New WWF work maps conflict hot-spots between Arctic whales and industry

Posted on 07 November 2013  | 
A paper published this week in the journal Marine Policy shows where oil and gas and shipping interests overlap important habitat for Arctic whales. The paper was sponsored by WWF and includes several WWF authors, along with many of the world’s experts on Arctic whale research and conservation. It collects the latest information on where bowhead whales beluga and narwhals spend their time, especially during the Arctic summer. It then shows how some planned and existing oil and gas and shipping interests overlap the places important to the whales’ future survival.

“These ice-adapted Arctic whales are already stressed by rapid climate change,” says Pete Ewins, an author on the paper and Arctic whale specialist for WWF. “Killer whales are moving into their territory and preying on them, their food sources are moving, and now on top of that, industry is on their doorstep.”

The paper not only identifies and maps the areas of potential conflict, but also suggests how such conflicts can be reduced in a future Arctic with increasing open-water areas. The risks of oil spills in icy waters are highlighted as the biggest and most difficult risks to manage or avoid.

“It’s not all about declaring the most important places off-limits,” says Ewins. “For instance, in some cases, simply slowing ships when they’re entering these highly sensitive areas could be enough to reduce impacts. In other cases, the whales are only using these areas for a specified time, so it should be possible to just avoid that area for a period of time".

The paper also argues for better monitoring of the whales’ responses to disturbance, in order to determine their precise sensitivity to different forms of human activities. The paper is only available to subscribers, but the maps are available at

For more information, contact:

Pete Ewins
(+1) 416 484 7711

B-roll and stills (for use only in the context of a story mentioning WWF)

  • Arctic whales and industry (JPG, EPS)
  • Beluga range map (JPG, EPS)
  • Narwhal range map (JPG, EPS)
  • Bowhead range map (JPG, EPS)

Photos Video
Narwhals may perform "tusking" in order to clean encrustations off what is essentially it's elongated incisor tooth - so very similar to you brushing your teeth.
© Glenn Williams and Narwhal Tusk Research Enlarge

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