The historical presence of sea ice in the Arctic has made it almost impossible for oil and gas development to occur on the outer continental shelf. Now, the loss of seasonal sea ice increases the potential for expansion of offshore energy exploration activities such as seismic testing that bring more vessel traffic into the region. In the future, responsible offshore oil and gas development planned in partnership with indigenous communities in the Arctic could generate important economic benefits. But significant environmental risks including potential oil spills, noise pollution, and toxicological, physical and socioeconomic impacts need to be addressed first.
Research is needed about how to protect the Arctic’s unique marine ecosystem. Comprehensive planning and monitoring must be designed and implemented with the input of local communities. These plans must also guarantee response capabilities for oil spill clean-up in challenging Arctic conditions such as darkness, extreme weather, and broken ice.
See Social & Environmental Risks for a more detailed look at the possible contamination from pollutants in the Arctic as well as Oceans North U.S. for details on oil and gas development in the Alaskan Arctic.