For millions of years, the ice of the Arctic Ocean has kept our planet cool. But that ice is melting rapidly. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most recent annual “Arctic Report Card,” the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic Ocean has declined by 95%. While the Arctic Ocean contained over 15 trillion tons of floating sea ice in September 1979, it averaged just 4.66 trillion tons in September 2018. Parts of the Arctic Ocean are now 4°C above the long-term average. The result is more frequent and intense weather events which threaten global food production and water supplies. Poverty and disease create climate refugees, and this leads to further humanitarian and environmental disasters of catastrophic proportions.

Today, the Arctic Ocean ecosystem is under threat like never before, creating a ripple effect of suffering worldwide. Even though scientists have warned that drilling for Arctic seabed oil and gas is off limits in any scenario limiting global warming to 2°C or less, multiple companies and nations are planning, or already executing, oil and gas operations above the Arctic Circle. Commercial fishing vessels actively damage important habitats along the ocean seabed. Shipping routes are being planned and implemented. And military presence, with increasingly dangerous weaponry and exercises, is building up in ways not seen since the
Cold War.

“The Arctic—no matter where we come from and where we live—is the common heritage of all humans. Its fate and future have serious consequences for all of us.”
James A. Michel, Former President of Seychelles

The United Nations has repeatedly acknowledged, but has not yet responded to, the grave threat facing humanity due to the rapidly melting sea ice. It is working at cross purposes to itself when it comes to the effective stewardship of the Arctic Ocean.

Every year commencing from 2007, the General Assembly has passed resolutions reaffirming “its deep concern over the vulnerability of the environment and the fragile ecosystems of the polar regions, including the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic ice cap, particularly affected by the projected adverse effects of climate change.” At the same time, a UN specialized agency (the International Maritime Organization) continues to actively encourage commercial shipping in Arctic waters.

“Samoa is pleased to support the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS) Treaty.  Small island states like Samoa which are on the front lines of the impacts of climate change see MAPS as a realizable solution to addressing pivotal climate change issues.”
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa

Aside from its decision in December 2017 (after more than ten years of debate and discussion), to conduct treaty negotiations to protect biodiversity in the high seas including the Arctic high seas, the United Nations has taken no other action. Protecting only the centre of the Arctic Ocean is not enough to save the ecosystem the world relies upon.

Most exploitation – such as commercial fishing, shipping, and oil and gas extraction – happens close to shore, where the ice is melting first. Just as “non-smoking” sections in restaurants and airplanes cannot prevent smoke from affecting everyone in the vicinity, an oil or fuel spill in the Arctic Ocean would impact vast areas, as would the release of carbon from burning Arctic seabed fossil fuel reserves.

Taking economic and military advantage of the Arctic Ocean in its current state of emergency breaks up the fragile ice that remains and inhibits the essential restructuring of new ice. Simply put, exploitation of the vulnerable Arctic Ocean is not compatible with life on Earth. This is a humanitarian and environmental crisis that threatens our very survival. The problem is massive. But there is an immediate and effective response.


MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, designates the entire Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle an ocean preserve in perpetuity, the largest in history. It boldly mitigates a variety of global issues in a single, visionary act of conservation. By stilling the frenetic consumption of resources and taking all Arctic seabed fossil fuels off the table for good, MAPS accelerates the world’s pivot to sustainability and renewable energy. It also brings world leaders together to affirm long-term collective good over short-term individual greed.

For example, MAPS supports almost every United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. In the broadest sense, MAPS accelerates the realization of them all, because the sanctuary protects the entire planet and everything on it. Moreover, MAPS fits naturally with the UN commitment to protect 10% of our oceans by 2020, and also supports nations in meeting their objectives under the Paris Agreement. MAPS’s prevention of Arctic seabed oil and gas exploitation alone will keep 148 trillion kilograms of CO2 out of our atmosphere.

Leading biologists have urged us to protect 50% of the entire planet immediately to prevent mass extinction, and over 21,000 scientists from 184 countries have warned humanity that “time is running out.” MAPS is ambitious, yet today it is a baseline necessity. It protects about 3% of the world’s oceans, and about 2% of the world’s total surface area. This is the pace at which we must move to protect life. We no longer have the luxury to work incrementally towards urgently needed protection.

Dame Dr. Jane Goodall, United Nations Messenger of Peace, says, “It is hugely important to establish this proposed sanctuary.” Renowned oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, has suggested MAPS become a world heritage site, hailing it as “an idea whose time has come.” And Yvo De Boer, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, calls MAPS “the only sane choice for the critically vulnerable Arctic ecosystem, for the sake of our seas, our atmosphere
and all life.”

To realize this vision of a peaceful and healthy future, has taken the unprecedented step of creating the MAPS Treaty as an addendum to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The MAPS Treaty updates UNCLOS to reflect the reality of our changing world and the urgent need to protect the Arctic sea ice. The MAPS Treaty declares all ocean waters north of the Arctic Circle off limits to commercialization, militarization and industrialization, and enters into force with the signatures of 99 world leaders of member states of the UN or any of its specialized agencies. All nations, not just Arctic states, must determine the fate of the Arctic Ocean because its preservation is vital to the health of our entire world. 

