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Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) – Marine Plan: Canadian Implementation

Canada is a member of the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum established in 1996 to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the eight Arctic states on common Arctic issues. As recognized in Canada's Arctic Foreign Policy and the Northern Strategy, northern resource development and sound environmental stewardship depend on a credible knowledge base. Biodiversity monitoring contributes to this knowledge base by facilitating more rapid detection, communication, and response to the significant biodiversity-related trends and pressures affecting the circumpolar world.

The Arctic is fundamental to Canadian national identity. Many Aboriginal Canadians, other northerners, as well as a great diversity of Arctic-adapted plants and animals call this region home, which stretches across Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and surrounding marine waters.

Arctic ecosystems must remain healthy as the Arctic plays a critical role in the Earth’s physical, chemical and biological balance. Healthy Arctic ecosystems are of fundamental economic, cultural and spiritual importance to Arctic residents, many of whom maintain close ties to the land and sea.

Diversity of marine biota throughout this region is significant, poorly known, and potentially at risk from the unprecedented changes affecting the area. Climate change, human population increase, resource exploration and development, and shipping, among other stressors, are contributing to these changes, which have implications for marine biodiversity and the value it holds for Canadian and circumpolar societies.

In 2011, the Arctic Council endorsed the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) ecosystem-based Arctic Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan (CBMP-Marine Plan). Biodiversity monitoring plans have also been developed for the terrestrial and freshwater biomes, and one is in preparation for the coastal biome. Through the CBMP-Marine Plan, participating countries and organizations are coordinating monitoring and reporting using an ecosystem approach and common indicators of marine biodiversity in selected Arctic Marine Areas.

Canadian Arctic Marine Areas with priority sub-regions. Priority sub-regions were chosen based on: characteristics of the marine ecosystems, biological hotspots, boundaries and gateways and suitability for community-based monitoring.

The goal of the CBMP-Marine Plan is to enable early detection of changes in key organisms or areas, and attribute causes behind the trends observed in indicators. To detect changes, however, baselines are first needed to characterize the existing state of the ecosystem. Regular reports will be provided to decision makers in local Arctic communities, regional and national governments, and international venues, to inform strategies and decisions regarding conservation, harvesting, development and adaptive management.

Co-led in 2008-2011 by Norway and the US, Canada played an integral role in the development of the CBMP-Marine Plan. Now in its fourth year of implementation, Canada, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, US, Inuit Circumpolar Council, and the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Groups are cooperating to implement the CBMP-Marine Plan.

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