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Report launched on the urgent need to protect parts of the Arctic including four in EU Overseas sites

14 May 2017
Photo: Florian Ledoux

New report on recommended Arctic Marine World Heritage sites includes four off the coast of Greenland.

The Arctic Ocean urgently needs protection as melting sea ice is opening up previously inaccessible areas to activities such as shipping, bottom trawl fishing and oil exploration, according to a scientific report launched recently by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), in partnership with the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre.

The report identifies seven globally significant marine sites in the Arctic Ocean that warrant protection and could potentially qualify for World Heritage status. 

Four of these sites are found around Greenland:

  • The Disko Bay and Store Hellefiskebanke Ecoregion
  • The Scoresby Sound Polynya Ecoregion
  • The Northern Baffin Bay Ecoregion
  • And the Remnant Multi-Year Sea Ice and Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion.

As one of the most pristine oceans on Earth, these icy waters are home to wildlife found nowhere else on the planet. Disko Bay and Store Hellefiskebanke in Western Greenland, linked to an existing World Heritage site, supports a critical wintering habitat for walruses and hundreds of thousands of king rider ducks. Scoresby Sound and Polynya* includes the largest fjord system in the world and is very important for several red-listed species like Critically Endangered Spitsbergen stock of bowhead whale. The Northern Baffin Bay Ecoregion contains one of the most productive marine environments in the Arctic Ocean and supports the largest aggregation of an entire species- the Little Auk. It is also critically important to the global population of Narwhal, Beluga and Eastern Greenland Bowhead Whales. Lastly, Remnant Multi-Year Sea Ice and Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion lying partially along the north coast of Greenland contains the oldest and thickest ice on earth. This unique habitat is likely to be where ice-associated species persist longest while climate change alters the world around them.

Sadly, the Arctic region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Rapidly melting sea ice is opening up previously inaccessible areas to potential new shipping routes, oil and gas development, mining and industrial fishing. Greenland is starting to take advantage of these inevitable changes to boost their economy, however, this also increases the urgency of improving our understanding of the Arctic’s globally unique marine ecosystems and its effective conservation.

The sites identified in the report could potentially qualify for World Heritage status which could open another path to sustainable development for Greenland.

“This new report highlights seven possible treasures in the Arctic Ocean that need conservation efforts to keep pace with climate change.” Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre.

Launched in Monaco Spring 2017, “Natural Marine World Heritage in the Arctic Ocean: Report of an expert workshop and review process” was produced with support from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and WWF-Canada.

*Polynyas are areas of persistent open water surrounded by sea ice.



Anantara Peace Haven -Tangalle Resort and IUCN to support sea turtle conservation

09 May 2017
Dr Ananda Mallawatantri, Country Representative of IUCN and Mr Ross Sanders General Manager of Anantara Peace Haven - Tangalle Resort signing the agreement to mark a new beginning. Photo: Norman Zweyer

Anantara Peace Haven – Tangalle Resort,  Sri Lanka’s top-ranked luxury resort and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) joined hands to support sea turtle conservation in Sri Lanka.

The project; Conservation of Sea Turtles and Coastal Habitats around Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort aims to replicate the success of Anantara’s sustainability initiatives in other countries such as Thailand by enhancing the conservation of marine turtles that visit the beaches surrounding the hotel as well as enriching the coastal habitats that are located in the hotel premises and thereby enhance the ecological resilience of these habitats which will contribute towards conservation of species.  
TRepresentatives of IUCN and Anatara P. H. Resorts (Private) Ltd at Anantara Peace Haven - Tangalle Resort. Photo: Norman Zweyerhe main activities of the project include identifying turtle nesting sites along the Southern coast—from Tangalle (Anantara Hotel) to Yala National Park (Kumbukkan Oya estuary)— in collaboration Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), raise awareness on marine turtle conservation, enhancement of field-level capacity of DWC to conduct  in-situ conservation of marine turtles, conduct a biodiversity survey within the hotel premises and preparation of a landscaping plan for the hotel premises based on principles of habitat restoration, build the capacity of the resort staff, local communities and guests for conservation and develop a Dollars for Deeds programme for Sri Lanka.

