The search for oil is pushing into ever more remote corners of the world – including the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Diminishing sea ice is increasing access to Arctic waters, potentially enabling industrial activities such as shipping and oil and gas development. But industrial development in U.S. Arctic waters brings a new set of challenges and a larger set of risks than in other oceans. In the Arctic, people and machinery will be working in some of the most remote and harshest conditions on the planet.
Oil exploration and development brings with it the ever-present risk of an oil spill in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. High winds, coupled with human error present significant risks to the sensitive Arctic marine environment.
Oil and ice don’t mix. Oil spilled in broken sea ice is likely to pool in biologically rich ice leads and openings, negatively affecting marine life throughout the food chain.
There is currently no technology that has been proven to clean up an oil spill in Arctic Ocean conditions.
Certain weather conditions (e.g. high wind, fog, high waves) make oil spill cleanup impossible.
There is a lack of baseline knowledge about the Arctic Ocean and how offshore oil drilling could affect an ecosystem already stressed by climate change. Oceans North recommends that the following assessments be conducted in order to better prevent and respond to an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.