You are currently viewing The Arctic Ocean: The hardest place to live is about to get even tougher

The Arctic Ocean: The hardest place to live is about to get even tougher

The Arctic environment is a hard place to call home, but its about to become tougher..

Bleak, freezing, inhospitable: its hard to overstate how harsh Arctic climate is for a near-hairless ape from Africa. Hidden in darkness for half a year and blinded by 24 hour light for the other half – It was one of the last places humans settled. The Vikings who tried to live their failed and to this day few Europeans live there, only the native Inuit peoples have mastered this ice-scape.

Key to the Inuits’ success was their sustainable hunting culture they developed over the centuries – as the fragile arctic ecosystem makes conservation of living resources essential to long term survival. Put simply there is so little there to eat you the only way to survive is to be careful how much you hunt, use all that you kill and keep moving.

This culture is changing. The Inuit are giving up a nomadic lifestyle due to the pressures and temptations of the modern world. The problem with this is the Inuits practices are sustainable only whilst the population remains low. This means settling down to enjoy the basic comforts we all enjoy in the UK – electricity, running water, heating and legal recognition that we have a right to be on the land we live on – could deplete the very resources the Inuit depend on, endangering their long term survival. 

However, the impact of the people who live in the Arctic is tiny compared to the impact the rest of us are having.  We are indirectly driving a drastic and radical transformation in the furthest region of the planet. Mining, commercial fishing, toxic plastics, international  pollution and most-significantly climate change, which threatens to increase arctic sea temperatures, ocean acidity and leave the ocean devoid of summer ice cover, are already exacerbating an already fragile ocean environment. On top, as the ocean ice melts, it opens up the region to intrepid ships and explorer- creating a geopolitical scramble for the Arctic’s resources – with the Arctic poised to be the next Africa, divided and exploited with terrible results for those living there.

Luckily the Inuit are resilient – they’ve had to be – and of all of Earth’s people are the most ready to adapt and work together to save the Arctic. But if they are to succeed in saving their remote ice-world and the animals who live there we have to change as well. 

Its a perverse twist of fate that the one of the most sustainable ways of life on the planet is threatened by the purchases of people thousands of miles away. 

Our Sources

Atwell, L., Hobson, K.A. and Welch, H.E. (1998). Biomagnification and bioaccumulation of mercury in an arctic marine food web: insights from stable nitrogen isotope analysis. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 55(5), pp.1114-1121.

Bjerregaard, P., Kue Young, T., Dewailly, E. and Ebbesson, S.O. (2004). Indigenous health in the Arctic: an overview of the circumpolar Inuit population. Scandinavian journal of public health, 32(5), pp.390-395.

Kuzyk, Z.A., Kwan, M., Letcher, R.J. and Lockhart, W.L. (2005). Persistent organic pollutants and mercury in marine biota of the Canadian Arctic: an overview of spatial and temporal trends. Science of the Total Environment, 351, pp.4-56.

Campbell, L.M., Norstrom, R.J., Hobson, K.A., Muir, D.C., Backus, S. and Fisk, A.T. (2005). Mercury and other trace elements in a pelagic Arctic marine food web (Northwater Polynya, Baffin Bay). Science of the Total Environment, 351, pp.247-263.

Dalsøren, S.B., Samset, B.H., Myhre, G., Corbett, J.J., Minjares, R., Lack, D. and Fuglestvedt, J.S. (2013). Environmental impacts of shipping in 2030 with a particular focus on the Arctic region. Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics, 13(4).

Doubleday, N.C. (1988). Aboriginal Subsistance Whaling: The Right of Inuit To Hunt Whales and Implications for International Environmental Law. Denv. J. Int’l L. & Pol’y, 17, p.373.

Duarte, C.M., Agustí, S., Wassmann, P., Arrieta, J.M., Alcaraz, M., Coello, A., Marba, N., Hendriks, I.E., Holding, J., García-Zarandona, I. and Kritzberg, E. (2012). Tipping elements in the Arctic marine ecosystem. Ambio, 41(1), pp.44-55.

Ebinger, C.K. and Zambetakis, E. (2009). The geopolitics of Arctic melt. International Affairs, 85(6), pp.1215-1232.

