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Over the last decades, the Arctic environment as a whole altered dramatically due to the impacts of climate change. Troubling rates of Arctic sea ice melt—with a projected ice-free summer in mere decades—may allow for unprecedented economic activity, such as a rise in navigation via the emerging Arctic Sea Routes, as well as the extraction of offshore living and nonliving resources. Considered to be one of Earth’s final pristine ecosystems, the Arctic’s unique marine ecosystem also boasts a wealth of nonliving resources. The region holds incredible biodiversity and supports adaptive capacities for species in extreme environmental conditions. Amid new optimism regarding commercial conquests, the marine ecosystem critical to Arctic species resilience is at risk. The following chapter, developed from our previously published article “Legal Instruments for Marine Sanction in the High Arctic,” reviews the rationale for protecting marine biodiversity in Arctic waters and examines the existing legal framework for marine protected area creation, as well as its limits. Specifically considering the challenge of protecting marine life in the High Arctic area beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), the chapter first critically examines the call for an “Antarctic modeled” legal designation for the entire Arctic high sea area as a marine protected area, concluding the idea to be largely impractical for the geographically and politically dissimilar pole. Next we examine three other potential legal mechanisms for MPA creation in Arctic’s areas beyond national jurisdiction: an UNCLOS implementing agreement, an additional protocol to the UNCBD, and a regional agreement. Based on our analysis, we argue that a complementary, regional legal regime for MPA creation in the High Arctic would offer a pathway to adequate protection while being more politically feasible than other alternatives.
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- Protecting Arctic Ocean Marine Biodiversity in the Area Beyond National Jurisdiction