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WWF said that this is a major setback for polar environmental protection, arguing that, considering how quickly the polar environment is changing and how sensitive these areas are, these rules need to be developed sooner rather than later.

A delay in protecting these fragile seas is bad enough," says Dr. Simon Walmsley, Marine Manager for WWF International. "Of most concern is the attempt to altogether halt the development of rules to decrease the environmental impact from polar shipping."

Rapid warming in the Arctic particularly has led to the up of sea routes in the area. Both the Northern Sea Route (above Russia and Scandinavia) and the Northwest Passage (above Alaska and Canada) have seen substantial increases in shipping over the past few years. The Northern Sea route in particular is being targeted as a route for tanker and bulk traffic. Shipping through the Northern Sea Route increased by three times between 2010 and 2011.

"The rules that could be instituted by a polar code are essential for making this increased traffic safer and more environmentally responsible," says Lars Erik Mangset, Shipping and Climate Advisor at WWF Norway.

"These rules could limit emissions and discharges of pollutants to both the air and water, they could also help to limit climate change impacts, and reduce disturbance and strikes of marine mammals. The longer the Polar Regions are deprived of these protections, the greater the risk. It is unacceptable that these globally important areas are deprived of environmental protection and that commercial interests without a stake in the future of Polar Regions should override the development of environmental protection. "

WWF is calling on all states and commercial interests to work on developing the environmental chapter of the IMO Polar Code without delay to ensure the protection of these globally significant Polar Regions from harmful effects of shipping activities.

-ENDS-

Notes to editors:

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

For further information, please contact:

Jo Sargent, Senior Media Relations Manager, WWF-UK, Tel: 01483 412 375, Mob: 07867 697 519, Email: jsargent@wwf.org.uk

Dr. Simon Walmsley, Marine Manager WWF International: Cell: +44 79 20 02 33 18; Email: swalmsley@wwf.org.uk

Lars Erik Mangset, Advisor Shipping and Climate WWF Norway: Cell: +47 93 20 94 94; Email: lemangset@wwf.no

Web: www.panda.org/arctic
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