New Issues in Polar Tourism: Communities, Environments, Politics

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These observations of a shrinking, thinning Arctic sea-ice cover are consistent with climate model predictions of enhanced high-latitude warming, which in turn is driven in significant part by ice-albedo feedback 1 Holland and Bitz, These changes in the physical ocean and sea-ice environment affect ecosystem structure and function as well as other key ecological processes, such as the exchange of gas between the ocean and atmosphere and the transfer of material from land to the sea, and these changes ultimately affect the living resources on which local human populations depend.

In fact, these types of changes in the Arctic marine ecosystem are currently under way; dramatic shifts in the structure of the Bering Sea ecosystem have occurred Brodeur et al. The ranges of species such as salmon, seabirds, and gray whales have extended north- and eastward into the Beaufort Sea Moore et al. Changes in the timing of the northward migration of animals, such as walrus, associated with the timing of the retreat in the annual ice cover, are impacting the hunting success of local human communities. Despite numerous observations that ecosystem change is ongoing, the extent and magnitude of these changes, the range of natural variability of many characteristics, and the interactions between the biological, physical, and chemical components that shape ecosystem change are still poorly understood.

High latitude ecosystems are sensitive to climate, and recent studies indicate that the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas are shifting toward an earlier spring transition between ice-covered and ice-free conditions Grebmeier et al. The detection of biological changes in the Bering Strait region coincides with recent observations of larger-scale Arctic environmental changes in water temperature, hydrography, and sea-ice regimes Overland and Stabeno, Ice-albedo feedback is a positive feedback loop whereby melting sea ice exposes more seawater of lower albedo, or less reflective , which in turn absorbs heat and causes more sea ice to melt.

Thus, ecosystem change on the shallow shelves of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas is likely to be directly connected to systems further to the north. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment ACIA, , a major multinational compilation of information, concluded that reduced sea-ice extent will pose new challenges for the Arctic environment because increased human presence in the Arctic Ocean is highly likely.

When historically closed passages become open to navigation, increased marine transport and improved access to resources are expected. It is further expected that questions regarding sovereignty over shipping routes and seabed resources, as well as issues of security and safety, will arise ACIA, Potential conflicts among competing users of Arctic waterways and coastal seas, for example, in the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage are likely.

Commercial fishing and sealing, hunting of marine wildlife by indigenous people, tourism, and shipping all compete for use of the narrow straits of these waterways, which are also the preferred routes for marine mammal migration. Global crude oil prices are currently at historic highs and projected to continue at present levels Garfield, This has led to increased exploration and development budgets for the oil industry and to the development of oil fields in more challenging environments.

The Arctic is one of the major areas in which increased oil exploration and development are occurring. Price increases for basic commodities are not limited to crude oil, which is spurring increasing investments in gas exploration and development as well as other commodities. Ships operating in the Arctic environment are exposed to a number of unique risks. Poor weather conditions and the relative lack of reliable charts, underdeveloped communication systems, and insufficient navigational aids pose challenges for mariners.

The remoteness of Arctic areas makes rescue or cleanup operations difficult and costly. Cold temperatures may reduce the effectiveness of numerous components of the ship, ranging from deck machinery to emergency equipment. When ice is present, it can impose additional loads on the hull, propulsion system, and appendages. Safe navigation in any area depends on accurate knowledge of hydrographic data. Unfortunately, these data, as well as standard aids to navigation e. Similarly, the hydrographic charts for the Northwest Passage are incomplete.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service reports that although Canadian charts in the Arctic are generally adequate for navigation in most traffic corridors, there are significant unsurveyed areas within the limits of many charts and many charts exist that do not meet modern Canadian Hydrographic Service standards. In addition, unique Arctic conditions require supplementary operational guidelines to account for the operating environment.

Recognizing the need for recommendatory provisions applicable to ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters, additional to the mandatory and recommendatory provisions contained in existing instruments, several organizations 2 have developed guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters. It should be noted, however, that these guidelines are simply recommendatory and that the wordings are commonly interpreted as providing recommendations rather than mandatory direction.

