Through the Foundation’s partnership with the world-class marine research faculty of the University of Exeter (UK), the Central Arctic Ocean Research Unit was established this year, with some of its leading marine researchers and policy-influencers engaged with the Research Unit’s vision.
The Research Unit’s primary focus is the Central Arctic Ocean, and its core research themes are aligned with the Foundation’s research objective and include:
Over the next eight years the ambition is to deliver a £30 million research effort that shifts the dial towards appropriate conservation action.
The need to begin such a major research programme is urgent for two reasons. Firstly, the sheer speed of sea-ice retreat has been such that hardly any research vessels have yet accessed the now seasonally-open waters, so the necessary information is in short supply; and secondly, because building the necessary body of research inevitably takes time – and the Foundation’s deadline for an international legal instrument is 2030.
Few people witness first-hand the wildlife and seascape of the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) which goes some way to explaining why it is the least disturbed, least explored, and at this critical juncture in its management unfortunately, the least understood marine environment in the world.
Awareness and understanding of the role and value of the ecosystem and ecosystem services of the CAO is of special relevance to the people and nations living closest to the CAO, especially the circumpolar Indigenous Peoples who are all too aware of their changing environment, as they are directly impacted by these services in the future.
However, the Foundation’s educational work will be engaging with increasingly international audiences around the world, not simply because what happens in the far North will have impacts for everyone, but because the CAO is comprised entirely of ‘international waters’ making it a body of water for which all nations have an equal stake in its future.
The Foundation’s advocacy work catalyses the processes within the ocean policy-making community to minimise surface-vessel activity and the associated impacts on the wildlife and ecosystem services in the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO). Its objective is to establish Marine Protected Area status for these international waters, with ‘Fully Protected’ status for the MPA providing the highest level of protection for the Central Arctic Ocean Marine Reserve
The majority of the envisaged protections for the wildlife can be secured by: upgrading the existing voluntary international no-commercial fishing agreement (managed by the Arctic Council); agreeing shipping lanes for an Offshore Northern Sea Route, and upgrading international shipping’s existing Polar Code (both managed by the UN International Maritime Organization); and agreeing an exclusion zone for mineral exploration and extraction in the CAO.
And then, with the High Seas Treaty’s new biodiversity component (Areas of Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, aka BBNJ) ratified, the aforementioned agreements can be brought together through an international legal instrument to establish the Central Arctic Ocean Marine Reserve - the largest marine reserve in the world.
No other conservation organisation exists focused exclusively on bringing about the protection of the biodiversity, ecosystem, and ecosystem services within the international waters around the North Pole.
Peter Hinchliffe is the former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the membership of which comprises national shipowner associations in Asia, Europe and the Americas, and whose member shipping companies operate over 80% of the world’s merchant tonnage.
Peter was awarded the prestigious International Maritime Prize (2019) by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the work of the IMO providing shipping industry leadership on a number of key regulatory developments and to the international maritime community as a whole. He was known within the shipping community for his belief in the sector’s need to improve its performance on environmental issues.
He enjoyed a first career as a submariner in the British Royal Navy, accumulating over 20 years at sea and five years in sea-going command.
Brendan Godley, one of our founding Trustees, is a conservation scientist with wide ranging interests in biodiversity conservation.
Previously director of the Centre for Ecology & Conservation at the University of Exeter, his own research largely focuses on marine vertebrates, notably, turtles, mammals, birds and sharks. In the last few years, he has spent ever more efforts on interdisciplinary approaches to conservation research, and the development of how best to present research to policy-makers.
Brendan has received awards including the ZSL Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize; he serves on numerous international and national committees and panels including as a Member of Council for Fauna & Flora International; and he serves on editorial boards of scientific journals including Endangered Species Research, Oryx, and Current Conservation.
David Williams (FRICS) is Executive Director of Savills and a board director of Savills (UK), having originally joined Savills in 1982. With a career focus on commercial property, since 1996 he has directly contributed to the evolution and growth of Savills and its European business. Savills is currently one of the world’s largest real estate firms with 40,000 employees in 600 offices across 70 countries.
