Life in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas

Be a part of the solution to help protect the Arctic.

There’s no doubt that the Arctic Ocean is unique and important—there is a lot at stake if we don’t work together to do all we can to protect this region.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. This rapid change is having profound impacts on residents of Arctic coastal communities, including Indigenous peoples whose subsistence practices depend on a healthy ocean.

Climate change is also melting sea ice that is crucial for many species of wildlife. Animals dependent on sea ice habitats—like walruses, polar bears, and certain species of seals—face great challenges as Arctic sea ice continues to decrease. Learn more about this special region of our wonderful world and how you can help to protect it.

Arctic Communities

Indigenous people are an integral part of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas ecosystem, which supports a subsistence way of life that stretches back for thousands of years. For countless generations, Iñupiat residents of Arctic communities have hunted and fished in the region’s rich waters and on the sea ice that forms each winter. This subsistence way of life is inextricably connected to the health of the marine ecosystem.

An Arctic "sun dog” frames a hunter near Point Hope, Alaska.
Photo By: Clark Mishler
Traditional bowhead whale hunters from Utqiagvik.
Photo By: Steven J. Kazlowski
Davis Sockpick prepares freshly caught salmon on the beach along the Chukchi Sea in Shishmaref, Alaska.
Photo By: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Inupiaq whalers drive a skiff through an open lead in the pack ice during spring whaling season in the Chukchi Sea.
Photo By: Steven J. Kazlowski
Edwardsen crew in Umiak going hunting for whales near Utqiagvik.
Photo By: Accent Alaska
Ringed seal hole on pack ice over the Chukchi Sea offshore from Utqiagvik.
Photo By: Steven J. Kazlowski
A resident stands on the beach where her house used to be on Shishmaref, a tiny island between Alaska and Siberia.
Photo By: Ashley Cooper Pics
Inupiaq whaler tows a sled of gear on the pack ice during spring whaling season in the Chukchi Sea.
Photo By: Steven J. Kazlowski
Inupiaq subsistence whalers haul in a bowhead whale catch.
Photo By: Steven J. Kazlowski

Arctic Wildlife

The Beaufort and Chukchi seas hosts an amazing abundance of marine life. Beluga whales congregate along the break between the continental shelf and deeper ocean waters. On the sea ice, ringed seals have dens in the snow where they raise their pups. Enormous bowhead whales—some of which can live to more than 200 years old—follow ancient pathways on their seasonal migration through these Arctic waters.

Help Protect the Arctic

As Arctic sea ice continues to melt, the Arctic Ocean is experiencing more and more ship traffic. Last year, we saw the second lowest sea ice minimum on record, meaning there was less ice in the Arctic last summer than during any other summer in recorded history except one. Less ice means more shipping and more risk to the Arctic ecosystem.

For hundreds of years, the sea ice in the Arctic has been a natural barrier to shipping routes across the top of the globe—protecting the wildlife that make the chilly waters of the Arctic their home. But as Arctic sea ice continues to melt, interest in shipping traffic is growing in remote Arctic waters—and the consequences could lead to disaster.

Increased ship traffic means increased risk of oil spills, vessel strikes, underwater noise, and both air and water pollution. Large vessels traveling through the Arctic also use heavy fuel oil—one of the most difficult fuels to clean up if spilled. An oil spill in the remote and fragile Arctic is a recipe for disaster.

You can help protect the Arctic!

Take action today by asking the U.S. Coast Guard to take steps to reduce the risks of increasing vessel traffic. We can’t wait—we need to put in place key measures to increase safety and reduce risk in the Arctic waters.

Aerial of spring breakup offshore from the Inupiat village of Point Hope, Alaska.
Photo By: Steven J. Kazlowski
Container barge off the coast of Utqiagvik.
Photo By: Design Pics Inc
The bow of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Beaufort Sea.
Photo By: Kathryn Hansen/NASA
Aurora borealis over the Beaufort Sea.
Photo By: Patrick Endres
Open water in-between ice, also called meltponds, is a strong indication of low ice cover.
Photo By: Katrin Iken/University of Alaska Fairbanks
Polar bear and vessel in Kaktovik, Alaska.
Photo By: Steven J. Kazlowski
The dramatic Arctic seascape spans the horizon.
Photo By: Caitlin Bailey/GFOE
An Arctic 'fogbow.'
Photo By: Caitlin Bailey/GFOE
Global warming-fueled storms eat away at the permafrost along the fragile Arctic coast.
Photo By: Accent
Makeshift sea defenses on the island of Shishmaref.
Photo By: Global Warming Images
Aerial view of container ship in the Arctic.
Photo By: A. Medvedkov
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