What WWF is Doing | WWF-Canada
	© Staffan Widstrand / WWF

What WWF Is Doing

Planning for a healthy Arctic future

WWF’s goal for the Arctic is clear: to ensure that this region - including wildlife, and the people who depend on healthy wildlife populations - is able to adapt to a changing climate.

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.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Sindre Kinnerød
Polar bear road sign, Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen (Svalbard) arctic archipelago, Norway.
© WWF-Canon / Sindre Kinnerød
To help Arctic ecosystems stay in balance, WWF-Canada is planning for an Arctic future that conserves wildlife while respecting the practices and traditions of local communities, and promoting the responsible development of Arctic resources. We do this through scientific research, by working with communities, industry, Indigenous groups and government, by empowering young people to speak out for the Arctic, and by furthering national and international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow rapid climate change.
 / ©: Jon Aars / Norwegian Polar Institute  / WWF-Canon
Norwegian Polar Institute researcher Magnus Andersen examining the head of a male adult polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway.
© Jon Aars / Norwegian Polar Institute / WWF-Canon

Building knowledge

Supporting 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 policy

By 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 communities

Our 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.
 / ©: Monte HUMMEL / WWF-Canada
A young sled dog rests on a small komatik, a traditional Inuit sled, built for training dogs to pull the full-size versions, Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada.
© Monte HUMMEL / WWF-Canada
At the same time, communities are eager to take advantage of new and much needed economic opportunities as the Arctic opens to increased shipping and development. Finding the right balance between preserving traditions and the ecosystem that has supported them for generations and exploring these new opportunities is critical.

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.
 / ©: Zoe Caron / WWF-Canada
Caribou antlers sit atop a rocky platform, Douglas Harbour, Nunavut, Canada.
Zoe Caron / WWF-Canada

Priority projects

Lancaster Sound

	© WWF
An Arctic region of rich biodiversity and abundant marine life that must be protected from oil and gas exploration. 

The last ice area

	© Lee NARRAWAY / WWF-Canada
Only one region in the Arctic is expected to retain its summer sea ice beyond 2050.

Read more


	© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
Canada is home to some of the world’s most iconic Arctic species.

Read more

Arctic shipping

	© Jim Leape / WWF
As the ice melts, new shipping routes are opening up – and it’s having an impact.

Read more

Oil and gas

	© National Geographic Stock / James P. Blair / WWF
As oil and gas development increases, so does the environmental risk.

Read more

Tracking polar bears

	© Steve Morello / WWF
From the field notes:
“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

	© © Kevin Schafer / WWF
Explore the risk of oil spills in the Beaufort Sea at arcticspills.wwf.ca.

WWF across the Arctic

The Arctic crosses the borders of many nations – and so does WWF’s work.

Learn more about WWF’s Global Arctic Program (links to WWF International).

Introducing students to the magic of the Arctic

WWF-Canada works closely with Students on Ice, a program that brings together students from around the world to embark on educational expeditions through the Arctic. The program aims to engage and inform young people on the issues facing the Arctic, and inspire the next generation of polar scientists, and environmental and social leaders.

Learn about Students on Ice.