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Relevance of a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area to the Bering Strait Region: a Policy Analysis Using Resilience-Based Governance Principles

Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, Resilience and Adaptation Program and Political Science Department, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Martin D. Robards, Wildlife Conservation Society

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07081-200126

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Abstract

The Bering Strait, separating the North American and Asian continents, is a productive social–ecological marine system that is vulnerable to increasing maritime traffic. In other parts of the world, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), an agency of the United Nations, has designated similar marine systems as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in an effort to protect vulnerable resources from international shipping. We present information about the 14 existing PSSAs around the world and the political process by which designation is achieved. We examine specific characteristics of the Bering Strait system that are relevant to a PSSA application; these include vulnerable resources such as marine mammals and their contribution to the food and cultural security of indigenous communities, threats to these resources from shipping activities, and the viable mitigation options to reduce these threats. We then use five criteria derived from empirical research on resilience-based governance to analyze whether a PSSA designation would promote the resilience of marine mammal populations and indigenous communities to increased maritime activities. Despite the elusiveness of a definitive answer, we conclude that although the designation is not a perfect fit from a theoretical standpoint, it still holds the potential to benefit marine mammals and indigenous communities in terms of resilience. We conclude by identifying critical challenges and trade-offs that practitioners would need to negotiate when attempting to apply theoretical governance principles via real-world policy tools.

Key words

Arctic; ecosystem services; indigenous; international shipping; law; marine protected area; praxis; transboundary; whale

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087