Marine Protected Areas

CoverFramework for a Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas
An Network of Places and Natural Features Specially-managed for the Conservation and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment

Marine Protected Area (or MPA) is a generic term that includes a variety of types of protected areas in the marine environment, some of which are known by other terms. As defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature / World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN/WCPA), and as used in this framework, an MPA is: A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

All Arctic states have legal and policy tools for designating and managing MPAs in the Arctic that offer flexibility with respect to level of protection and management regime. IUCN has developed categories in order to compare protected areas at a global scale, and guidelines for applying these categories.

Click here to see the categories.

PAME released the framework for a pan-Arctic network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in 2015. It sets out a common vision for international cooperation in MPA network development and management, based on best practices and previous Arctic Council initiatives. This framework aims to inform the development of MPAs and networks of MPAs that are located within the national jurisdiction of Arctic States, and chart a course for future collaborative planning, management and actions for the conservation and protection of the Arctic marine environment.

shutterstock 119898433The framework offers guidance; it is not legally binding. Each Arctic State pursues MPA development based on its own authorities, priorities and timelines. The purpose of the pan-Arctic MPA network, composed of individual Arctic State MPA networks and other area-based conservation measures (see definitions in box below) , is to protect and restore marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features, and preserve cultural heritage and subsistence resources for present and future generations.

Having a joint framework in place confers a number of advantages that can support and enhance the work of individual Arctic States, such as:
  • Advancing cohesion and conservation effectiveness by strengthening ecological linkages among MPAs and MPA networks across the Arctic;
  • Applying best practices for establishing and managing MPAs and MPA networks to the Arctic environment;
  • Supporting achievement of domestic conservation objectives and international commitments and targets;
  • Strengthening intergovernmental cooperation on MPA management and scientific issues among Arctic MPA authorities; and
  • Addressing some issues of concern for shared species.

This framework was drafted by an MPA Network Expert Group (MPA-EG) reporting to the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME). The Expert Group was co-led by Canada, Norway, and the United States; all Member States of the Arctic Council were active participants (see Annex 1 for the full list of participants). The Arctic Council first called for the establishment of MPAs, including representative networks, in the 2004 Arctic Marine Strategic Plan.

The Framework also builds on work of the Ecosystem Approach to Management Expert Group (EA-EG) led by PAME, and the Arctic Council Expert Group on ecosystem-based management (EBM), as well as the previous work of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group on an Arctic Biodiversity Assessment and a Circumpolar Protected Area Network (CPAN).

Click here to download the MPA report - The Framework for a Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas