WWF's history in the Arctic

 / ©: WWF, photo by Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
Download our 20th anniversary booklet.
© WWF, photo by Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
For over 20 years, WWF has championed conservation throughout the circumpolar Arctic.
Download our special 20th anniversary booklet (pdf), or see below for just a few highlights from the past 2 decades, and our current and future projects in this rapidly changing region.

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Highlights from WWF's Arctic history

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Polar bear statue outside the Metropol Hotel, Moscow. The International Polar Bear Forum, held in December 2013, was supported by WWF.
© Marina Khrapova / WWF

2013

Securing a future for polar bears
The first-ever ministerial forum on polar bear conservation, held in Moscow, resulted in major commitments from all five polar bear countries - Canada, Russia, Norway, Greenland and the US - to tackle polar bear research and management, as well as climate change. WWF's support made the Forum possible.
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The Arctic Tern 1 near Kullorsuaq, Greenland on July 28, 2012, during the Last Ice Area voyage.
© Students on Ice / WWF-Canon

2012

Sailing to Siku
In July and August 2012, scientists and WWF experts explored the Last Ice Area -- the northwest coast of Greenland and Canada’s High Arctic Islands. Along the way, we conducted research and spoke with local communities to fill in the knowledge gaps about this remote area.
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Fishing boat coast of Unalaska Island near Dutch Harbour, Alaska, USA
© Kevin Schafer WWF Canon

2010

Oil and water
Thanks in part to WWF research and advocacy, Bristol Bay in Alaska
(a major fishery and ecological resource) is taken off the US government’s
five year plan for oil leasing. The US government also announced the creation
of a national oceans policy that will among other things identify and protect
remarkable places in the offshore area of Alaska.

Learn about Bristol Bay at WWF-United States

2009

The art of conservation
The ‘bear in the square’, featured at the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, was born when renowned British wildlife sculptor Mark Coreth teamed up with WWF to create an ice sculpture of a polar bear . Carved from ice on a bronze base, the bear slowly melts away to reveal the skeleton beneath, a poignant warning of the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

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Bowhead whale
© WWF

2008

A home for bowheads
In a campaign spanning 26 years, WWF-Canada worked with the Inuit community of Clyde River to create Canada’s first national Marine Wildlife Area.

Also known as Niginganiq, this extensive area off the coast of Baffin Island, Nunavut, became a sanctuary for bowhead whales in 2008.

Read more about Niginganiq
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Members of the Umky Patrol or Polar Bear Patrol protect and monitor walrus and polar bear populations near Cape Vankarem, Russia.
© Umky Patrol

2006

Watching for the umkys
The Umky (polar bear) Patrol was developed by people in Vankarem (a village on the Arctic shores of Chukotka, Russia) and WWF.

The patrol works to prevent deadly encounters between polar bears and people. Polar bears are increasingly common in some communities, a development that some ascribe to the fact that the bears have less access to their normal sea ice habitat in the Arctic summer. The patrols have spread to other communities in Russia, and also to North America.

More about the Umky Patrol

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Indigenous fisherman from the Even tribe in front of his smoking cabin showing his salmon , Bystrinsky Nature Park, Kamchatka
© Hartmut Jungius / WWF-Canon

2006

Keeping the Kamchatka salmon
WWF launched an ambitious salmon conservation program to address the complex challenges facing the salmon populations along the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. The initiative helps conserve five species of Pacific salmon and the spawning grounds for one quarter of all Pacific wild salmon.

The Kamchatka Salmon Conservation Initiative (WWF-US)
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A ringed seal swimming in waters off Svalbard, Norway.
© WWF / Sindre Kinnerød

1999-2003

Tracking Ringed Seals
The ringed seal is a key species in the Arctic – it is the most numerous and
widespread of all the seal species. WWF supported a four-year project that
used satellite tagging to track the seals’ travelling patterns, diving depths and
time spent on the surface. Participants in the project included Inuvialuit hunters
and trappers’ organizations and the Canadian Department of Fisheries
and Oceans.
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Processing cod
© Tatjana Gerling WWF

1997

Fishing for sustainability
WWF co-founded the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) to encourage sustainable fishing practices. Increasing numbers of fisheries around the Arctic – in Norway, Alaska, and Russia – are now MSC certified.

Visit the MSC site

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Arctic fox
© WWF

1993

Great Arctic Reserve
With the help of WWF, Russia set aside 42,000 km² of the Taimyr Peninsula,
including a Kara Sea archipelago, as the Great Arctic Reserve. WWF not only helped fund the reserve, but also helped organize three important scientific expeditions that contributed to establishing the ecological importance of the region.

More about the Great Arctic Reserve

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WWF expedition in 1987 following coastal birds from the German Wadden Sea to Northern Greenland Pictured: Peter Prokosch with colleagues in the Thule area.
© WWF

1992

WWF's Arctic Programme is born
Although WWF had already been undertaking projects in the Arctic, the creation of the Global Arctic Programme brought a new circumarctic focus to WWF’s work just as the eight Arctic countries and Arctic Indigenous peoples were joining together in the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, the forerunner of the Arctic Council.

More on the beginnings of the GAP

From past to present

The twenty years of the Arctic Programme, and the work by WWF offices before the programme existed have built a solid base for WWF's Arctic work. This map provides a sampling of the reach and diversity of WWF's current Arctic projects.

20 years in the Arctic

  •  / ©: WWF Global Arctic Programme
    Highlights from WWF's global Arctic work.

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