Eguíluz, V.M., Fernández-Gracia, J., Irigoien, X. and Duarte, C.M. (2016). A quantitative assessment of Arctic shipping in 2010–2014. Scientific Reports, 6, p.30682.

ENETTE, S.G. and Alder, J. (2007). Lessons from marine protected areas and integrated ocean management initiatives in Canada. Coastal Management, 35, pp.51-78.

Ferse, S.C., Costa, M.M., Manez, K.S., Adhuri, D.S. and Glaser, M. (2010). Allies, not aliens: increasing the role of local communities in marine protected area implementation. Environmental Conservation, 37(1), pp.23-34.

Freeman, M.M. (1998). Inuit, whaling, and sustainability (No. 1). Rowman Altamira.
Hagen, P.E. and Walls, M.P. (2005). The Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. Natural Resources & Environment, 19(4), pp.49-52.

Halpern, B.S., Longo, C., Hardy, D., McLeod, K.L., Samhouri, J.F., Katona, S.K., Kleisner, K., Lester, S.E., O’leary, J., Ranelletti, M. and Rosenberg, A.A. (2012). An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean. Nature, 488(7413), p.615.

Hamilton, L.C., Saito, K., Loring, P.A., Lammers, R.B. and Huntington, H.P. (2016). Climigration? Population and climate change in Arctic Alaska. Population and environment, 38(2), pp.115-133.

Ingimundarson, V. (2014). Managing a contested region: the Arctic Council and the politics of Arctic governance. The Polar Journal, 4(1), pp.183-198.

Miller, A.W. and Ruiz, G.M. (2014). Arctic shipping and marine invaders. Nature Climate Change, 4(6), p.413.

O’Hara, T.M., Krahn, M.M., Boyd, D., Becker, P.R. and Philo, L.M. (1999). Organochlorine contaminant levels in Eskimo harvested bowhead whales of arctic Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 35(4), pp.741-752.

Pan, M. and Huntington, H.P. (2016). A precautionary approach to fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean: Policy, science, and China. Marine Policy, 63, pp.153-157.

Peters, G.P., Nilssen, T.B., Lindholt, L., Eide, M.S., Glomsrød, S., Eide, L.I. and Fuglestvedt, J.S. (2011). Future emissions from shipping and petroleum activities in the Arctic. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11(11), pp.5305-5320.

Reeves, R., Rosa, C., George, J.C., Sheffield, G. and Moore, M. (2012). Implications of Arctic industrial growth and strategies to mitigate future vessel and fishing gear impacts on bowhead whales. Marine policy, 36(2), pp.454-462.

Roginko, A.Y. and LaMourie, M.J. (1992). Emerging marine environmental protection strategies for the Arctic. Marine Policy, 16(4), pp.259-276.

Ruckelshaus, M., Doney, S.C., Galindo, H.M., Barry, J.P., Chan, F., Duffy, J.E., English, C.A., 
Smith, L.C. and Stephenson, S.R. (2013). New Trans-Arctic shipping routes navigable by midcentury. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(13), pp.E1191-E1195.

Stafford-Smith, M., Griggs, D., Gaffney, O., Ullah, F., Reyers, B., Kanie, N., Stigson, B., 
Stokke, O.S. (2013). Regime interplay in Arctic shipping governance: Explaining regional niche selection. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 13(1), pp.65-85.
Thurstan, R.H., Brockington, S. and Roberts, C.M. (2010). The effects of 118 years of industrial fishing on UK bottom trawl fisheries. Nat. Commun., 1–15.

Tyrrell, M. (2008). Nunavik Inuit perspectives on beluga whale management in the Canadian Arctic. Human Organization, pp.322-334.

Usher, P.J. (2002). Inuvialuit use of the Beaufort Sea and its resources, 1960-2000. Arctic, pp.18-28.
Wang, M. and Overland, J.E. (2009). A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years?. Geophysical research letters, 36(7).

Yamamoto-Kawai, M., McLaughlin, F.A., Carmack, E.C., Nishino, S. and Shimada, K. (2009). Aragonite undersaturation in the Arctic Ocean: effects of ocean acidification and sea ice melt. Science, 326(5956), pp.1098-1100.

Zarfl, C. and Matthies, M. (2010). Are marine plastic particles transport vectors for organic pollutants to the Arctic?. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60(10), pp.1810-1814.