As the decline in Arctic sea ice opens historically closed routes such as the Northwest and Northeast Passages, questions arise regarding security and safety.
Sea otter at rehabilitation centre in Valdez after Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Impacts of Opening New Sea Routes
This new access to shipping routes and potential for oil extraction bring increasing risk of environmental degradation caused by these activities.
One obvious concern is oil spills and other industrial accidents.
It is clear from studies and experience that the effects of oil spills in a high-latitude, cold ocean environment last much longer and are far worse than in other areas.
Steller sea lions sitting on oil covered rocks after Exxon Valdez oil spill
Oil spill clean-up is rarely effective butin the Arctic conditions any clean-up attempt at all will be impossiblefor much of the year due to extreme darkness, temperature and solid orbroken ice conditions.