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Climate change impacts have been particularly acute in the Arctic, where warming has led to the loss of seasonal sea ice, among other impacts. As Arctic waters experience longer ice-free seasons and reduced sea ice extent and thickness, vessel traffic in the maritime Arctic has increased. Experts forecast this growth trend will continue and accelerate. Increasing vessel traffic brings threats to the Arctic region, its people, and its wildlife. These include increased air, water, and subsea noise pollution and the potential for a large oil and/or fuel spill. While authorities have put in place some management measures designed to reduce these threats, more action is needed to safeguard the region. Impacts from increasing shipping in the Arctic region can be further mitigated by both Arctic-specific rules and best practices and broader changes to global-scale shipping practices. More broadly, improvements to governance structures are needed to better address the multiple and overlapping threats to the Arctic region. At the same time, these changes can promote full and meaningful participation by Indigenous residents of the Arctic with respect to the identification, design, and implementation of management measures that may affect their region. On a global scale, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critically important for the future of the Arctic and its peoples and wildlife—and for the ocean as a whole.

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