President Obama withdrew areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas from oil and gas leasing. This action is a good start towards protecting subsistence resources and access, and important ecological areas in both seas.
“Audubon appreciates this first step toward protecting the Arctic Ocean from the impacts of oil and gas development. We have more to do to ensure protection for the Arctic Ocean’s astonishing birds and wildlife and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with the Administration to get it done.” said Jim Adams, Policy Director for Audubon Alaska.
There are 10 globally-significant Important Bird Areas in the Arctic Ocean and along its shoreline in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea lease areas. The Chukchi and Beaufort seas are also home to polar bears, walrus, seals and several species of whales. The areas the Administration chose to withdraw are important for subsistence, and provide key habitat for birds and wildlife. A number of other very important areas in the Arctic Ocean remain open to drilling. This action protects a portion of Audubon's recommended conservation area around Hanna Shoal, where sea ice lingers longer than in other places, providing important habitat for ringed, bearded , and ribbon seals and especially for walrus. Common and Steller's Eiders migration through here, and this is one of the only documented areas in U.S. waters where Ivory Gulls congregate.
“Ultimately, we don’t believe drilling anywhere in the Arctic Ocean can be done safely,” said Jim Adams, “the risk of a spill is high and the chances of an effective clean-up are flat out zero. The best way to protect this spectacular place is not to drill at all.”