Albion Monitor /News

Arctic Natives, Wildlife Threatened by Pollution Says WWF

Indigenous peoples and wildlife and in the region among the most highly exposed populations on earth
GLAND, Switzerland -- The World Wide Fund For Nature on June 3, 1997 urged environmental ministers from Arctic nations to bolster clean-up and prevention action plans, following the release of a report which shows Arctic wildlife and indigenous peoples urgently need protection from a rising tide of pollution coming from countries ringing the North Pole and further south.

The 6-year study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a joint project by eight Arctic countries, shows widespread persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and radionuclides in the Arctic. This makes indigenous peoples and wildlife and in the region among the most highly exposed populations on earth.

"Indigenous people and higher mammals like polar bears are the end of the line for these pollutants -- whether theyre coming from Russia or the UK," said Peter Prokosch, coordinator of WWFs Arctic Programme. "This report clearly shows that funds and political determination from the Arctic nations are imperative for getting the wheels in motion now, especially if were going to get moving on military and industrial site clean-up."

Native infants born with levels of persistent organic pollutants that are two to ten times higher
PCBs, industrial chemicals that linger in the environment, and persistent organic pesticides are the major contaminant threat to Arctic wildlife, according to the report. Levels of toxins are now high enough to disturb reproduction, affect the ability to fight off disease, or alter behaviour in birds of prey and some marine mammals.

Particularly vulnerable are species which congregate to spawn, such as haddock, cod, and grouper, and species that migrate across a number of national fishing zones and are heavily fished in each zone, such as tuna, billfish and sharks.

Indigenous peoples are also suffering from the rise in pollutants. Tests show that PCBs and persistent pesticides present in fish and marine mammals eaten by indigenous groups in Greenland and Canada, result in infants born with levels of persistent organic pollutants that are two to ten times higher than in regions further south.

A point of convergence for ocean and air currents, the North Pole is particularly susceptible to organic pollutants. PCBs and chemicals from pesticides build up in the fatty tissues of animals, becoming more concentrated further up the food chain. This means lower levels of air and water pollutants can lead to higher concentrations in humans and wildlife.

WWF is urging the ministers to quickly conclude negotiations on three new protocols dealing with local and transboundary regulation of persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and nitrogen. It is also calling on them to take a hard line on pollution at home, including cleaning up PCBs, aging military installations, and leaking landfills, all of which the report notes are major sources of pollutants.


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Albion Monitor June 17, 1997 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)

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