WDCS is concerned that long delays to the development of rules aimed at reducing the environmental impact of shipping in the polar waters around the Arctic and Antarctica place these areas at great risk. Last week the International Maritime Organization (the UN body responsible for global shipping regulations) decided to halt the development of environmental protection rules until 2013 because of the objections of some countries.
This has been seen by many, including WDCS, as a major setback for polar environmental protection meaning that it will fall further behind schedule, or even end altogether. Both polar regions have an important role when it comes to regulating the global climate and both are experiencing the most rapid warming of anywhere on earth.As the sea ice melts those waters also become more accessible to shipping than ever before in human history. The numbers of ships using the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route, to the north of Canada, the US, Norway and Russia, is increasing each year.
WDCS’s Erich Hoyt said; “Whales and dolphins in the Arctic and Antarctic are already under pressure due to changing climate which is altering habitat. We need strong environmental regulations to minimize the impacts from the increased levels of shipping in the polar regions. Without these regulations, we increase the risk of damaging oil spills, sewage and other discharges, as well as ship strikes, which have the potential to destroy whale habitats and kill or displace whales and dolphins and other wildlife.”