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Briefing 2009 i d n e f e D image Open and an , during sunset in the Southern .

© / Jiri rezac

Published by: Greenpeace International. Date: July 2009. Authors: Richard Page, Lindsay Keenan, Iris Menn, Melanie Duchin, Karli Thomas, John Frizell and Paul Johnston. Editor: Steve Erwood. Design and layout: www.onehemisphere.se, Sweden. Printer: www.primaveraquint.nl, The Netherlands. Cover image: Scattered drift ice in the Ocean. © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes Report available at: www.greenpeace.org/international/polar-oceans-in-peril Printed on 100% recycled post-consumer waste with vegetable based inks. Greenpeace reference JN 263 Published by Greenpeace International Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands greenpeace.org Polar oceans in peril and a planet in risk Briefing 2009

Introduction The Arctic and the : two of the greatest wilderness areas on The Arctic and the Antarctic are under assault - from the impacts of , with vital to the functioning of our planet. The rapidly accelerating change; from increased industrialisation; -covered and icy waters of these polar are, for and from the unchecked consumption of our planet’s resources. many people, the purest examples of true wilderness left on this Indicators of the planet’s health, the poles provide us with an early planet. While the Arctic has been home to indigenous peoples for warning that we are compromising the Earth’s ability to sustain life as millennia, has only played host to visiting explorers and we know it. It is already too late to avoid profound negative changes at scientists. Both polar oceans are, however, home to distinctive wildlife the poles. But, we can limit further impacts by establishing boundaries that has adapted to the extreme environmental conditions, such as the that stop the commercial fishing fleets and the oil and gas industries Arctic’s polar bears and the Antarctic’s . Polar waters provide from plundering and polluting these already damaged ecosystems. rich feeding grounds that sustain large populations of and marine mammals, including the majority of the ’s great whales. á r t l e B

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image A sits on hard ice sheets, . image Ice and water in the . Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk 3 The Arctic – current and future threats

image Chuckchi : Walruses on iceflow, with Arctic Sunrise in background, investigating effects on Arctic wildlife.

© Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá

4 Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk image A young girl wearing Greenlandic national dress. G n i B B O c

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Climate change Effect on the Arctic’s peoples and wildlife

Some parts of the Arctic are among the fastest warming areas on the Coastal erosion caused by the rising and a reduction in sea planet and consequently the Arctic is experiencing some of the most ice are allowing higher waves and storm surges to reach the shore, severe climate impacts - most notably, the rapid decline in the and some coastal communities are already being forced to relocate. thickness and extent of . Some models suggest the Arctic Indigenous peoples will also be increasingly subjected to negative Ocean could be ice-free in summer by 2030. Others suggest it could effects as reduced sea ice causes the on which they depend be as early as 2012. is thawing, are melting, and for food to become less accessible and to decline in numbers. Some the massive is losing ice at record rates. Sea ice species are already facing extinction. underpins the entire Arctic marine . As it shrinks and thins, Polar bears are completely dependent on sea ice for their entire there are major repercussions and new challenges for the Arctic’s lifecycle – from raising their cubs to hunting seals that constitute their peoples and wildlife. main prey. Researchers are reporting an increasing number of polar In addition, many other stresses brought about by activities bears drowning because they have to swim longer distances between are simultaneously affecting life in the Arctic, including air and water ice floes. Others are spending more time on fasting as they wait contamination, overfishing, increased levels of radiation for the sea ice to freeze up at the end of summer. Research has also due to depletion, alteration, and pollution due to found that, for the first time, polar bears are cannibalising each other resource extraction. The sum of these factors threatens to due to lack of food. overwhelm the adaptive capacity of some Arctic populations Many other species, such as seals, whales and walruses, also and ecosystems altogether. depend on the sea ice. Ice-dependent seals, including the ringed seal, ribbon seal, spotted seal and bearded seal, are particularly vulnerable to the observed and projected reductions in Arctic sea ice because they give birth to and nurse their pups on the ice and use it as a resting platform. They also forage under the ice and near the ice edge. It is very unlikely that these species could adapt to life on land in the absence of summer sea ice. á r t l e B

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image , Beaufort Sea, near the US/Canadian .

Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk 5 The Arctic – current and future threats continued

Effects on the global climate The Arctic has been called ‘’s refrigerator’, and one reason for this is the role of sea ice in regulating global climate. Sea ice reflects heat from the back into space, whereas the dark open waters of the absorb it. As sea ice melts, more of the Arctic Ocean is exposed, meaning that more heat energy is absorbed. This causes more warming, which in turn causes more sea ice to melt and causes yet more warming to occur, continuing the process; an example of a highly dangerous positive feedback loop. Another positive feedback loop in the Arctic is melting permafrost. Permafrost is ground that is literally frozen solid, and it can be found throughout the Arctic land environment as well as the seabed below shallow parts of the Arctic Ocean. As temperatures rise, permafrost melts, releasing trapped methane - a powerful - into the ; again, the warming is increased.

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image Eastern Bristol Bay, Alaska. Undersized bycatch on a catcher boat.

Box 1 ‘De-facto’ Arctic marine reserve under threat from industrial fisheries

Just as the receding ice is attracting the interest of those who hope to find and extract more climate-changing fossil fuels, so too is it attracting the interest of the industrial fishing industry. After having fished out many of the stocks in temperate waters, the industrial fishing fleets are now looking at the Poles for new stocks to exploit. In the Arctic, they have their eyes on the fish that have historically been protected in a ‘de-facto’ marine reserve underneath the Arctic sea ice. Arctic and sub-Arctic waters are among the most biologically productive in the world. At present, fishing in the Arctic Ocean is limited by the sea ice that exists for most or all of the . Climate change means warmer waters moving north, and with them, fish stocks. It also means longer periods and larger areas of open water, leaving the once protected Arctic breeding grounds open to industrial fisheries. in the Arctic is already subject to massive pressure due to climate change and loss of sea ice; opening the area up to industrial fishing would be an act of madness that would further damage the fragile ecosystem just at the time when it most needs protecting. Spurred on by concerns over the impacts of climate change on fishing in the , the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council made the sensible decision in February 2009 to establish a moratorium on commercial fishing in a vast zone off Alaska’s northern . This move was applauded by Greenpeace, and will help give marine life in the Chukchi and Beaufort a much better chance of surviving the loss of sea ice and the increasing ocean acidification that are predicted for Arctic waters in the coming decades.

6 Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk image Melt lakes on the , showing its vulnerability to warming temperatures. G n i B B O c

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Figure 1.1 of the Arctic showing the average minimum sea ice extent from 1979 - 2000 J

B Greenpeace believes that a ‘line in the ice’ should be drawn around this area, which has historically been protected underS the ice,and a moratorium on all industrial activities should be put in place until a new overarching governance regime has been agreed and implemented.

60 Sea of NORTH Okhotsk

Gulf of Bering Strait Alaska UNITED STATES Chukchi Sea

70 Wrangel Island 120 East 1 Siberian Sea

Beaufort Sea

New Siberian Islands Banks 80 Island Laptev Sea Victoria Island C A N A D A Queen ARCTIC OCEAN Elizabeth Islands Severnaya Zemlya R U S S I A



Franz Sea Josef Baffin Land Islands Baffin

Bay 80

Novaya Zemlya

Svalbard GREENLAND () Barents Sea Davis Strait (DENMARK)

0 Bjørnøya 7 Greenland (NORWAY) Sea

60 Jan Mayen (NORWAY) Labrador Sea Norwegian 0 Denmark Strait Sea 6 A Y R C T I C C I R C L E A W FINLAND R 0 500 Kilometers O N SWEDEN 0 500 Miles Faroe Islands (DENMARK) EST. 50 NORTH Shetland Islands LATVIA


Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk 7

I U The Arctic – current and future threats continued

Drilling for oil in the Arctic: the wrong answer Box 2 Impacts of opening new sea routes The impacts of climate change in the Arctic underscore the urgency with which the world’s governments must seriously reduce CO 2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. Yet, many are instead racing to As the decline in Arctic sea ice causes historically closed routes secure their ‘right’ to drill for the oil that may be found underneath the such as the Northwest and Northeast Passages to open up, Arctic ice. They show little interest in preventing devastating climate questions arise regarding security and safety. New access to shipping routes and new opportunities for oil extraction bring with change by enacting policies to reduce CO 2 emissions and to increase the use of renewable energy resources. They appear to view the them the increasing risk of environmental degradation caused by destruction of the Arctic ecosystem as an opportunity to pump out these activities. One obvious concern is oil spills and other yet more climate destroying oil. industrial accidents. It is clear from studies and experience that the effects of oil spills in a high-, ocean environment last The world’s leaders are facing an intelligence test. Should they drill and much longer and are far worse than in other areas. Oil spill clean- burn the fossil fuels reserves that are accessible only because climate up is rarely effective but in the Arctic conditions any clean-up change is causing the sea ice to melt? Or should they protect the attempt at all will be impossible for much of the year due to Arctic and give it a chance to adapt to the already catastrophic extreme darkness, temperature and solid or broken ice conditions. changes taking place, while enacting policies that reduce national CO 2 emissions and putting in place renewable energy systems? So far, the melting sea ice has driven a rush of seabed studies, each aimed at showing the continuation of the to the North Pole, and thus sovereignty over those parts of the Arctic. The US, Canada and have dispatched , submarines and prime ministers to pursue their sovereignty claims, and other Arctic states are also involved in the melee. The planting of a Russian flag on the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,200-mile underwater mountain range, and Russia’s claim that it had enough evidence to prove it is part of Russia’s continental shelf, made worldwide headlines in 2007. The ‘race’ to exploit the oil rumoured to be under the Arctic ice also threatens global security. It has been identified as a serious threat to global peace with the increased activity in the region leading to discussions at NATO and to increases in Arctic military spending by the US, Canada, Russia and other Arctic nations.

We need to act now to prevent a new ‘’ from developing in the Arctic. n a m W e O n

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image British Petroleum’s controversial Northstar oil production facility. Construction site, Alaska, USA . ©

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Sirius, in Alaska. n a m W e n

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Current and Future Governance Greenpeace calls upon the United Nations and governments around the world to commit to the following course of action to save the Arctic: Unlike Antarctica, there is no single overarching treaty governing activities in the Arctic. • Establish an immediate moratorium on industrial development in the area of the Arctic Ocean that has With only a patchwork of different rules and regulations in place, most historically been covered by sea ice year-round. This ‘line in of which are not legally binding, the Arctic environment and its marine the ice’ is the average minimum sea ice extent between 1979 life are currently wide open to exploitation, bad practice and illegality. and 2000, the period before significant sea-ice loss due to Set up in 1996, the Arctic Council - a high-level intergovernmental climate change was recorded. forum comprised of the eight Arctic nations (Canada, • Create a long-term solution by agreeing a permanent, Denmark/Greenland/Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, equitable and overarching treaty or multi-lateral agreement Sweden, and the USA) and six Indigenous Peoples’ organisations - that protects the Arctic Ocean environment and ecosystems plays an important role. However it remains to be seen if it will be the and the peoples who depend on them. protector of the Arctic or its exploiter.

Despite recognising the vulnerable and unique of the region, and having now had many in which to develop an appropriate governance regime, the Arctic Council has only managed to put forward non-binding recommendations with no enforcement. In the meantime, the agenda of the members of the Arctic Council appears to be moving towards opening up the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration and industrial fishing, thus taking advantage of the melting ice instead of taking the action required to protect the already damaged ecosystem. Given the issues of global significance affecting the Arctic and the many significant gaps in the existing legislation, there is a clear need for an overarching Arctic multi-lateral agreement or treaty, in which the Arctic Council could play a leading role, which ensures the highest levels of protection for the Arctic and in particular for the areas of the Arctic Ocean that have traditionally been protected under the ice. While such a transparent, participatory and equitable agreement is being negotiated, nations and stakeholders must ‘freeze the footprint’ of growing industrial activities in the Arctic by establishing a moratorium on further industrial development in the areas made accessible by the retreating sea ice. n a G r O m

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image melt: ice in the of Scoresbysund, Greenland.

Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk 9 Antarctica – current and future threats

image The Greenpeace ship Esperanza, in the Antarctic ice of the Southern Ocean.

© Greenpeace / Jiri rezac

10 Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk Unlike the Arctic, for the past 50 years activities in Antarctica have Effects on Antarctica’s wildlife been regulated by the Antarctic Treaty and the related agreements While there has been an increase in sea ice in some parts of that make up the (ATS). Together, these Antarctica - a change linked to increased offshore resulting constitute the overarching governance regime that has set many from the ozone hole - there has also been a significant reduction in important precedents over the years. In particular, the historic 1991 duration and extent of sea ice west of the Antarctic agreement to prohibit all mineral extraction in Antarctica for 50 years Peninsula. Just as sea ice is critical to the marine life of the Arctic, so set an example for a new relationship with planet Earth. Agreed after it is to the marine life of the Antarctic. , the basis of the Antarctic many years of negotiation and campaigning, the moratorium provided food web, use winter sea ice as a nursery and its loss leads to a fall in the equitable and environmentally-safe solution to settling international krill numbers the following summer. In turn, the fall in krill numbers has claims to the oil reserves under the ice, a lesson that would be well consequences for the whales, seals and penguins that feed on them. applied to the current situation in the Arctic. Greenpeace played a major role in securing this moratorium and for bringing countries In addition, Adélie and emperor penguins rely on the sea ice in onside in support of the ‘World Park Antarctica’ campaign. Antarctica for breeding and feeding, just like polar bears do in the Arctic. Polar bears and emperor penguins may live at opposite ends Despite the existence of the ATS, Antarctica and the surrounding Southern of the Earth, but it turns out they may have more in common than we Ocean are not safe from a range of current and emerging threats. realised - and not in a good way. Already, it appears that in some places ice-dependent Adélie penguins are being replaced by open- Climate change water species. According to a recent Woods Hole study, a large emperor in Terre Adélie, Antarctica, could face the Climate change is driving major changes in Antarctic, just as it is in loss of 95% of its population by the end of the century. the Arctic. Although some areas are apparently cooling, recent studies show that the as a whole appears to be warming. The most dramatic changes are happening around the , which is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. A recent review showed that over the last 61 years, 87% of the glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated. This retreat began at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and, over time, has moved southwards as temperatures have risen. e c a c r a G

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image Adelie penguins near islands image Humpback whales feed near the Antarctic ice edge. of Buckle Island, Balleny group.

Greenpeace International Polar oceans in peril and a planet at risk 11 Antarctica – current and future threats continued

Box 3 Krill Box 4 Whales

Antarctic krill are small shrimp–like crustaceans that are the principle The devastation of whale populations due to commercial in food source for many Antarctic predators including seals, penguins, the Southern Ocean is well documented, with 95% of the biomass , various fish species and the seven species of of whales lost and the being brought to the edge of whales that feed in the Southern Ocean. Occurring in vast swarms, extinction. The 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling and the krill have long been targeted by fishing vessels from several nations. subsequent 1994 designation of the Southern Ocean Whale The advent of new technology that enables a single state-of-the-art Sanctuary should have stopped whaling in the Southern Ocean trawler to vacuum up as much as 45,000 tonnes in a single , once and for all, but the government of Japan has continued its together with growing markets for aquaculture feed and nutritional hunt, despite international opposition, under the guise of so-called supplements, are likely drivers for a massive expansion of the krill ‘scientific’ whaling. fishing industry in the near future. Even at current levels there are Whale populations are facing many other threats aside from the concerns that localised depletion of krill may be impacting on harpoon. These include climate change, ship strikes, underwater populations of krill predators. Factor into this the possible impacts of noise and expanded fishing for krill. Although Antarctic blue whales climate change and observed krill declines in some parts of the have been officially protected since 1965 there are no signs that Southern Ocean and there is real reason to fear that the whole basis this species has recovered, with only around 1% of an estimated of the Antarctic food web is at risk. original population of 250,000 remaining. The reasons for this failure to recover are unknown, but environmental factors are likely to be important. y y e e l l l l u u c c

