Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Governing Arctic Seals: A Longitudinal Analysis of News and Policy Discourse

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Abstract:  Arctic states, regional and local authorities, NGOs, and Indigenous communities have debated how Arctic seals should be governed for more than a century. This governance discourse covers a wide array of issues, from seal hunting and the sale of animal products to the impacts of pollution and climate change. This article examines the frames used by political entities to discuss the regional governance of Arctic seals in the North American Arctic from 1900–2020, a period defined by landmark agreements on seals. Informed by framing and agenda-setting theory, the article employs textual analysis of policy documents and newspaper articles. These serve as a source of information and space for policy advocacy and debate to study political entities’ discourse regarding the issues and policies that shape Arctic seal governance. The analysis focuses on English-language texts from regional and local newspapers and international newspapers of record. The article identifies four dominant frames, namely perceived threats to (a) economic revenue, (b) animal welfare, (c) Indigenous ways of life, and (d) threats emanating from the involvement of NGOs in Arctic regional governance. Each of these frames is associated with one or multiple political entities involved in the regional governance of seals. The article demonstrates how the dominance of these entities and the frames they employ varies over time and corresponds to several anthropogenic threats to seals, including commercial hunting, pollution, and climate change. The article concludes that tensions between local and regional entities and international and non-Arctic entities are reflective of broader Arctic regional governance dynamics.

Keywords:  agenda‐setting; Arctic governance; conservation; environmental policy; hunting; journalism; marine mammals; seals



© Charlotte Gehrke. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.