On the other hand, Part XII, section 8, Article of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea UNCLOS , specifically allows coastal nations to adopt and enforce rules for vessels operating in ice-infested waters in their exclusive economic zone EEZ or territorial sea in order to prevent and protect against marine pollution and similar environmental accidents.

Concerns about the increasing commercial activities in the Arctic region led the Arctic Council to issue a declaration in , 3 which stated that the existing and emerging activities in the Arctic warrant a more coordinated and integrated strategic approach to address the challenges of the Arctic coastal and marine environment. The declaration further stated that the Arctic Council agreed to develop a strategic plan for the protection of the Arctic marine environment under the leadership of its Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment PAME working group.

The Arctic marine strategic plan established the following four goals: 1 reduce and prevent pollution in the Arctic marine environment; 2 conserve Arctic marine biodiversity and ecosystem functions; 3 promote the health and prosperity of all Arctic inhabitants; and 4 advance sustainable Arctic marine resource use. With increased marine access in Arctic coastal areas— shipping, offshore development, fishing, and other uses— and the apparent lack of strict operational guidelines and aids to navigation, national and regional governments will be called upon to revise and to develop new national and.

Nations will also be required to provide increased services such as icebreaking assistance, improved ice charting and forecasting, enhanced emergency response in dangerous situations, and greatly improved cleanup capabilities. The sea ice, while thinning and decreasing in extent, is likely to become more mobile and dynamic in many coastal regions where fast ice and relatively stable conditions previously existed. Competing marine uses in newly open or partially ice-covered areas will call for increased enforcement presence and regulatory oversight ACIA, Commercial vessel operations in the Arctic consist primarily of 1 natural resource exploration, development, and production; 2 fishing; 3 tourism; and 4 commercial vessel transits.


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Commercial vessels are used to support exploration or transport developed natural resources e. Commercial fishing operations currently are restricted to certain areas of the Bering Sea and, to a lesser extent, to certain areas of the Chukchi Sea. Ships in these regions harvest specific fish stocks and, in U.

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Tourism is typically in the form of ocean cruises that occur in the summer months between July and September when the ice pack is at a minimum extent. Commercial vessel transits typically encompass cargo vessels transiting either the Northern Sea Route above Russia or the Northwest Passage above Canada or the delivery of supplies to Arctic destinations along either of those routes.


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Additionally, the ice class tanker fleet will grow by 18 million deadweight tons dwt by ; ice class ships are presently in service and another are on order ABS, The Arctic has long been viewed as a likely source of natural resources such as oil, gas, minerals, ores, and other commodities.

There is further expectation that additional large volumes of recoverable oil are to be found in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, although environmental concerns and political pressures have blocked development to date. Sustained high oil prices have invigorated industry interest in oil and gas exploration in the Alaskan Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Exploitable natural resources in the U. Arctic are found throughout the region, but the majority of active leases and current exploratory drilling occur within the Beaufort Sea.

Thirty-one exploratory wells have been drilled in this area, and there is production from a joint federal-state unit, with federal production of more than 15 million barrels of oil since Ten OCS lease sales have been held in the Beaufort Sea since , and an additional sale is scheduled in the current five-year program for The proposed sales include consideration of 1, whole or partial lease blocks in the Beaufort Sea Planning Area, covering about 9.

New Issues In Polar Tourism Communities Environments Politics – Free Online Books

There have been two sales in the Chukchi Sea, the most recent in There have been five exploratory wells drilled with no commercial discoveries. While there are no existing leases at this time, this area is included in the current program as a special interest sale during to No interest was expressed in the first two calls for information in and Industry interest was expressed in a large portion of the area in response to the call in early , but there was not adequate time remaining in the current program to complete the necessary pre-lease steps and environmental documentation. The sale was deferred for consideration in the program, which was released in draft form.

