Six Arctic Indigenous leaders and representatives of environmental groups meet with IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim in London. Oct. 25, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Dumbrille)

Six Arctic Indigenous leaders and representatives of environmental groups meet with IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim in London. Oct. 25, 2016.
Photo Credit: (Photo courtesy of Andrew Dumbrille)

UN maritime body listens to Arctic Indigenous voices


The International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London heard this week from Arctic Indigenous leaders who lobbied the UN body for a permanent seat at the table and spoke about their concerns over the impact of increased shipping on the environment and the food security of northern communities.

Six Arctic Indigenous leaders from Alaska, Canada, and Russia, accompanied by representatives of an environmental coalition campaigning for sustainable shipping practices in the circumpolar regions, had a meeting with the IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim and participated in the shipping regulator’s Marine Environment Protection Committee plenary sessions.

Tagak Curley of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, said each one of them talked about the potential impacts of increased Arctic shipping on their community.

Worried about ‘catastrophic incident’ with HFO

“We each made our cases,” Curley said in a telephone interview from London. “From Canada’s side we indicated food security, as well as that heavy oil used by major vessels should be banned from the Arctic. We have the most to lose because the food security of our community is depended primarily on the sea mammals.”

(click to listen to the full interview with Tagak Curley)

Tagak Curley of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, and Hans Lennie of Inuvik, N.W.T. at the IMO meeting in London in October 2016. (Photo: Andrew Dumbrille)

Tagak Curley of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, and Hans Lennie of Inuvik, N.W.T. at the IMO meeting in London in October 2016. (Photo: Andrew Dumbrille)

Canadian Inuit are worried about the environmental impact of “a potential catastrophic incident” such as a major oil spill from a ship that uses heavy fuel oil, said Curley, a founding member and the first president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, a non-profit organization in that represents over 60,000 Canadian Inuit.

The issue of heavy fuel oil (HFO) was discussed by the IMO on Friday.

“It’s clear from deliberations at the IMO today, heavy fuel oil use by ships in the Arctic will be on the agenda for potential future phase out,” said Andrew Dumbrille, senior specialist in sustainable shipping at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada.

In an unusual intervention, the IMO secretary-general echoed comments from Canada, U.S., France, Sweden, Iceland, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway in calling for serious efforts by member states of the IMO in dealing with the risks and impacts from the use of “the world’s dirtiest fuel, HFO,” Dumbrille said.

“Commitments from Arctic states and others at this week’s IMO meeting, along with the historic decision to maintain the 2020 cap on sulphur emissions, has set the table for transitioning away from HFO,” Dumbrille said. “It’s now time for concrete action from the IMO and the development of a workplan to set a timeline to phase out HFO in the Arctic.”

Impact of shipping on food security

Arctic Indigenous groups are also worried that noise, pollution and disturbances created by increased shipping traffic will have serious impacts on food security of northern communities that rely on sea mammals for sustenance.

“These are the issues that we are the most qualified to speak on because our wildlife, our sea mammals, they are all going to be impacted by increased traffic,” Curley said. “We are here to tell our side of the story… We have the most to lose.”

Canada’s Inuit are worried about the impact of increased shipping on migration routes of marine mammals such as these narwhal whales.
Canada’s Inuit are worried about the impact of increased shipping on migration routes of marine mammals such as these narwhal whales. © Kristin Laidre/AP Photo/NOAA

Increased shipping traffic is already affecting marine mammals such as belugas, narwhals and bearded seals the Inuit depend on for survival, Curley said.

The noise emitted by large vessels disturbs marine mammals and forces them to change their migration routes, making it more difficult for hunters to get to them, Curley said.

“As soon as the ice opens up, the belugas and narwhals, and bearded seals, and smaller seals they are heading into their breeding areas,” Curley said. “So the moment the increased traffic happens, our food security is impacted, so that has to be taken into consideration by the IMO.”

Permanent Arctic voice

The Arctic Indigenous leaders from Alaska, Russia and Canada will continue to lobby the IMO to have a permanent voice in the UN body, Curley said.

In the meantime, they will keep their informal discussions going on every month to make sure they share information and coordinate their actions, Curley said.

“The Arctic voice is very important,” he said. “It’s been heard now. It’s not going to stop.”

Categories: Environment, International, Politics
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *