The Arctic has sustained human communities for thousands of years. For many Arctic peoples, the sea remains a focal point of life and culture because ocean resources, such as fish, walrus, seals, and seabirds, underpin the food supply and provide for other necessities.

Along the coasts of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, the hunting of bowhead whales and other animals is a centerpiece of local culture. The identity of the people of St. Lawrence Island is inextricably linked to walrus, and the indigenous cultures of the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers are shaped by salmon.

These communities prepare for the harvests year-round, celebrate their successes, and share their food. For many residents of the Arctic, the continued health of the marine environment and that of their food supply and culture are directly connected.

Development in the U.S. Arctic creates new opportunities for employment and other benefits, but it can also cause social and economic upheaval in local communities and indigenous cultures. The changes in lifestyle that industrial development can bring, including an influx of outside workers and the infrastructure needed to support them, could adversely affect the health and social well-being of Arctic peoples. Similarly, the natural resources that support indigenous communities’ subsistence economies may be harmed by oil development or spills from ship traffic.

For more information, visit:

Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission

Alaska Nanuuq Commission  

Bristol Bay Native Association

Qayassiq Walrus Commission

Nunamta Aulukestai

Kawerak Inc.

Inuit Circumpolar Council, Alaska

Alaska Beluga Whale Committee

Alaska Inter-Tribal Council

Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission

The Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission

Aleut Marine Mammal Commission

Association of Village Council Presidents

Eskimo Walrus Commission 

Ice Seal Committee

Indigenous Peoples Council for Marine Mammals 

To learn more about potential social and economic changes in Arctic communities, please visit the Arctic Portal, a network of shared information and data maintained by the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment program.


Oil Spill Prevention and Response in the U.S. Arctic Ocean

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This report examine the risks, challenges and potential consequences of oil spills associated with oil and gas exploration and production in the outer continental shelf (OCS) of the United States Arctic Ocean. The April 2010 Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico prompted a reconsideration of the potential for a major blowout from proposed oil exploration or production in the Arctic OCS. This report was developed to contribute to the policy discussion regarding the risks and consequences of such spills.