How we work
© US Coast Guard

Arctic Oil and Gas

The Arctic could hold some of the world's largest remaining untapped oil and gas reserves. Sustainability must be prioritized over exploitation in the Arctic because the implications are global.

Why it matters

Significant oil reserves lie offshore, in the Arctic's shallow and biologically productive shelf seas.

Oil spills from blowouts, pipeline leaks or shipping accidents pose a tremendous risk to Arctic ecosystems. Marine ecosystems are particularly vulnerable.

Important species are at risk
Offshore oil exploration, drilling and production can disturb the fish and animals that are cornerstones of the subsistence and cultural livelihoods of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic.
Spill cleanup is impossible
There is no proven method for containing and cleaning up an oil spill in icy water
Spill response is slow
Even if we try to clean up a spill the lack of infrastructure and remoteness of the Arctic means it can take days or weeks to respond. The Arctic has short summers, low temperatures, and limited sunlight, it can take decades for Arctic regions to recover from damage.
Ocean noise injures marine mammals
Whales and other marine mammals use sound to navigate, find mates, and find food in dark Arctic waters.

Our solutions


Switch to renewable energy

We urgently need to transition towards a 100% renewable future through the development of clean energy sources. Governments need to finance renewable energy in the Arctic and beyond instead of subsidizing oil and gas.
©Brian Abeling / CC BY NC

No new development without effective spill response

We lack the demonstrated ability to respond to and effectively contain or clean up major oil spills in the Arctic. Arctic spills can contaminate local environments for decades, and effectively wipe out local populations of certain species, affecting local livelihoods and food security.

Protect ecologically valuable areas

Ecologically valuable areas, like the Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands of coastal Norway, the West Kamchatka Shelf in Russia, and the waters of Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas should be permanently withdrawn from offshore oil and gas development.

Quiet the oceans

We’re asking industry to keep seismic testing, which can damage the hearing of marine mammals, far from key wildlife habitat.
©VDOS Global / WWF-Canada

How we work

A quieter ocean for Arctic whales

Whales depend on sound to survive. WWF is working to limit sound pollution in Arctic waters by making parts of the ocean important for whales off limits to particularly loud industrial activities.

Addressing offshore drilling

For more than a decade, WWF has worked to stop offshore oil and gas development that threatens the wildlife and local communities that thrive in the Arctic’s often brutal environment.

Keeping oil out of important areas

WWF is working in Norway to make areas such as Lofoten permanently off limits to oil drilling, because of the natural values of the region, and the economic value of the local fishery.

Promoting marine governance in Russia

WWF promotes marine governance in the Arctic that includes cooperation and biodiversity protection within the Arctic Council. WWF-Russia previously participated in negotiations on legally binding agreement on Oil Spill Response, and following its approval, promotes its implementation in Russia.

Promoting renewable energy

WWF is advocating for renewable energy, and piloting renewable solutions with some Arctic communities.

Reducing the impact of oil and gas in Russia

WWF works to prevent and reduce the negative impact of oil, gas and mining on the Arctic environment by pushing companies to strengthen environmental responsibility and by improving the regulatory framework.

Reducing the oil spill risk

WWF has mapped the enormous potential reach of an oil spill in the Barents Sea.


Getting it right in a new ocean - report
Getting it right in a new ocean - report
26 November 2018
Getting it right in a new ocean - summary
Getting it right in a new ocean - summary
25 November 2018
The Circle 04.18
The Circle 04.18
1 October 2018
Canada’s Arctic Marine Atlas
Canada’s Arctic Marine Atlas
17 September 2018
The Circle 03.18
The Circle 03.18
17 July 2018
Prospects and opportunities for using LNG for bunkering in the Arctic regions of Russia
Prospects and opportunities for using LNG for bunkering in the Arctic regions of Russia
1 July 2017
See all 13 publications

Meet the team


Advisor, Arctic and Northern Areas


Specialist, Arctic oil and gas


Leader, Extractive Industry Programme