What WWF Is Doing
Planning for a healthy Arctic future
It’s not enough to deal with the consequences of climate change as they appear; we need to plan ahead. The reality is that the number of ice-free days in the Arctic Ocean is steadily increasing, and it’s changing things in the Arctic. Less ice means more land and ocean area is opening up to oil extraction, mining and other industrial development. More of the water is open to shipping and fishing. And wildlife are behaving in new ways, moving into new territories, and having increased contact with humans as a result of changing conditions that have upset their traditional migratory patterns, food sources, and habitats.
Building knowledgeSupporting scientific research is a critical part of WWF’s work in the Arctic. It is vitally important that we understand this place and the species that inhabit it, in order to be able to properly plan for its future. To that end, we participate in projects on a wide range of topics, from tracking polar bears, narwhals, and other marine mammals, to projecting the future distribution of sea ice, to mapping the potential impact of an oil spill on the Beaufort Sea. We’re also gathering and compiling key traditional knowledge from the Inuit to complement the research.
Guiding policyBy providing scientific expertise to decision-makers on important Arctic issues, WWF can help shape how the Arctic is managed. Here are a few examples of our governance work:
- We are the only environmental NGO to hold observer status on the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation among the Arctic States.
- We are members of the Beaufort Sea Partnership, a coalition of organizations working to ensure the sustainable use of the Beaufort Sea.
- We have contributed to International Maritime Organization discussions on developing a mandatory Polar Code for Arctic shipping.
- We have supported polar bear population surveys that evaluate the health and status of those populations and help determine how they are managed, including harvest quotas.
Partnering with northern communitiesOur work in the far north includes collaboration with northern communities - people who have inhabited the Arctic for thousands of years, and have a wealth of traditional knowledge to share, accumulated over generations. As the Arctic changes, much is at stake for these communities; dangerous weather and ice conditions, unpredictable wildlife patterns, and increased conflict with polar bears pose serious risks not only to their traditional way of life, but to their very lives.
We work with local communities as they make important decisions about how to manage and develop key areas of the Arctic, and collaborate on grassroots initiatives to keep people safe, and reduce the number of defensive kills of polar bears. For example, a new polar bear guard training course will help communities across Nunavut deal with bear encounters, and we are working to protect dog teams by installing electric fence enclosures and bear-resistant metal bins for food storage.
The last ice area
Oil and gas
Tracking polar bears
“She followed the coast into another large fjord in the north, the Woodfjorden. We have seen this summer movement behavior before, where bears walk long distances along the shoreline, often patrolling a certain stretch of coastline the entire summer.”
Learn about polar bears.
Oil Spills in the Arctic
WWF across the Arctic
Learn more about WWF’s Global Arctic Program (links to WWF International).
Introducing students to the magic of the Arctic
Learn about Students on Ice.