7 key sites
The sites identified in the report that could potentially qualify for World Heritage status include:
The Remnant Multi-Year Sea Ice and Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion
This region boasts the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic and may give polar bears the greatest chance of survival through the 21st century.
The Bering Strait Ecoregion
One of the world’s great migration corridors for millions of seabirds and marine mammals.
The Northern Baffin Bay Ecoregion
Supports the largest aggregation of a single species of seabird, the little auk.
The Scoresby Sound Polynya Ecoregion
The world’s largest fjord system which supports the Critically Endangered Spitsbergen stock of bowhead whale.
The High Arctic Archipelagos
Support 85% of the world’s population of ivory gulls.
Disko Bay and Store Hellefiskebanke Ecoregion
A critical winter habitat for the West Greenland walrus and hundreds of thousands of king eiders.
The Great Siberian Polynya
Where the seasonal formation and melting of ice influences oceanic processes on a large scale.
Links to other Heritage sites
Currently, there are five World Heritage sites within the Arctic Circle, only one of which is listed for its marine values – Russia’s Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve.
Inscribed in 2004, it boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific walrus, with up to 100,000 animals congregating in the island’s rookeries, and the highest density of ancestral polar bear dens.
Research suggests that some humpback whales from the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Mexico migrate all the way to the waters around Wrangel Island for summer feeding, highlighting the connections between the Arctic Ocean and World Heritage sites in lower latitudes.
Click here to read the report, ‘Natural Marine World Heritage in the Arctic Ocean: Report of an expert workshop and review process’.