The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas have sustained Arctic peoples for thousands of years. Today, Arctic offshore drilling threatens clean waters and traditional ways of life.
In March 2016, the Obama administration released a proposed leasing plan that would allow for new drilling rights to potentially be sold to offshore oil companies in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. In the next five years, the government could lease areas within more than 80 million acres of the Arctic Ocean. And when drilling occurs, the risk of a spill is high.
At the same time, the administration is considering new protections that would benefit subsistence users and protect clean water. In the Beaufort Sea, areas considered for protection include Cross Island, Barrow Canyon, Camden Bay, and stronger protections around Kaktovik. In the Chukchi Sea, more protections near the Hanna Shoal are being considered, to benefit subsistence users and protect walrus habitat.
The administration plans to rely on traditional knowledge, comments from local communities, and science when deciding which areas of the Arctic Ocean need strong protections.