World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada)

World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada)


September 08, 2011 07:00 ET

WWF Report Shows Limited Response Possible to Arctic Oil Spill

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 8, 2011) - If a major oil spill happened in the Arctic today, it would be impossible to clean it up much of the time. In fact, WWF analysis of National Energy Board (NEB) commissioned research indicates a clean-up would not be possible 44 to 84 per cent of the short Arctic drilling season. For the remaining seven or eight months of the year, during the ice-covered winter, no spill cleanup would be possible.

Clean-ups would be impossible due to environmental conditions such as winds, waves, temperature, visibility and daylight.

This information comes at a crucial point as major international companies look to the Arctic Ocean for new sources of valuable oil resources. The NEB is currently reviewing the issue, providing an important opportunity to lay the groundwork for sound planning and sustainable development.

WWF's complete report assessing when cleanups are possible is available at WWF is working to help establish best practices for Arctic offshore development based on accurate scientific data.

Total Percentage of Time When No Response Is Possible
Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Beaufort Sea Near shore 66 54 56 62 81
Far shore 82 65 66 66 84
Davis Strait Central 83 44 44 59 84
West Central 45 48 59 84


These figures are based on research completed for the NEB by S.L. Ross Environmental Research Limited, and apply to spills greater than 100 barrels, when environmental conditions preclude use of any of the three major response measures – in situ burning, mechanical containment and recovery, and aerial dispersant application. Furthermore, WWF understands that activity will proceed during the drilling season in ice covered waters, when no cleanup is possible. Note that these are average figures. Considerable year-to-year variability means that the actual figures in any year could be significantly higher or lower.


"If a major spill were to occur in Arctic waters, cleanup crews would have to spend, on average, three to five days of each week simply standing by, watching helplessly as the blowout or spill continued to foul fragile Arctic ecosystems."
- Rob Powell, Director, Mackenzie River Basin Program, WWF.

"Given how limited any spill response would be, these results must be factored into NEB decision-making processes regarding where and when drilling may occur in Canada's Arctic."
- Will Amos, Director, Ecojustice Clinic at the University of Ottawa (legal counsel to WWF).


  • WWF is an official participant in the NEB's Arctic Offshore Drilling Review, a full, public review of Arctic offshore drilling and safety requirements
  • WWF is being represented by legal counsel at Ecojustice
  • The NEB's review was launched following the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010; the final report is expected in late 2011
  • There is no current drilling activity in the offshore Canadian Arctic

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