The long-awaited marine protected area in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound in Canada’s high Arctic is finally moving forward. Parvati.org, who a year ago brought to national attention the decades-expired Shell oil permits in the area, is glad to see more marine protection happening in Canada’s Arctic. Yet, we are very clear: protection of the Arctic Ocean must happen on a much more massive scale. The Arctic Ocean’s ice is the Earth’s air-conditioning system, playing a crucial role in keeping global weather patterns in balance. But it is under threat as never before as the ice recedes and commercial interests seek to move in. For the sake of all life on Earth, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary must be realized immediately.
In 2015, Parvati.org discovered that Shell held 30 long-standing permits to explore for oil and gas in Canada’s eastern Arctic, right beside the long-awaited Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area. The permits should have expired in 1979, but somehow were still active. When these permits were brought to national attention, the outcry soon resulted in Shell’s decision to release them, clearing the way for the marine protected area in Lancaster Sound.
Parvati.org celebrates any and all marine protected areas in the Arctic as a beginning step. But here is a sobering dose of reality: by scientific estimates, half of the planet must become protected areas if we are to stop a staggering loss of biodiversity.
The Government of Canada touts the Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound marine protected area as being “twice the size of Nova Scotia”, which sounds impressive until you consider what is actually needed. Twice the size of Nova Scotia comes to about 110,000 square km, or 8% of the entire Arctic Ocean.
The area that will be protected by MAPS, the Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle, is about 9,000,000 square km, over half of the Arctic Ocean’s surface area. MAPS will be the world’s largest marine protected area. But even that comes to less than three per cent of the world’s oceans, and about two per cent of the world’s total surface area. “We need to think on much bigger scales and much more ambitious timelines to keep our planet safe and healthy,” says Parvati.org founder Parvati. “We no longer have the luxury to work incrementally towards urgently needed protection. MAPS is not an end goal, but a baseline necessity.”
The Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS) is a simple and immediately effective solution to preserve biodiversity while also helping the polar ice regenerate. MAPS establishes the Arctic Ocean as a permanent international marine protected area free from commercial fishing, natural resource exploitation, seismic testing, military activity and through shipping traffic, while continuing to respect Indigenous cultural activities such as subsistence fishing. The MAPS Treaty has been translated into all six official UN languages, provided to all 193 UN member states, and shared with officials at COP21 and COP22.
Citizens of all nations are urged to sign and share the MAPS petition at https://parvati.org, and to call on their governments to ratify the MAPS Treaty immediately.