Momentum for MAPS has begun in the equatorial region, where heads of government recognize that the survival of their people is tied to what happens in the Arctic Ocean. Small island and climate vulnerable nations have done the least to cause damage to Arctic sea ice, yet they face some of the most severe effects of its loss: disappearing coastlines, ravaging storms and rising food instability. Each country is responsible for a healthy world and must follow the lead of the nations on the front lines
of our global crisis. But there is little time before the ice runs out.


The Arctic Ocean sustains us all, but it can only protect us if we protect it. Although exploitation poses a tremendous threat, many people still do not realize the melting Arctic ice is a global emergency. Nor do they realize that short-sighted and risky plans to abuse the Arctic Ocean’s natural resources and waterways will only further destabilize this delicate and vital ecosystem. For MAPS to be established, the world needs to understand why the emergency is so dire for each one of us, and that MAPS will safeguard this endangered ecosystem while simultaneously catalyzing the needed global shift to sustainability.

To produce a global reawakening to our inherent interconnection in these urgent times, the all-volunteer is preparing to launch its Global Education for MAPS (GEM). To realize MAPS now requires harnessing the exponential power of modern media to penetrate, permeate and pervade international awareness of MAPS in real time, and on a global scale. At each level, GEM incorporates outreach to the global populace: it informs and educates them about the crisis of the melting Arctic sea ice; it reinforces the fact that, no matter where they live on Earth, they are directly impacted by this crisis; and it declares that there is an immediate, practical and effective response found in MAPS.

James Gustave Speth, co-founder of the National Resources Defense Council and leader of dozens of task forces and committees aimed at combating environmental degradation over the past five decades, has remarked, “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse… I thought with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy… and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.”

This ideology is precisely what defines’s approach to addressing the crisis in the Arctic Ocean: we perceive the catastrophic disappearance of Arctic sea-ice as a symptom of a much larger epistemic crisis – humanity’s lack of awareness of our inherent interconnection. We no longer recognize the reality that no region, nation, or species is separate, nor are we separate from one another as individuals. We have lost touch with our true nature, as well as our relationships with one another and with the natural world – particularly the Arctic Ocean which seems so geographically and emotionally remote. Put differently, the crisis in the Arctic Ocean is not only an external, environmental and humanitarian catastrophe, but also an indicator of a more problematic, internal crisis for mankind.

While education about the crisis in the Arctic Ocean is an urgent component of social and political change, GEM targets the root of our collective crisis by healing the sense of disconnection from ourselves, each other, and the world. It activates the swiftest, most powerful catalyst for social change: the hearts of humanity. In this way, MAPS is poised to set in motion unprecedented and comprehensive global transformation.

“As a global citizen, the Cook Islands recognises that… our oceans are a vital component of our efforts to address climate change, whether we are a small island in the vast Pacific, or a large continent that extends into the Arctic Circle; we each bear a responsibility. This is why the Cook Islands are going to support the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary Treaty. The time for bold action is now, and while my country has already started, we support others to do the same.”
Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands


The Arctic Ocean is still one of the most pristine regions on Earth. In essence, it has always been an internationally protected area because of its year-round frozen seascape. It must always remain so. MAPS urges UN member states and all global citizens to exemplify the best of what makes us human: our ability to connect, collaborate and thrive. Unlike the mindset of the past which equated survival with domination, MAPS lights a path for nations of the world to set aside perceived regional differences, recognize the special role of the Arctic Ocean in preserving and nurturing life, and unite for the benefit of all.

Courageous leadership and dedicated service are needed at this pivotal time in human history. Well-respected, influential individuals and organizations can be agents for profoundly positive change in the world by championing MAPS. Here’s how:

• Support Global Education for MAPS. While our all-volunteer team continues to inspire people worldwide to support MAPS’s historic movement to protect our shared home, our world no longer has time to depend on traditional methods of activism alone. The melting polar ice is an underexposed planetary emergency. is ready to roll out its GEM strategy to educate the world about the critical need to protect the Arctic Ocean, and the immediate, practical and comprehensive response found in MAPS. You can facilitate introductions between and individuals and organizations that can provide financial support to disseminate the educational messaging of MAPS at the speed required.

• Champion MAPS with world leaders. You can persuade world leaders to sign the MAPS Treaty on behalf of their nations. World leaders must recognize the preservation of life on Earth as their ultimate responsibility, and the urgency of signing the Treaty immediately so that the people of the world have a sustainable future.

Our world needs a sanctuary. Together, we can create the largest one in history, transforming the Earth’s smallest and most vulnerable ocean into our greatest strength.

Please, join us in making the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary a reality, for the good of all, for generations to come.  


CONTACT: Vandana Erin Ryder, General Counsel,,