Offshore Drilling: Arctic Ocean

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Offshore Drilling: Arctic Ocean
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Florian Schulz

Offshore drilling threatens this ocean ecosystem

The Arctic Ocean may seem remote and fragile, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s barren. Sea life thrives in this fragile marine ecosystem. From the tiniest of phytoplankton and fish to the massive gray whale and powerful polar bear, life abounds here. Yet this life is deeply vulnerable to the environmental threats of our day.

Climate change is already causing dramatic changes for sea ice and habitat in the Arctic Ocean. But to make matters worse, decision makers are considering proposals for oil and gas development. Drilling in this ocean could lead to habitat destruction and devastating oil spills—all in an Arctic environment that is slow to recover from damage.

Why this place matters

The Arctic Ocean is covered in ice most of the year, providing critical habitat to ice-dependent species such as polar bears, seals and walrus. The ocean is also a vital resource to indigenous communities in Alaska and Canada that have fished and hunted its waters for thousands of years.

Ice-dependent species
Many Arctic animals survive by using the sea ice as a hunting or fishing platform.
Alaska Native communities
Indigenous people rely on these waters to fish and hunt.
A 75% chance of a major oil spill
is predicted by the Interior Department if drilling occurs.

The threat

In 2016, the Obama administration withdrew virtually all of the Arctic Ocean from future oil and gas leasing. They recognized that the Arctic Ocean was too wild to drill. However, the ocean and the surrounding land are once again under threat.

The Trump administration has put together a new plan to lease waters off every American coast, including in the Arctic Ocean. This move is currently in litigation filed by environmental groups.

Oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean is expected to result in spills and endangerment to wildlife. Migration and birthing routines can be altered by exploration activities. And the ice and remoteness of Arctic waters would make cleaning up an oil spill exceptionally difficult.

What we're doing

  1. Working with decision makers

    We’re advocating through Congress and government agencies against oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Ocean.

  2. Fighting in court

    We’re fighting in court against the Trump administration’s decision to overturn the Obama administration’s withdrawal of the Arctic Ocean from offshore drilling.

  3. Applying corporate pressure

    We’re pressuring oil and gas companies not to develop in the Arctic Ocean.

What you can do
Tell lawmakers to support the Arctic Ocean. Sign up for WildAlerts to make your voice heard.