David’s championing of the sector’s wider concern about the carbon footprint of both the built and rural environments led him to being instrumental in the development of Savills Earth, a unit which brings together the in-house expertise of more than 100 specialists to support and advise clients on their sustainability, energy and carbon strategies.
Meanwhile, David has been a significant supporter of Pen Hadow’s Arctic Ocean environmental research and more extreme endeavours for over 30 years. His lifelong active support of conservation has been land-based to date, but now his coastal upbringing has come to the fore through his role as Treasurer of 90 North Foundation.
Pen Hadow had an epiphany far out on the Arctic Ocean on his way to the North Pole in the Spring of 2003, an epiphany that led to the creation of the 90 North Foundation and its mission to protect the vulnerable biodiversity of the North Pole region, the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO).
Though Pen has spent most of his working life involved with the CAO including travel across its surface as an expedition guide, adventurer, field research leader and explorer, it took his solo trek from Canada to the North Pole back in 2003 (and more specifically all the swimming that proved necessary between the ice floes to reach the Pole), to fully reveal to him the scale and speed of the region’s loss of sea-ice habitat.
Soon after his return, he realised that an array of vessel-based activities were looking to exploit this newly-emerging open ocean, and would therefore be adding a host of new direct risks, further compromising the future of the region’s wildlife, ecosystem and ecosystem services.
Pen then led an international scientific research programme (2007-2012) studying sea-ice loss and its impact on species and geophysical processes. Over this period he began to feel that while gathering scientific evidence was essential to building the case for protection, if advocacy efforts did not begin immediately for protection, it may soon become too late, given the time needed to bring protective measures into effect.
And so, in Autumn 2017, Pen led the first vessels (two 50ft sailing boats) to enter the North Pole’s international waters without icebreakers, to demonstrate how commercial vessels would soon be able to navigate in these waters. Pen was subsequently invited to address a UN International Maritime Organization plenary session, and brief the 800 delegates representing the 174 member states about the predicament facing the wildlife of the Central Arctic Ocean. The resulting ovation, rarely given at such UN conferences, and the subsequent follow-up conversations, led Pen to realise there was an important job to be done, and he was in a position to provide some leadership.
Pen conceived that by making the planet’s northernmost waters as benign as possible through protective measures for the native species, and for those ‘refugee’ non-native species that will be seeking sanctuary in the North Pole region’s cooler waters, then we can slow down the processes leading to extinction, and sustain as many species as possible until global ocean and atmospheric conditions begin to improve. In effect, we would be creating a zoological Ark - an Arctic Ark - of the world’s coolest waters.
For all the reasons above, he founded the 90 North Foundation to catalyse the processes by which appropriate, legally-enforceable measures can be established for the protection of the biodiversity and ecosystem services within the unique and iconic ‘global commons’ that is the Central Arctic Ocean - for the global public benefit.
Dan Laffoley is a well-respected leading global expert on ocean conservation, and is currently Emeritus Marine Vice Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).
He chairs the Hope Spot Council, and is an Emeritus Board Member of Mission Blue. He is also a founding Non-Executive Board Member of the UK’s Office for Environmental Protection established in the wake of Brexit under the Environment Act. This new body was established in 2022 to hold UK public bodies to account on their environmental records, and to advise on the implementation of UK environmental law.
Prior to these appointments and up until 2022 Dan was Principal Advisor, Marine Science and Conservation for the IUCN’s Global Marine & Polar Programme, and held the global honorary role as Marine Vice Chair for the WCPA for 17 years, providing a world-wide lead on ocean protection. During his time as marine Vice Chair at the IUCN Dan instigated and led many initiatives that continue to have a lasting impact on global ocean protection and stimulated action by countries throughout the world.
For over 35 years Dan has been responsible for the creation of many national, European and global partnerships and alliances that underpin modern-day marine conservation. He served as chief scientific advisor for the marine environment in Natural England, for over a decade headed-up the marine conservation programme for English Nature and has also worked in a variety of other roles including special marine environmental advisor for the Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Strategy Unit, and for the European Commission.