Since May 2019, Mark Marissink chairs the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF). He is the deputy director at the department for Environmental Analysis at the Swedish Environment Protection Agency and has been involved in the work of CAFF for several years. Learn more about Mark Marissink’s background and his ambitions as the Working Group’s new Chair.


Could you tell us something about your background and how you became Chair of CAFF?

I am a biologist by training and have worked for the Swedish Environment Protection Agency for several years. I joined CAFF as the Swedish representative in 2010 and remained in that position until 2017. When it now became Sweden's turn to chair CAFF, the choice quite naturally fell on me because I had the appropriate experience. So, I’m very happy to be here now as the new CAFF Chair.

Can you share a memorable Arctic experience with us?

There are many moments that I would like to share. One of the most memorable ones happened off the east coast of Svalbard. It was spring and we were on an excursion with snow scooters on the sea ice, when all of a sudden here was a polar bear behind an ice wall. She rose to her feet and we saw that she had two small cubs. They were way too close to us. Fortunately, she did not charge, she just started walking away from us, very slowly, very calmly and we saw her disappear in the distance. That was such a memorable experience.

What inspires you about CAFF’s work?

CAFF’s work is about biodiversity in the Arctic, which is quite unique and inspirational. It’s also about livelihoods for the people who live there. As Arctic countries we have a responsibility for this unique biodiversity and it’s an honor to work for its conservation and sustainable use.

What are your ambitions as new CAFF Chair?

I come in at the final phase of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment Working Plan and one of my ambitions is to bring this to a good end. We need to take stock of what we have done on the recommendations from the assessment over the past eight years, what has happened since, and what the next steps should be. So, we are not initiating a lot of new projects. Rather we will deliver on the projects we have started and get some good results out of them.

What are some of the CAFF projects we should keep an eye on over the next two years?

One project that resonates with a lot of people and in which we also engage with observer countries, is the Arctic Migratory Birds’ Initiative. We are trying to protect the birds that migrate from the Arctic all over the world, which includes working on places that are very far from the Arctic. For instance, we are conserving habitats in Guinea-Bissau in Africa. So, it’s a far-reaching project.


View the full interview with Mark Marissink on the Arctic Council Vimeo channel.