Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


In the past two decades, there has been a rise in the number of multilateral regional agreements for marine environmental protection. A large proportion of these regional agreements are the result of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme. While there are thirteen regional seas under the Programme, the Arctic Ocean is not, and never was, one of them. In describing concerns regarding the Arctic environment and approaches to handle them, a number of commentators have proposed the application of UNEP Regional Seas Programme approach to the Arctic region. However, despite an attempt from the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and the Canadian government in 1988, an Arctic action plan developed under the guidance of UNEP still does not exist. This fact does not mean that the regional approach to environmental protection for the Arctic has been abandoned. The primary purpose of this paper is to compare the Arctic Environmental Strategy to the UNEP Regional Seas Programme, the predominant approach to regional marine environmental protection and management. The secondary purpose of the paper is to present an assessment and validation of the Regional Seas Programme approach. A tertiary purpose is to determine what lessons the AEPS teaches for the Regional Seas Programme, in particular, and for ocean management in general. After setting the regional background, the paper introduces the UNEP Regional Seas Programme and describes the approach used in the Programme. The paper proceeds with a description of the process and the approach by which the Arctic nations created the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. The paper concludes with comments on the role of the Arctic approach in the application and evolution of regional seas and ocean management.