Why Polar Seas and what are our primary concerns?

Polar Seas include the Arctic and the Antarctic Oceans, which are both bellwether for the planet and the stability of the climate we (humans) rely on. Both Oceans are undergoing parallel rapid changes, even regime shifts as climate change processes force these shifts of our planetary system to a new state. The acceleration of melting ice is one of the shared process, both sea ice and land ice (glaciers and ice-sheets), and an accelerator of such shifts.

With alarming scientific reports of accelerated change to marine ecosystems and adverse and irreversible impact to the marine environment, the call for resilience building has grown louder in all intergovernmental bodies.  

Whilst the management of activities in these two oceans need a shared body of marine scientific knowledge and understanding,  their respective geopolitical, legal and institutional contexts are very different. Each requires a specific approach.

ACOPS Activities

ACOPS focuses particularly on the Arctic Ocean through its observer status with the Arctic Council. Areas of particular interest in 2021 and 2022 are melting ice, the protection of sensitive ice corridors and MPAs, shipping traffic, marine plastics, underwater noise and invasive alien species.

ACOPS has been an Observer to the Arctic Council since 2000 and attended Ministerial Meetings and regular meetings of the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group, the Arctic Contaminants Action Program Working Group and the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (resource permitting). ACOPS supported the 2017 Arctic Council Fairbanks Declaration (here). To cite a few elements, it emphasizes the vulnerability of Arctic marine ecosystems, the environmental and socio-economic impact of climate change, the value of the circumpolar biodiversity monitoring program and the importance of strengthening the role of the Arctic Council. ACOPS also joined (virtually due to Covid-19) the Icelandic Chairmanship’s Ministerial Meeting in 2021, which adopted the Reykjavik Declaration where it was announced that the Arctic has warmed at a rate three times the global average with harmful effects on the environment, biodiversity, society and infrastructure, as well as on subsistence-based livelihoods of many Arctic communities.

ACOPS has also been active in the past in the context of the UK as Lord Hunt is a Member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Arctic and regularly attended sessions convened by the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, formed in 2011 to inform Parliamentarians on all matters relating to the Arctic and Antarctic Regions.