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For over 20 years, WWF has championed conservation throughout the circumpolar Arctic.
WWF Global Arctic Programme 20th anniversary book © WWF, photo by Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

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


Uncovering the tooth

Thanks to drone photography, WWF-supported researchers captured a surprising narwhal behaviour for the first time. In an amazing video, a male narwhal appears to use his tusk to hit and stun fish.

Polar bear paw. rel= © Brutus Ostling / WWF-Canon


Toes tell a tale

WWF supported a groundbreaking project to identify individual polar bears from the DNA in their snowy footprints. This work could make polar bear research less expensive and invasive in the future.

Read more

Polar bear statue outside the Metropol Hotel, Moscow. The International Polar Bear Forum, held in ... rel= © Marina Khrapova / WWF


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.

The Arctic Tern 1 near Kullorsuaq, Greenland on July 28, 2012, during the Last Ice Area voyage. rel= © Students on Ice / WWF


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.

Fishing boat coast of Unalaska Island near Dutch Harbour, Alaska, USA rel= © Kevin Schafer WWF


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

Bowhead whale rel= © WWF


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

Members of the Umky Patrol or Polar Bear Patrol protect and monitor walrus and polar bear ... rel= © Umky Patrol


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

Indigenous fisherman from the Even tribe in front of his smoking cabin showing his salmon , ... rel= © Hartmut Jungius / WWF


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)

A ringed seal swimming in waters off Svalbard, Norway. rel= © WWF / Sindre Kinnerød


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.

Processing cod rel= © Tatjana Gerling WWF


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

Arctic fox rel= © WWF


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

WWF expedition in 1987 following coastal birds from the German Wadden Sea to Northern Greenland ... rel= © WWF


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

Timeline of WWF's work in the Arctic from 1992-2012.
© Timeline of WWF's work in the Arctic from 1992-2012. © WWF Global Arctic Programme

Highlights from WWF's global Arctic work.