© Kevin Schafer / WWF

WWF statement on new shipping guidelines to protect the Bering Strait region

25 May 2018

Russia United States Shipping Oil and gas Beaufort, Bering & Chukchi Seas Ocean

LONDON, England – The International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted new voluntary measures this week aimed at protecting the Bering Strait and Sea from potentially devastating oil spills due to shipping accidents. Such disasters can threaten local subsistence communities and significantly impact sensitive wildlife habitat and migration routes.

The proposals call for ships to stay in recommended routes through US and Russian waters to avoid accidents, and to altogether avoid important ocean areas near Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island, King Island and Nunivak Island.

In response to these voluntary measures, Elena Agarkova, senior program officer for shipping in the US Arctic Program, says: “As climate change makes Arctic waters accessible for new industrial activity, increased shipping traffic in the Bering region creates an urgent need for regulations to stay one step ahead of this growth. Today’s measures are a first step toward protecting these biologically diverse and culturally important waters.

Dr. Simon Walmsley, WWF’s senior advisor, Arctic sustainable development, says: “As Arctic coastal states, the US and Russia share a responsibility to protect the ocean, wildlife and local communities from the risks that come with shipping in the Bering Strait. WWF urges continued collaboration in this area to ensure that additional spatial designations and other regulatory measures are put in place to reduce the risks for the region.”


For more information contact:

Mike Crispino
Director, Communications, Oceans
Mobile: +1 240-444-3319

Leanne Clare
Sr. Manager Communications, Arctic Programme
Mobile: +1 613-314-9210