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Marine Protected Areas as a Tool to Ensure Environmental Protection of the Marine Arctic: Legal Aspects

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Arctic Marine Governance
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The sensitive Arctic marine environment, with its fragile ecosystems and habitats, may be threatened by increasing human activities and melting of sea ice due to climate change. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an environmental tool that, by ensuring a higher level of protection within a defined geographical area, can benefit conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity. To ensure conservation of marine biological diversity, a number of states have committed themselves to establishing a coherent network of MPAs within 2012, an objective endorsed also by the Arctic states. In this chapter, political developments with regard to the establishment of MPAs within and outside of national jurisdiction and legal obligations applicable to the marine Arctic are examined. Despite having both legal obligations and political initiative, there is currently no network of MPAs in the marine Arctic. To ensure implementation of global obligations in the Arctic region, there is a need for further operationalization and clarification of scientific criteria for the selection and designation of sites that may contribute to a future network of MPAs. To fulfill the objective of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in the marine Arctic, stronger efforts must also be made by the Arctic states through the Arctic Council.

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  1. 1.

    As discussed in Chap. 1, there are many different definitions for areas constitute the marine Arctic. Regarding conservation of biological diversity, there are good reasons for adopting a wide definition of the ‘marine Arctic’. In this chapter, the same definition as established in Chap. 1 and throughout this book, which includes the Arctic Ocean and its adjoining seas, is applied.

  2. 2.

    The ‘Banana hole’ in the Norwegian Sea, the ‘Loop Hole’ in the Barents Sea, the ‘Donut Hole’ in the Bering Sea, and the ‘Central Arctic Ocean’.

  3. 3.

    See CBD COP Decision VII/5, para. 8, Seventh Ordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 9–20 Feb 2004, Kuala Lumpur. CBD COP Decision IX/33, para. 8, Ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 19–30 May 2008, Bonn.

  4. 4.

    See Jakobsen (2012).

  5. 5.

    For a discussion of the competence to establish MPAs in the EEZ, see Frank (2007), Lagoni (2003), and Jakobsen (2010).

  6. 6.

    Sedentary species are defined in the provision as “…organisms which, at the harvestable stage, either are immobile on or under the seabed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with these a-bed or the subsoil”.

  7. 7.

    Note that while MPAs on the high seas are established under the OSPAR Convention, none of these are within the maritime areas of the Arctic.

  8. 8.

    For a discussion of this, see Molenaar and Oude Elferink (2009).

  9. 9.

    See, for instance, the EU’s Marine Strategic Framework Directive (2008).

  10. 10.

    These recommendations were endorsed in UNGA (2011) This obligation is reasonable, para. 167.

  11. 11.

    Biological diversity is defined in the CBD as the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems” (CBD 1992, art. 2).

  12. 12.

    See Namibia Advisory Opinion, ICJ Reports 1971, 16: 31; Case concerning the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v. Slovakia), ICJ Reports 1997, para. 140; and the arbitration case between Belgium and the Netherlands: The Arbitration Regarding the Iron Rhine, The Permanent Court of Arbitration, 2005, para. 59.

  13. 13.

    The relationship between the CBD and the LOS Convention is addressed in CBD Article 22.

  14. 14.

    Southern bluefin cases (New Zealand v. Japan; Australia v. Japan), 38 ITLOS Report 1724 (1999), para. 170.

  15. 15.

    For an overview of the member states, see <>.

  16. 16.

    As for areas outside national jurisdiction, it follows from Article 4(b) that the CBD applies in the case of “…processes and activities, regardless of where their effects occur, carried out under its jurisdiction or control, within the area of its national jurisdiction or beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”.

  17. 17.

    Regarding Article 22, see Wolfrum and Matz (2000) and Jakobsen (2010).

  18. 18.

    The interpretation and application of the clause “as far as possible and as appropriate” is discussed in Jakobsen (2010).

  19. 19.

    Regarding the principle of differentiated responsibility, see Birnie et al. (2009).

  20. 20.

    This interpretation is also adopted by the expert committee who proposed the Norwegian Nature Management Act of 2009, see NOU (2004):28, p. 160.

  21. 21.

    The COP decisions are available at <>.

  22. 22.

    CBD COP Decision IX/20. Ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, 19–30 May 2008, Bonn.

  23. 23.

    CBD COP Decision VII/5, supra note 3, para. 18.

  24. 24.

    CBD COP Decision VII/5, ibid, para. 26.

  25. 25.

    CBD COP Decision VII/24, para. 35–47, Seventh Ordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, 9–20 Feb 2004, Kuala Lumpur.

  26. 26.

    CBD COP Decision IX/20, supra note 23.

  27. 27.

    An example of this is the agreement on search and rescue which is negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council (Arctic SAR Agreement 2011). See also Chap. 1.

  28. 28.

    The Commission has the competence to adopt both legally binding decisions and non-legally binding recommendations (OSPAR Convention 1992, art. 10(3) and 13).

  29. 29.

    In the Guidelines for the Management of Marine Protected Areas in the OSPAR Maritime Area, 2003/18, both fisheries and shipping are mentioned as examples of activities that may require regulation.

  30. 30.

    Information and relevant documents and publications about CPAN are available at <>. See also Koivurova (2009).

  31. 31.

    Possible explanations are provided in Lalonde (2010).


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Jakobsen, I.U. (2014). Marine Protected Areas as a Tool to Ensure Environmental Protection of the Marine Arctic: Legal Aspects. In: Tedsen, E., Cavalieri, S., Kraemer, R. (eds) Arctic Marine Governance. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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