowledge. Developing a monitoring program as part of, or in parallel to, the development of a RAP is particularly valuable to establish a baseline of marine litter, understand changes in distribution and composition, and inform decision-making."