Between 6 - 8 February 2018, the CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna) Board Meeting, under the chairmanship of the USA, was held in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska. For CAFF-IASC fellows Erica Oberndorfer and Thomas Lameris, this was their first activity as Fellows, and their first opportunity to become familiar with CAFF.

The most important outcomes and announcements of the meeting included:

Approval of CBMP Strategy 2018 – 2021.
The Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) is an international network of partners working together to better detect, communicate and respond to threats to Arctic biodiversity. The ecosystem-based State of the Arctic Reports will be the guiding documents that direct this cornerstone monitoring program. The State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report (SAMBR) was released last year, and development of reports on Freshwater, Coastal and Terrestrial systems is well underway. The CBMP Strategy 2018-2021 was approved at the CAFF Board meeting after successful collaborative work from all parties, and will serve as an overall guidance document for the CBMP.

Updates on the Arctic Youth Ambassadors Program.
As chair of CAFF 2017 - 2019, the US highlighted news from their Arctic Youth Ambassadors Program. This cohort of youth ambassadors are working with CAFF and connecting their communities to biodiversity initiatives throughout the Arctic. In this way, they are engaging with Arctic partners and leaders around the world to share their ideas on what sustainability could look like in the Arctic for culture, communities and environment. Multiple states and permanent participants responded enthusiastically to the call of the US to engage in this program by joining the steering committee, and new opportunities for youth exchange are in progress. The Arctic Youth Summit will be held prior to the Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Finland, October 2018.

Salmon People of Arctic Rivers: USFWS has funded phase 1 of project
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has funded phase 1 of the Salmon People of Arctic Rivers project. This project, led by Chief Mickey Stickman of the Arctic Athabaskan Council, aims to find the reason behind recent changes in the health of salmon populations, a concern shared by Indigenous peoples across the Arctic. The project will bring together Indigenous communities from the Yukon, Tena and Kamchatka rivers to share knowledge and concerns, and discuss Indigenous perspectives on ecosystem health and freshwater systems.

Arctic Biodiversity Congress October 2018
CAFF and Finland’s Ministry of the Environment are organising the 2nd Arctic Biodiversity Congress in October 2018 in Rovaniemi, Finland. The goal of the conference is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of Arctic biodiversity by bringing together diverse partners to discuss a range of topics, including climate change, biodiversity monitoring, traditional knowledge and sustainable development.

Appeals for better inclusion of Indigenous scientists in biodiversity research and communication
In his presentation on the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, Svein Mathiesen of the Association of World Reindeer Herders addressed the lack of Indigenous scientists in biodiversity research and communication. He urged member states and observers to reach out to Indigenous scientists who are actively researching and communicating the importance of biodiversity to culture and livelihood in the Arctic. He reminded attendees that threats to biodiversity affect not only ecosystems, but the people who are part of them, too. Carolina Behe (Inuit Circumpolar Council) also made a separate appeal to go beyond explaining the relevance of reports and priority actions to communities, and start making these documents relevant by having mechanisms that include Indigenous peoples from the beginning.

Other noteworthy discussed items included:

  • Arctic Invasive Alien Species (ARIAS): Strategy and Action Plan.
  • Arctic biodiversity principles and mainstreaming biodiversity
  • Collaboration between CAFF and UNEP for Arctic protected areas.