Protecting Life in the Arctic

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Climate change is rapidly melting the arctic's sea ice 

Pew's Arctic projects work to protect the Arctic Ocean and its marine life from rapid industrialization made possible by the warming climate and the melting ice cap. We work in the US, in Canada, in Greenland and in the shared International waters of the Arctic.

Alaska is home to America’s Arctic, one of the most beautiful, fragile, remote, and extreme places on earth. In this land of ice and snow, indigenous communities have thrived for thousands of years by living a traditional way of life sustained by the region’s natural bounty. Here, one of the world’s last relatively untouched marine ecosystems provides habitat for iconic species such as polar bears, walrus, ice seals and bowhead whales.

Climate change is warming the Arctic at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, causing a rapid melting of the ice pack and fundamentally altering this region’s ecosystems. At the same time, the loss of sea ice is opening this vibrant place to new industrial development, from oil and gas drilling to commercial fishing and shipping. (Watch Sylvia Earle, renowned ocean explorer, speak about our changing oceans and the Arctic.)

Before such development is allowed to proceed, a comprehensive science-based plan must be put in place to prevent irreparable damage to the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. In the next decade, the nation faces a historic choice: whether to allow unchecked exploitation of the U.S. Arctic Ocean or to ensure that scientific research and adequate consultation with indigenous peoples guide a path to sustainable development.

In the southeast Bering Sea, the world-class commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay must be protected from oil and gas development that could damage the nation’s “fish basket.” This region produces more than 40 percent of the country’s seafood and is home to the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon run.

The Protecting Life in the Arctic project focuses on using science to understand and reduce potential risks to the Arctic from climate change and industrial development, including oil and gas activities, commercial fishing and industrial shipping. The program works closely with scientists, Alaska Natives, the U.S. government, local communities and conservation groups to achieve key policy goals for protecting the Arctic ecosystem.

Our Work

All

  • Consensus to protect the central Arctic Ocean from unregulated fisheries

    Senior officials of the five coastal States surrounding the central Arctic Ocean – Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States of America – met on 24-26 February 2014 in Nuuk, Greenland. Read More

  • Arctic Communities

    Indigenous peoples make up the vast majority of the population in the Canadian Arctic. Most of them are Inuit and Inuvialuit, related to the Iñupiat and Yupik in Alaska and Russia and the Kalallit of Greenland. Over 36,000 Inuit and Inuvialuit live in Inuit territories in Canada known collectively as Inuit Nunangut, the Inuktitut phrase for land, water and ice. Other indigenous peoples in... Read More

  • Nunavut Marine Council

    Nunavut dominates the top of the globe in area and access to the Arctic Ocean. Its shores comprise 35% of all Arctic coastline – three times more than Russia’s, ten times more than Norway’s, and 20 times more than Alaska’s. Nunavut’s Arctic Archipelago contains 97,000 islands – including three of the world's ten largest – and at its northern tip lies only... Read More

  • Beaufort Sea

    A hotspot of biological productivity, the Canadian Beaufort sprawls over 833,000 square kilometres (322,000 square miles) off the coasts of the Northwest Territories and Yukon. Nutrients from the Pacific Ocean mix over a shallow continental shelf with the Mackenzie River plume, the most sediment-rich waterway in the Arctic. Large open-water areas in sea ice called polynyas – such as the one at... Read More

  • Baffin Bay Northern Solution

    Baffin Bay and Davis Strait are two large basins between Nunavut’s Baffin Island and Greenland that connect the Arctic Ocean with the Atlantic. Stretching over 1.1 million square kilometres (425,000 square miles), they make up an area that is more than four times bigger than the Great Lakes combined. The region includes  the North Water Polynya, one of the Arctic’s largest... Read More

News

Research & Analysis

  • Arctic Communities

    Indigenous peoples make up the vast majority of the population in the Canadian Arctic. Most of them are Inuit and Inuvialuit, related to the Iñupiat and Yupik in Alaska and Russia and the Kalallit of Greenland. Over 36,000 Inuit and Inuvialuit live in Inuit territories in Canada known collectively as Inuit Nunangut, the Inuktitut phrase for land, water and ice. Other indigenous peoples in... Read More

  • Nunavut Marine Council

    Nunavut dominates the top of the globe in area and access to the Arctic Ocean. Its shores comprise 35% of all Arctic coastline – three times more than Russia’s, ten times more than Norway’s, and 20 times more than Alaska’s. Nunavut’s Arctic Archipelago contains 97,000 islands – including three of the world's ten largest – and at its northern tip lies only... Read More

  • Beaufort Sea

    A hotspot of biological productivity, the Canadian Beaufort sprawls over 833,000 square kilometres (322,000 square miles) off the coasts of the Northwest Territories and Yukon. Nutrients from the Pacific Ocean mix over a shallow continental shelf with the Mackenzie River plume, the most sediment-rich waterway in the Arctic. Large open-water areas in sea ice called polynyas – such as the one at... Read More

  • Baffin Bay Northern Solution

    Baffin Bay and Davis Strait are two large basins between Nunavut’s Baffin Island and Greenland that connect the Arctic Ocean with the Atlantic. Stretching over 1.1 million square kilometres (425,000 square miles), they make up an area that is more than four times bigger than the Great Lakes combined. The region includes  the North Water Polynya, one of the Arctic’s largest... Read More

  • The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Four Years Later

    On April 20, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and setting into motion the largest oil spill in the nation's history.  Read More

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