Campaign Update: Pushing to Ban Heavy Fuel Oil in the Arctic — A Week in Photos

Dj Tyson, Arctic Program Associate
Date: March 20, 2020
A polar bear stands outside the International Maritime Organization with a vital message - “IMO: PROTECT THE ARCTIC – BAN DIRTY FUELS!”

In February, our Arctic team returned to London to push for a ban on heavy fuel oil. Pacific Environment and Indigenous and international allies urged the United Nations to listen to science and respect the wishes of local communities to ban this dirtiest of all fossil fuels from the Arctic.

The ban will directly protect Arctic seas, and wildlife and communities that depend on a healthy marine environment, from particularly dangerous oil spills.

This campaign is part of our long-term goal to push the shipping sector to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy sources as quickly as possible.

I documented this weeklong meeting of shipping regulators and I want to share with you some of my favorite images, ranging from dramatic protests to Indigenous advocacy and so much more.


Dead polar bears lie outside the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, where the weeklong meeting took place. Campaigners from activist groups Extinction Rebellion and Ecohustler asked folks entering the building on the first day, “Do you know what killed these polar bears?” The correct answer: dirty and dangerous heavy fuel oil.
After the first day, the polar bear moved across the street, so the delegates could see him from the windows. At night, he was ringed by candles, standing in solemn vigil for his home.
A meeting view. On the screen, you can see Mellisa Johnson Heflin from Bering Sea Elders Group in Alaska. She’s introducing a paper that describes broad Indigenous support for the heavy fuel oil ban. You can read that paper here.
Another image of Mellisa, showing her presenting the paper as a participant in Pacific Environment’s delegation.
Lisa Koperqualuk, Vice President of International Affairs at Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada (left) presents a carving of an Inuit hunter to the IMO Secretary-General, Kitack Lim (center). The halls of the IMO are lined with similar gifts from many countries, but this is the first gift from an Indigenous organization.
A close-up of the carving presented to the IMO Secretary-General from Inuit Circumpolar Council –Canada, which is the first Indigenous group to apply for official consultative status at the IMO.
Pacific Environment hosted a panel that shared community perspectives on the effects of international shipping. Pacific Environment’s Jim Gamble was joined by Verner Wilson (Friends of the Earth and Curyung Tribe, Dillingham, Alaska) and Lisa Koperqualuk (Vice President of International Affairs at Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada).
Jim Gamble describes to IMO delegates the extensive damage caused by a heavy fuel oil spill by the Selendang Ayu in 2004 in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. A heavy fuel oil spill would be much harder to contain in the remote and icy north.
Pacific Environment helped organized a Spanish-language breakfast event on the impacts of heavy fuel oil and black carbon, both climate-change accelerators. Meteorologist Dr. Mar Gómez shows flood risks in Latin America resulting from Arctic ice melt.
Most events at IMO are conducted in English, so events held in Spanish are always well attended. Here, Dr. Pablo Rodas-Martini describes the “dangerous cocktail” of heavy fuel oil and black carbon and its effects on Arctic melting and Latin America.
Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska hosted an evening reception to introduce the IMO and country delegations to Inuit Culture.
Many decisions made at IMO directly affect Inuit communities. Here, throat singers Cynthia Pitsiulak (left) and Annie Aningmiuq (right) perform a song for IMO delegates.
At the opening of the evening reception, Lisa Koperqualuk announced her organization’s intention to apply for consultative status. If approved, Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada would be the first Indigenous organization to achieve this important status at the IMO.
This little narwhal decorated a few hundred lapels. Thanks to Alaska artist Jessi Thornton for the great design!
Here’s the narwhal on the Arctic Summit News, a two-page daily publication we and our allies passed out to delegates. It offered a thoughtful but tongue-in-cheek reaction to the week’s proceedings.