The project was launched on 6 May 2017 at the Anantara Peace Havan- Tangalle Resort in Tangalle.  The agreement on the joint project was signed by Mr Ross Sanders, General Manager Anantara – Tangalle Resort and Dr Ananda Mallawatantri, Country Representative IUCN Sri Lanka.  Mr Abbas  Esufally, Group Director, Hemas Holdings Plc, Journalists and staff of Anantara Resorts in Tangalle and Kalutara participated in the signing ceremony. 


IUCN rings alarm bells for corals in the Mediterranean

04 May 2017
Photo: © Jure Gasparic |

Over 13% of anthozoan species in the Mediterranean Sea – which include corals and related species –  are threatened with extinction, according to the Red List of Anthozoans report published recently by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The report proposes urgent conservation measures, including restrictions on unsustainable fishing practices, to protect these species and the rich biodiversity they harbour.

Anthozoans, meaning “flower-animals”, include around 212 species of hard and soft coral, black coral, sea anemone and gorgonians – a group that includes sea whips and sea fans –  native to the Mediterranean Sea. The report also shows that current knowledge of Mediterranean anthozoans is very limited. Of the 142 species assessed, 69 were designated as Data Deficient, meaning that experts were unable to judge how threatened they are because there is not enough information regarding their distribution, population sizes and trends.

Photo: © Jure Gasparic | Dreamstime.comThe new IUCN report reveals that 17 anthozoan species are threatened with extinction in the region, among them two species only native to the Mediterranean and some with a distribution restricted to the Mediterranean sea.

“Gorgonian and black coral forests constitute one of the most emblematic Mediterranean marine communities in both shallow and deep waters because of their high diversity and complexity. Their conservation is crucial to maintain the biodiversity that they harbour” says Marzia Bo from Universita degli Studi di Genova.

Many corals and other anthozoan species play a vital role as bio-constructors, creating habitats that act as a shelter for numerous other organisms, harbouring great biodiversity.

“Some of the black coral colonies in the Mediterranean Sea are known to live for more than 2,000 years. We need stronger protection measures, and in this report, we provide options and recommendations to address the challenges and maintain these species,” says María del Mar Otero from the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation and one of the authors of the report.

The bamboo coral (Isidella elongata), with its unique candelabrum shape, is among the longest lived species of gorgonian in the Mediterranean. It is now listed as Critically Endangered, which is the highest extinction risk category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The report warns that Mediterranean anthozoan species are suffering the effects of damage from unsustainable fishing techniques and gears, particularly bottom trawling and towed dredges, as well as artisanal and recreational gears targeting species found on the sea floor. Rising sea water temperatures, pollutant runoff into coastal waters, the spread of exotic invasive species and commercial collection of some anthozoans also exert considerable pressure on these species.

The group of Mediterranean experts who conducted the assessment concluded that appropriate habitat conservation measures to improve the resilience of local species and their capacity to recover could improve the conservation status of these valuable species.

The report also recommended urgent conservation measures to safeguard this natural capital in the region by reinforcing national and international legal protection of threatened species, enforcing fishing restrictions, designating tools for reducing species bycatch, as well as improving knowledge of threatened and lesser-known species.

This report is a result of the work developed by the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation (IUCN-Med) in collaboration with the IUCN Species Programme. IUCN-Med is assessing the conservation status of selected taxonomic groups in the Mediterranean region. The Red List of Anthozoans is the ninth publication in this series.

This assessment has been made possible thanks to the financial support of the MAVA Foundation and is available for download using the link below.

For more information: Mar Otero

Download "Overview of the conservation status of Mediterranean anthozoa"




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