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image Sperm whale diving . ©

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Box 5 Toothfish fishing

Toothfish can reach 2 metres in length and can weigh as much as 100kg. Living up to 35 years, they become sexually mature when they are 6 to 9 years of age. Because their populations recover very slowly they are highly vulnerable to over-exploitation, yet they are targeted by both legal and illegal vessels. Fishing for toothfish is mainly conducted with longlines - fishing lines tens of kilometres long, each one carrying hundreds of baited hooks - and has been responsible for very high levels of ‘bycatch’, the term used for fish and animals that are unintentionally caught and then thrown overboard, often dead or injured. Bycatch has been reduced to very small numbers in the legal fishery but the pirate fishing fleets are almost certainly still catching high numbers of seabirds and other animals. Pirate fishing, officially referred to as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, remains a major threat to the Antarctic fishery. As soon as the pirate fleet has taken all the fish from one area, it moves on - it has been estimated that, in some areas, the illegal catch is 10 times greater than the legal catch. A recent development among the toothfish pirates is the use of plastic monofilament gillnets instead of longlines. No data are available on the , mammals and other marine species caught as bycatch in gillnets within the area, but it is known to be a fishing method with high levels of bycatch. Additionally, lost nets may carry on ‘ghost fishing,’ continuing to trap and kill fish and other species e

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Both legal and illegal toothfish vessels operate in the , r e G O

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image above . To preserve this unique ocean ecosystem, with its entire food chain image left Wandering albatross caught on longline.

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Marine reserves provide the best potential solution at both Poles. Greenpeace calls upon the United Nations and governments around the world to commit to the following course of action The profound physical changes happening at the ends of the Earth to save the Arctic and Antarctic: are a wake-up call that we ignore at our peril. How we treat the Polar Oceans has major consequences for the planet as a whole. Our • Establish an immediate moratorium on industrial development in the generation has a unique opportunity and responsibility to take action area of the Arctic Ocean that has historically been covered by sea to bring us back from the brink of runaway climate change, and to ice year-round. This ‘line in the ice’ is the average minimum sea ice protect some of the most fragile and essential ecosystems on Earth. extent between 1979 and 2000, the period before significant sea ice loss due to climate change was recorded. There is a compelling body of scientific evidence that demonstrates that setting aside large areas of the ocean from industrial activities, such as • Create a long-term solution by agreeing a permanent, equitable and fishing and oil and gas extraction, provides protection for valuable overarching treaty or multi-lateral agreement that protects the Arctic species and , maintains important ecosystem functions and Ocean environment and ecosystems and the peoples who depend allows degraded areas to recover. This is even more important for the on them. Polar Oceans, since the Arctic and Antarctic are warming faster than • Antarctic Treaty member states must honour their commitment to the rest of the globe and so are under increased stress. dedicate the continent to ‘peace and science’ and implement their Creating marine reserves in the Polar Oceans will make them both obligations to establish a comprehensive and representative more resilient to the impacts of climate change and will help prevent network of marine reserves in the Southern Ocean. To be effective, further, catastrophic, climate change. this network should be of sufficient scale, covering at least 40% of the Southern Ocean. c a z e r

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image An iceberg floating in the Southern Ocean. image Aurora borealis, Northern Lights.

© Greenpeace / GaVin neWman

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Published by Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands Greenpeace International Nuclear Power - No solution to climate change 16 For more information contact: [email protected]