Arctic is a very vulnerable ecosystem, where the
intensification of economic activity is foreseeable because
of its strategic advantages and natural riches. Although
Arctic seas are relatively unpolluted, certain shelf
regions and many coastal areas suffer from significant to
critical environmental degradation. Most pollution is
land-based, and the most dangerous substances are
persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and
radionuclides. Treatment of spent nuclear fuel and
radioactive waste, and difficulties in its safe storage,
also pose considerable problems.
Arctic environment has been damaged by years of
uncontrolled development, nuclear tests and industrial
pollution originating both within and outside the region.
Because of transboundary impacts, some estimates conclude
that one-third of the heavy metal pollution entering the
Arctic environment comes from industrial sources in Europe
and North America. Although levels are not high, they
impact a very fragile environment. Industries on the
Russian coastal zone also contribute to marine pollution.
region is home to many indigenous peoples with differing
cultures and traditions, which are threatened by a rapidly
changing modern world and its demand for resources. The
Arctic Ocean and its shelf seas are home to many unique
plant and animal species, and its contributions to global
biodiversity are important. In addition, it plays a major
role in global climate patterns, and influences the world
weather through oceanic and atmospheric circulation.
Arctic needs and deserves our protection. ACOPS hopes that
this project will be the seed for far-reaching programme of
action supported by a strong partnership of international
environmental agencies, sovereign governments and,
crucially, the private sector. The involvement of the
private sector and the integration of environmental
management in future development planning and investment
processes is a key objective of the project. The combined
execution capabilities of the Ministry of Economic
Development and Trade and ACOPS will be tested in bringing
a sustainable, working partnership, which is unique in any
regional seas programme, to the service of the Arctic.