A regulatory shhh across Arctic coastal ecosystems?

Alongside the Arctic Ocean, the Barents, White, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Chukchi seas are marine ecosystems including seabeds, ocean floor and subsoils. Increases in drilling of the continental shelf increases environmental impact. Yakovleva noted the most common issues are emissions, oil / oil product spills, pollution, waste (including metals, radioactive, plastic etc ), and noise.

There are also increases in biological tourists – species that arrived via transport from other areas of the world (e.g. attached to ship hulls, construction equipment etc)

She reviewed existing environmental regulation from UN Conventions as well as domestic laws; to analyse the effectiveness for environmental protection with current challenges and development plans; including the subsoils, continental shelf, territorial sea and coastal zones. The law characterises physical, chemical and biological impacts on environmental quality e.g.

The Russian legislation understands environmental protection as the activity of legal entities aimed at preservation and restoration of natural environment, rational use and reproduction of natural resources, prevention of negative impact of economic and other activities on the environment and elimination of its consequences

(Yakovleva, 2023)

Types of pollution and impacts are summarised on page 5 Fig. 2. Types (forms), sources of pollutants and adverse impacts on marine geo-ecosystems. She found some prohibitions and restrictions relating to anthropogenic activity (e.g. oil/gas exploration) but other physical effects from noise, temperature, vibration are not specified in the environmental regulation. A 2020 Act has clauses for surface water protection from pollution, spills and Yakovleva proposes a common scheme based on analysis of existing scientific research to cover restoration on page 8 Fig. 3. Modes of protection of surface water bodies and legal regulation.

She recommends expanding the regulation covering prevention and protection to include recovery, exposure and acceptable limits for noise, vibration and physical indicators; as well as restoration of water ecosystems. She proposes a legal framework for subsoil development on page 10 Fig. 4. Legal measures for the protection of the marine environment during subsoil development in the Arctic zone of Russia. This will assist state monitoring in developing observation of anthropogenic and geophysical changes across these zones.

Walrus roosting on Franz Josef Island with thanks to Peter Prokosch, GRID-Arendal, on Flickr, (CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0)

Yakovleva T (2023) Marine environmental protection in mineral resource development in the arctic zone of Russia, E3S Web of Conferences 376, 03019, ERSME-2023 https://doi.org/10.1051/e3sconf/202337603019

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