A chance to get it right
The Arctic is home to the Inuit, who have lived there for thousands of years, and to remarkable species – like polar bears and narwhal – many of which live nowhere else on the planet.
The Canadian Arctic is a special place for conservation. Where else in the world do we have the same opportunity to safeguard a place that is still, in many ways, pristine, with species living in ecosystems barely touched by human activities?
Here, we have a chance to learn from past experiences and get things right from the start with smart long-term planning based on scientific and traditional knowledge. There are few places in the world where we still have the same opportunity.
And now is the time to begin. We know that the Arctic is changing at a record pace, one unseen in previous generations. It is warming at twice the average global rate, causing sea ice – the foundation of Arctic life – to melt, changing the face and reality of the region. These changes are affecting wildlife and communities, offering both challenges and opportunities.
Opportunities and challengesThe opportunities are important for northern communities in need of economic growth and jobs. The melting Arctic offers new prospects for development, particularly in mining and oil and gas development. Accompanying any new industry will be increased shipping, as supplies and resources are moved in and out of the Arctic, and possibly greater cross-Arctic travel as shipping companies try new, shorter routes.
The challenges are clear: the rapid pace of warming puts Arctic wildlife at risk, as animals struggle to adapt to new terrain, changing food availability, and new predators and competitors. And while economic development is much needed in the region, it is not without risks, including oil and contaminant spills, increased noise, disruption from new traffic, and the introduction of invasive species. These changes can also put the wellbeing of communities – many of which rely on these species as a traditional food source and part of their culture, and on the sea ice as an important means of transportation – at risk.
Fortunately, it’s not an ‘either/or’ choice – both development and conservation agendas can be pursued at the same time, in balance. And, indeed, they must be, as conserving important ecosystems is fundamental to a creating a healthy long-term economic and environmental future for the region.
Director, Arctic Program
Last Ice Area
Oil and gas
What WWF is doing
- Helping create the scientific knowledge and working with local communities to inform management of critical ecosystems, like the Last Ice Area and Beaufort Sea
- Helping improve data on important species, including the polar bear, narwhal, and Greenland shark
- Supporting research and working with regulators, Inuit organizations and industry to shape development in the Arctic, particularly oil and gas and shipping
- Playing a role in international Arctic governance