Although many people still view the Arctic as little affected by human activity, the region has been the home of Man for thousands of years and its wildlife and ecology have been changed in many ways in the last four hundred years as a result particularly of the commercial and technical activities of western industrial nations. Three forces are, however, now bringing more and more attention to the use and conservation of arctic lands and seas: (a) arctic petroleum exploration and development, which is becoming increasingly extensive offshore in Alaska, Canada, and Norway; (2) The Law of the Sea Convention, which is leading to the division of the formerly open Arctic into large spheres of national jurisdiction through the declaration of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ); and (3) the World Conservation Strategy, which is providing the conceptual basis for the international cooperation and comprehensive management that is clearly needed to introduce sustainable development in the Arctic.
It is suggested that one promising means of planning and implementing balanced use and conservation in the waters and adjacent lands of the Arctic is through the UNEP Regional Seas Programme. This institutional arrangement is already being used in similar resource-management circumstances in eleven other regions of the world. The Regional Seas Programme is action-oriented and includes four basic elements: (1) promotion of international and regional conventions, guidelines, and activities; (2) assessment of marine pollution and related effects; (3) coordination in protection, development, and management; and (4) support through training, education, and other means.