Every October, Iceland hosts the Arctic Circle Assembly, a gathering of representatives from governments, nonprofit organizations, indigenous communities, scientists, and industry. AWI’s Kate O’Connell joined more than 2,000 people from 50 countries at the 2017 meeting.
The assembly addressed climate change impacts on the Arctic, including the effects of warming waters on whales and the communities dependent upon them. Dr. Marianne Rasmussen of the University of Iceland described the challenges that changes in whale distribution around Iceland present to the country’s thriving whale watch industry.
The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission hosted a session on sealing, centered on the European Union decision to ban imports of commercial seal products. (See the AWI Quarterly, summer 2014.) Representatives of Inuit communities and the fur industry discussed plans to lobby European politicians and the public for the ban’s removal.
The shipping, oil, and fishing industries touted new commercial opportunities in the loss of Arctic sea ice. However, other attendees noted that heavy fuel oil leaks, increased entanglements in fishing gear, and seismic testing for oil and gas all pose threats to Arctic marine mammal and fish populations. Given these concerns, AWI and others are calling for the Central Arctic Ocean to be designated a Marine Protected Area.