1.         Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve (Russian Federation) (N 1023rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2004

Criteria  (ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1023/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1023/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

August 2017: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1023/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 28 January 2019, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1023/documents and which reports the following:

The World Heritage Centre requested further information regarding garbage removal, military facilities, and hydrocarbon exploration at a consultation meeting between the State Party and the Centre on 25 February 2019 and by written communication on 27 February and 15 March 2019. No additional information has been received at the time of writing of this report.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

It is welcomed that tourism remains limited with stable visitor numbers and that no construction of new tourism facilities is planned. It is further welcomed that monitoring activities continue, including on the Chukchi-Alaska polar bear population. While the Chukchi Sea polar bear subpopulation, an attribute of the property’s OUV, has been reproductive in recent years, it is important to note that the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission highlighted climate change as a critical threat not only to this attribute but also to the overall integrity of the property. It is therefore recommended that the Committee encourages the State Party to continue monitoring the polar bear subpopulation and to systematically assess and monitor the impacts of climate change on the property’s ecosystems. The progressive removal of garbage from Wrangel Island is appreciated. 330 tons have been removed in 2018, however, the State Party does not indicate how the objective to remove the 25,000 tons of scrap metal and 100,000 metal drums counted in the 2013-2017 Management Plan can be achieved within the five-year timeframe proposed by the State Party and requested by the Committee. The Management Plan for the period from 2017 onwards has not been submitted by the State Party. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to provide a clear timetable for the submission of the management plan and the cleanup of garbage and associated contaminants.

While no impacts from seismic prospecting on the licensed subsoil plots of Yuzhno-Chukotski, Severo-Vrangelski-1 and -2 are reported, it remains unclear on what basis such a conclusion was made. This is of serious concern since two of the three licenses intersect with the 36 nautical mile protective zone of Wrangel Island Strict Nature Reserve, coming as close as 12 nautical miles to the marine boundary of the property. It is recalled that the Committee requested that before any hydrocarbon drilling activities are undertaken, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is needed, meeting the International Finance Corporation (IFC) 2012 environmental performance standards and including a rigorous assessment of the impacts on the OUV of the property in line with IUCN’s Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.

The information by the State Party that ‘measures for the maintenance of security’ on Wrangel Island take place in a small and formerly used area which does not include any key habitats or important vegetation is noted. However, the requested detailed information on current and potential impacts of military facilities and associated activities on the property’s OUV has not been provided. It should be recalled that the 2017 mission concluded that inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger could be justified in the case of absence of proof that military presence within the property does not constitute an ascertained danger to its OUV.

While no update on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 mission has been submitted, it is emphasized that the mission recommended identifying the ecological carrying capacity of the property through a study on its terrestrial and marine components. This could allow the establishment of a maximum threshold for human activity and impact within which human presence for the various purposes could be managed flexibly, as long as all persons present on the island comply with the reserve’s rules of behavior. Recalling that the 2017 mission also recommended organizing a follow-up Reactive Monitoring mission in 2021 and given the continued absence of information requested by the Committee, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite such mission for 2021 to review the implementation of the 2017 mission recommendations and to obtain any missing information.

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.17

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.77, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Welcomes the reported monitoring activities and encourages the State Party to continue monitoring the conservation status of the polar bear subpopulation and to systematically assess and monitor the impacts of climate change on the property’s ecosystems;
  4. Also welcomes the fact that tourism remains limited and the confirmation that no further upgrades of tourism facilities are planned;
  5. Notes the progressive removal of garbage from Wrangel Island, but reiterates its request to the State Party to provide a timetabled programme to strengthen these efforts in order to complete the removal of garbage and clean-up of associated contaminants by 2023;
  6. Recalls that should any potential hydrocarbon drilling activities be considered in the Yuzhno-Chukotski, Severo-Vrangelski-1 and -2 blocks, a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in line with IUCN’s Advice Note on Environmental Assessment and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) 2012 performance standards, needs to be developed and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN, before any activities are permitted to proceed;
  7. Regretting the lack of information provided by the State Party concerning the implementation of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission recommendations and several requests by the World Heritage Committee in previous decisions, requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission for summer 2021, in order to obtain missing information and to review the implementation of the 2017 mission recommendations;
  8. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, a detailed progress report on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission, and by 1 December 2021, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session in 2022.