The new five-year oil and gas leasing plan proposes four additional annual lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas between and MMS, It is not possible to accurately predict the level of oil and gas activity that will occur in the U. Arctic over the. It identifies the areas to be offered for leasing during a five-year period and establishes the schedule for individual lease sales. No area will be offered for sale that is not included in the five-year program. During the course of developing the five-year program, all affected states and applicable federal agencies will be consulted; comments from interested parties and the general public will be solicited.

However, the U. Minerals Management Service MMS anticipates that between one and three exploratory wells will be drilled annually over the next five years Elmer Danenberger, personal communication. To support resource exploration efforts, the MMS anticipates multiple geophysical seismic surveys to occur in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas over the next several years during the open-water seasons.

Up to four seismic vessels could be operating in any one year. Drilling operations could extend into the early fall freeze-up conditions.

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Additionally, up to two ice class vessels and ice-reinforced barges could be staged in the Beaufort Sea during drilling to support oil spill response operations. Exploratory drilling from bottom-founded drilling structures during the winter solid ice season is also anticipated. Bottom-founded drilling structures, such as the Steel Sided Drilling Caisson, would be mobilized to location during the open-water season using tugs, left on location throughout the winter, and removed the following open water season.

Bottom-founded structures would be used only in the Beaufort Sea; water depths are restrictive in the Chukchi Sea.


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The expanded transportation infrastructure will continue to result in increased flows of people in and throughout the Arctic, including tourists in search of authentic experiences with indigenous people in the region. As more and more indigenous people start to make their livings from tourism, many of them shift away from the traditional economic activities thus increasing their vulnerability to the seasonality and other external risks related to the tourism industry Notzke, Due to the Arctic climate and the limited tourism season, the majority of the economic activity is concentrated within a few summer months.

This can lead to negative social impacts as individuals and communities go through long periods of economic inactivity. At the same time, fears exist that this shift to a tourism based economy may lead to a loss of knowledge of the community about the traditional ways of survival in such extreme conditions see for example Nuttall, The local capacity to receive large number of tourists also becomes an issue, as is the case in cruise tourism where the number of tourists visiting from the ship can often outnumber the number of local residents Johnston, The emphasis on the development of tourism in the region as an alternative to more invasive industries can have a positive impact on the environment, or at least have a relatively smaller negative impact than alternative industries.

Arctic Issues Becoming Global Issues

Tourism can contribute to conservation of the natural environmental and cultural heritage because that is in many cases what tourists are coming to see in the Arctic. Tourism in the Arctic can also contribute to more comprehensive awareness of vulnerabilities of the region and even the world to climate change. The extreme conditions of the Arctic contribute to another area of concern as tourism continues to develop in the region.

Currently, there is a lack of clarity regarding responsibility and response to crisis.

There is a lack of transparency of who is responsible for rescue operations or even simple monitoring within in the region. Given the problematic issues connected to cruise tourism, this issue could emerge quite dramatically in the near future, as the potential for incidents will be rising. In order to do so, the overall aim for sustainable tourism development in the Arctic needs to be bought into by the various stakeholders and institutions that have an interest in the region.

The current economic and environmental trends suggest that there will be increased human activity, including tourism, in the Arctic. A vision for sustainable tourism has been, with varied intensity, discussed since the end of the s within the governing institutions of the region. A vision for sustainable tourism was developed during the conclusions of the Northern Forum in Finnish Rovaniemi in In the framework of the SMART project, discussed more later on in this paper, sustainable tourism was explained as a reality when economic interests do not concentrate solely on economic profit but also take into account environmental and social aspects of its activities.

The Sustainable Polar Bear Tour that Also Educates Tourists on Environmental Impact

It is clear that the understanding of sustainable tourism of the various organizations and institutions is aligned with prevailing definitions of sustainable tourism development. Questions concerning environment and corporate social responsibility have recently become a necessary part of discussions about tourism development in the Arctic.

In order for sustainable tourism development in the Arctic to succeed, the complex legal and governing frameworks of the region need to be explored.