ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The International Maritime Organization has approved two-way shipping routes into the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait.

The IMO accepted routes proposed by the United States and Russia for safe navigation between Alaska and Russia’s Chukotskiy Peninsula.

The routes create lanes for northbound and southbound traffic and take effect Dec. 1.

The designation was hailed by environmental groups that pushed for safe shipping measures.

They say there are few resources on hand to respond to a spill that could cause serious damage to important marine resources such as bowhead and beluga whales, Pacific walruses, ice seals, spectacled eiders and other seabirds.

Eleanor Huffines (HUF-eyens) of Pew Charitable Trusts says the routes will reduce the risk of ships running aground, colliding, or interfering directly with subsistence hunting.

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