The Beaufort and Chukchi seas off northern Alaska make up America’s portion of the Arctic Ocean, a spectacular and unique marine ecosystem in the United States. Bowhead whales, walrus, ice seals, polar bears, and millions of migratory birds thrive here. While these Arctic marine mammals are uniquely adapted to living on and around sea ice, their world is changing rapidly.
Temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, leading to a dramatic decline in the extent of sea ice. These changes are opening the door to unprecedented development, including oil and gas exploration and shipping traffic.
Marine mammals, already struggling to adapt and survive, are facing additional threats from air and water pollution, noise, and ship strikes. Even a moderate oil spill could undermine fragile food webs and ruin vital habitat.
For offshore Arctic drilling to be done responsibly, Pew is calling for the establishment of the strictest safety and response standards that have been tested in Arctic conditions. Moreover, commercial activities should be carefully targeted rather than done large-scale and widespread.
Ecologically important areas critical for the survival of emblematic Arctic mammals and migratory birds must be off limits to oil and gas activities.
Photo Gallery: What's at Risk