With less sea ice, there is burgeoning interest in shipping and other commercial activity throughout the Northwest Passage – the fabled route that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, via Canada’s convoluted Arctic archipelago – as well as the Northern Sea Route, which cuts across Russia’s northern seas. This trend has serious potential impacts for Arctic sea life.
We found that more than half (53%) of marine populations – including walruses and several types of whales – would be exposed to vessels in Arctic sea routes. This could lead to collisions, noise disturbance or changes in the animals’ behavior.
Arctic seas are home to a specialized group of marine mammals found nowhere else on Earth, including beluga and bowhead whales, narwhals, walruses, ringed and bearded seals and polar bears. These species are critical members of Arctic marine ecosystems, and provide traditional resources to Indigenous communities across the Arctic. According to ecologists, all of these animals are susceptible to sea ice loss. Summer sea ice cover has shrunk by over 30 percent since satellites started regular monitoring in 1979.
What you can do:
There is an opportunity now to plan for an increasingly accessible and rapidly changing Arctic, and to minimize risks to creatures that are found nowhere else on Earth. Join your local arctic conservation organisation and make regular donations to fund much needed studies for redirection and preservation attempts for these species.