- 美國聖羅倫斯島：本島以南、白令海阿拉斯加大陸以西的冰間湖，也就是被海冰包圍的開闊水域，每年有六個月是一種海鴨(Spectacled eiders)全球族群的棲息地。冰間湖也提供了海鸚(alcids)、三趾鷗(kittiwakes)、海鷗、過冬的太平洋海象、北極露脊鯨、海豹和北極熊等動物關鍵棲地，也是原住民重要的狩獵區。
- 俄羅斯的弗蘭格爾島(Wrangel Island)：該島週遭的冰間湖是北極熊春季與夏季重要的覓食棲地，也是太平洋海象遷徙以及覓食棲地，同時也是許多海鳥群聚繁殖與攝食的地區。
- 加拿大波弗特海岸(Beaufort Coast)和巴瑟斯特岬(Cape Bathurst)：本區具有高度生產力，包含的大型且持續性的冰間湖與浮冰。此地對超過90%的西部北極露脊鯨族群而言，是春季與夏季關鍵的覓食區。超過40000頭白鯨春季與夏季期間在這裡生產與覓食。多種海鳥在此聚集，其中包括北美北極海沿岸唯一的厚嘴海鷗(thick-billed murre)群聚。
- 蘭開斯特灣(Lancaster Sound)與北方水域冰間湖(North Water Polynya)：經常性的北方水域冰間湖是北半球最大且最具生產力的冰間湖之一。此一開放水域是多種鯨魚以及海鳥春季與夏季的重要攝食地。此地常年有海象以及數個北極熊族群，總數約有4000隻。該地區提供了巴芬灣白鯨族群關鍵的渡冬與遷徙棲地，也是大約8000頭北方巴芬灣獨角鯨夏季的棲地。春天的時候，這裡可能聚集了全球的獨角鯨族群。
- 加拿大與格陵蘭外海的迪斯科灣(Disko Bay)、賀勒費司克邦克(Store Hellefiskebanke)：此地是多種名列IUCN紅皮書物種的重要渡冬棲地，包括北極露脊鯨和白鯨和獨角鯨。髯海豹出現在賀勒費司克邦克的海冰上，冬季還有海象與海豹活動，使該地區成為重要的狩獵區。
- 俄羅斯的白海、巴倫支海沿岸：此處高生產力的海岸洋流受到來自北大西洋洋流分支的溫暖海水滋潤，孕育了白海當地白鯨族群，也支持了整個東岸南下浮冰(East Ice)豎琴海豹族群以及大西洋鮭魚和海鳥群聚。
- 俄羅斯的伯朝拉海(Pechora Sea)、卡拉門(Kara Gate)：白魚(White fish)在此有極高的多樣性以及豐富度，包含大型的大西洋鮭魚、北極紅點鮭、一種小型的鱈魚(navaga)，亦發現有太平洋鯡魚的區域孑遺種，這裡也是北極鱈魚的重要產卵地。本區是多種野鳥的重要棲地，包含當地繁殖種類以及來自西伯利亞中部的遷徙種。這裡也是遷徙的白鯨與大西洋海象棲地。
At the top of the world, industrial activities are closing in on the last refuges of rare marine mammals and seabirds. As the Arctic warms, shipping and fishing as well as oil and gas exploration are expanding into ocean places that once were inaccessible, frozen under year-round ice.
In a new report by scientists and indigenous peoples, 13 unique and fragile areas in the Arctic Ocean are identified for protection against these emerging threats as well as the continual stressors of climate change, loss of sea ice and ocean acidification.
"There is increasing interest in expanded economic activities in the Arctic," said co-author Thomas Laughlin, deputy head of the Global Marine and Polar Program of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
"The information and maps we have available now will allow governments and the international community to make the right choices regarding the conservation and use of the natural resources of the Arctic," he said.
The Bering Strait, the Chukchi Beaufort Coast, the Barents Sea coast and the Great Siberian Polynya are among the most vulnerable places. Polynyas are areas of open water surrounded by sea ice.
The 13 areas in need of protection were identified by 34 scientists and representatives of indigenous communities in Arctic countries who gathered at a Scripps Institution of Oceanography workshop last November.
The criteria are: uniqueness, life history importance, importance to endangered and threatened species; vulnerable, fragile and slow recovery areas; areas of high productivity; areas of high diversity; and naturalness. Importance of an area for subsistence or cultural heritage was also considered.
The 13 top priority areas featured in the report are:
St. Lawrence Island, United States: The polynyas, or areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, south of St. Lawrence Island, west of mainland Alaska in the Bering Sea, support nearly the total world population of Spectacled eiders for six months of each year. The polynyas provide key habitat for alcids, kittiwakes, shearwaters, overwintering Pacific walrus, bowhead whales, ice seals and polar bears, and are an important indigenous peoples' subsistence hunting area.
