The Arctic Ocean—the pristine home to bowhead whales, gray whales, polar bears, walruses, and other magnificent wildlife, along with many indigenous communities—could potentially lose crucial protections from risky offshore oil and gas drilling.
Just one week after scientists warned of unprecedented change brought on by warming in the Arctic, President Obama announced permanent protection for 115 million acres of federal waters in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Including previous presidential withdrawals, today's action protects nearly 125 million acres in the offshore Arctic from future oil and gas activity.
At the top of the food chain, whales play a vital role in the overall health of the environment. WWF documents and protects critical feeding and breeding areas, and migration routes of whales. We also work to help shift shipping lanes to limit noise and other disruptions for whales and other marine species.
Gray whales migrate more than 10,000 miles roundtrip each year—one of the longest for any mammal on Earth. Each winter and spring, their spectacular migration between northern feeding grounds and southern nursery areas offers amazing opportunities for whale watchers along the west coast. The Arctic feeding grounds of the gray whale are critical to their survival, as they must eat enough to sustain them until they return the next year.
We hit the trifecta. After an 18-hour boat ride through the wild waters of the Pacific, we reached Magdalena Bay, Mexico. The water was still. The sky was solid blue. We were told by our guides that dozens of gray whales, each just a few weeks old, were in this part of the bay and at the stage of their life when they wanted to do what all children want to do: play. It was the perfect set-up for whale watching.