Inuit Circumpolar Council vice-chair Lisa Qiluqqi Koperqualuk is applauding the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples and committing to reduce underwater noise levels.
Following a meeting in London, England, in late January, the IMO affirmed articles 29, 41, 42 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These passages emphasize the importance of environmental protection, fishing and harvesting use. They were included in the action plan created to reduce underwater noise caused by shipping.
The global maritime community also re-affirmed the Inuit Nunaat Guidelines.
“We are encouraged by the progress made last week… our goal of seeing Indigenous knowledge utilized throughout the action plan and ultimately in the planning, operations and end goal of reducing noise was successful,” Koperqualuk stated.
Studies have shown that very little policy has been undertaken to reduce noise while the original voluntary 2014 underwater noise guidelines were in place. In 2021, an Arctic Council report ascertained that the amount of underwater noise in the Arctic Ocean doubled in six years between 2013-2019 because of shipping traffic. Globally, it has taken 30 to 40 years to reach the same rate of increase. The study also found that underwater noise was high in regions of the Arctic where shipping marine mammals coexist, including species such as narwhal, bowhead and beluga whales, seals and walrus.
“Being part of maritime policy-making holds immense significance for us, given our inherently interconnected relationship with the marine environment, which we depend on for our hunting and food security and overall health and well-being,” said Sara Olsvig, international ICC chair.