The Bering Strait, United States and Russia: This area exhibits the highest levels of productivity and diversity in the Arctic. This narrow strait is the only connection between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans, making it a hotspot of global significance. It is a key breeding, pupping, feeding, and/or migratory habitat for many species of whales, seals and walrus, all of which pass through the Bering Strait twice a year when migrating between the Bering and Chukchi Seas.
Chukchi Beaufort Coast of the United States: The lead system at the transition between landfast and drifting ice was described by workshop participants as "a wonder of nature," providing a spring migratory pathway for hundreds of bowhead whales daily, as well as beluga whales, polar bears, Pacific walrus and gray whales during summer and autumn.
This region also has an ancient human history and enduring cultural heritage to coastal residents. The annual bowhead whale hunt in villages in the region is a subsistence activity of large sociocultural significance.
Wrangel Island, Russia: The polynyas, leads and coastal waters around Wrangel Island provide important spring and summer feeding habitat for polar bears, migratory and feeding habitat for Pacific walrus, and breeding and feeding for extensive seabird colonies.
Beaufort Coast and Cape Bathurst, Canada: This is a highly productive area, including a large, recurring polynya and lead system. It is vital spring and summer foraging habitat for more than 90 percent Western Arctic bowhead whale population. More than 40,000 beluga whales use this area for foraging and calving in spring and summer. Seabirds of many species congregate here, and it encompasses the only thick-billed murre colony along the Arctic Ocean coast of North America.
Polar Pack Refugium, Canada: The extent of the multi-year ice not a static geographic area but is variable, providing critical habitat for many Arctic creatures. Future projections suggest that the multi-year polar pack ice will continue to rapidly disappear and be replaced by younger and more seasonal ice. The longest remaining portions will be along the northwestern Canadian Archipelago. The remnant pack ice will likely be the only refuge for many ice-dependent animals such as ringed seals and polar bears.
Lancaster Sound/North Water Polynya: The recurring North Water polynya is one of the largest and most productive in the Northern Hemisphere. This open water provides vital spring and summer feeding areas for several whale species and many marine birds. There are year-round concentrations of walrus and about 4,000 polar bears in several populations.
The area provides critical wintering and migratory habitat for the Baffin Bay beluga population and summering areas for a portion of the North Baffin narwhal population, some 80,000 individuals. In spring, it may support most of the world's narwhal population.
Disko Bay/Store Hellefiskebanke, off Canada and Greenland: The area serves as a key wintering area for species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, including bowhead and beluga whales and narwhal. Bearded seals are on the ice at Store Hellefiskebanke and walrus and seals appear in winter, making the area an important hunting area.
White Sea/Barents Sea Coast, Russia: These highly productive coastal waters enjoy a coastal branch of warm current originating from the North-Atlantic current. It supports local populations of White Sea beluga whales and provides pupping and molting areas for the entire East Ice harp seal population, and supports Atlantic salmon as well as seabird colonies.
Pechora Sea/Kara Gate, Russia: Here a high diversity and abundance of white fishes, a large breeding stock of Atlantic salmon, as well as Arctic char, navaga, and local relict races of Pacific herring are found, and is an important spawning ground for polar cod. The region contains important areas for wildfowl, both locally breeding and migrating from western and central Siberia. It supports migrating beluga whales and Atlantic walrus.
Novaya Zemlya, Russia: The western waters around Novaya Zemlya constitute a highly productive marine area that supports the largest seabird colonies in the Northeast Atlantic. Surrounded by the Barents Sea, the Arctic Ocean and the Kara Sea, Novaya Zemlya was used as a nuclear test site from 1954 to 1990. It hosted 224 nuclear detonations during that period.
High Arctic Islands and Shelf, the northern-most archipelago in the Russian and Norwegian Arctic: This is a key area for the endangered Spitsbergen population of bowhead whale, the northern stock of the East-Atlantic meta-population of Atlantic walrus, and most of the world's breeding population of the threatened ivory gull.
Great Siberian Polynya, off Norway and Russia: One of the most stable and ecologically important polynyas, it influences ice production in the Arctic Ocean and affects thermo-haline circulation in much of the Laptev and East-Siberian Seas. Annual development of the Great Siberian polynya influences spawning and growth rates of polar cod, the key prey species of the High Arctic ecosystem.
These 13 areas were identified by scientists and legal experts convened in two workshops by the IUCN and NRDC as part of their project to implement ecosystem-based management in the Arctic marine environment.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, together with other international agreements and national laws and regulations, provides a general legal foundation.
Still, workshop participants agreed, new rules may be necessary to protect the Arctic marine environment.