Canada’s Arctic marine environment is experiencing an unprecedented transformation as the permanent polar pack ice diminishes and dramatic changes occur in its ecosystems.

At the same time, the loss of sea ice has extended the potential reach of shipping, commercial fisheries, and oil and gas.

New Standards for a Changing Arctic

This new push to exploit natural resources is driven by global economic forces in an increasingly accessible Arctic. Even though the Canadian North is no stranger to development, the possibilities for industrial expansion across this region are greater than ever before.

Commercial vessel traffic has substantially increased each year, including the addition of routes that were not possible in the past. The world’s fishing nations are eyeing the Arctic, one of the only places on the planet that has not been exploited by large-scale industrial trawlers. Oil and gas companies are active in the deepwater Arctic marine environment for the first time in human history.

Yet the Arctic is still one of the harshest and most challenging environments in the world. Industry must address significant hurdles to operate safely and sustainably in this region. Canada’s legal, regulatory and environmental assessment frameworks need to keep pace with the new nature of Arctic maritime commerce.

At Oceans North, we advocate for Arctic-specific rules and standards that proactively guide governments and industry to include long-term environmental health, safety and community well-being as key factors in economic profitability. Our work supports ecosystem-based fishing plans that ensure sustainable harvests and encourages the development of Arctic shipping corridors to protect sensitive marine habitat.