Little scientific data exists on the potential impacts a major oil spill could have on sensitive Arctic habitat and the wild animals that live there, including:
- Polar bears, who depend on the water and ice to hunt
- Numerous species of seals, including ringed, spotted and bearded seals
- Thousands of whales, including belugas and endangered humpback and fin whales
- Millions of waterfowl and shorebirds, such as the King Eider and Ivory Gull
What we know is the Arctic is a remote and harsh environment, making oil drilling especially dangerous. This is because:
- Oil companies lack effective technology for recovering spilled oil in icy Arctic waters.
- Arctic storms could make it impossible for clean-up crews to reach spill sites quickly.
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A well blowout at the end of the drilling season — when sea ice is forming — could be a catastrophe. It could gush oil for months under the ice, ruining crucial habitat for fish, whales and polar bears and devastating the cultures of Alaska Native coastal communities.
A well blowout at the end of the drilling season — when sea ice is forming — could be a catastrophe.
At Wilderness we’re working to prevent offshore drilling in these waters until more scientific data can be gathered, and effective oil spill-response technology developed. This is important work because the oil industry keeps pushing to drill for oil in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean.
By working with the federal government to identify the threats that oil drilling has to the rich ocean and coastline environment, we’re helping ensure that these pristine waters do not become fouled with oil.
See also: Work we are doing in the Arctic Ocean