Oceans North U.S. works with Arctic peoples, scientists, conservationists and others to develop lasting conservation solutions so that future generations will be able to experience the Arctic.
The Arctic has always captured the public’s imagination. This vast region is shaped by seasonal extremes. Months of winter darkness with sub-zero temperatures give way to the midnight sun and a fleeting summer when a burst of biological productivity supports flourishing populations of fish and wildlife.
Arctic waters sustain more than 150 species of fish, including ecologically important populations of Arctic cod, Pacific herring, Pacific sand lance, Arctic flounder, and several types of cisco and whitefish. These fish, along with crabs, mollusks and krill, provide the foundation of the Arctic marine food web, which supports globally significant populations of polar bears, walruses, ice seals and bowhead, beluga and gray whales, along with vast numbers of seabirds and other migratory waterfowl.
Walrus in the Bering Sea
© B. Christman, NOAA
Climate change and improperly regulated industrial development jeopardize the future of the Arctic marine environment. The rapid melting of pack ice is fundamentally altering natural systems and permitting new access for commercial fishing, offshore oil and gas development and industrial shipping. To prevent irreparable damage to the health of these unique ecosystems, precautionary, science-based principles must be in place before industrial development in the Arctic proceeds.
Arctic Fishery Management Plan: In August 2009, the Obama administration approved this plan closing nearly the entire U.S. Arctic Ocean to commercial fishing until scientific research demonstrates that such activities will not harm the fragile ecosystem or local communities. The Alaska fishing industry, community leaders and conservation groups support the moratorium.
Northstar, offshore drill rig in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska
© Joel Bennett
How to Address U.S. Arctic Science Needs
The Pew Charitable Trusts and Ocean Conservancy recently released a white paper in which 14 independent Arctic marine scientists reviewed and reinforced the recommendations of a USGS Arctic science gap analysis. The white paper also recommends concrete steps the Obama administration should take to address science gaps and inform conservation and development decisions in America’s Arctic Ocean.
VIDEO: Don't Put America's Arctic Ocean at Risk
The oil industry recently submitted exploration plans to drill up to 10 wells over the next two summers in the U.S. Arctic Ocean for review by the Department of the Interior. As the video below shows, to allow drilling now would put this extraordinary ecosystem—and vibrant communities that have practiced a traditional way of life for thousands of years—at risk.
Arctic Oil Spill Report
Oil Spill Prevention and Response in the U.S. Arctic Ocean: Unexamined Risks, Unacceptable Consequences is the most comprehensive analysis yet on challenges to preventing and containing spills along the nation’s northernmost coast. Find details, downloads, and video >