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Seal hunting is an intrinsic part of our way of life. It provides food, clothing, cultural and economic sustenance, and commercial interests.

Mary Simon

Beaufort Sea Project Reprints - Birds and Marine Mammals

The Arctic has often been portrayed as barren and the Beaufort Sea as a biological desert. The Beaufort Sea Project has not found this to be true. The following is a quote from this summary, “During its contrasting seasons the southeastern Beaufort Sea is home to over two million migratory birds, some 50,000 seals, 1,500 polar bears, 5,000 whales.” Even more the interdependence of the people of the Arctic and the wildlife must be considered, quoting from the summary, “Comparisons of the cash value of wildlife products with money spent on oil exploration, or with the potential value of oil reserves, have little validity in making decisions on resource development in this region.”

Since Arctic ecosystems are sensitive because of the nature of the permafrost terrain and slow rates of growth, reproduction, and decay in the Arctic, disturbance and damage to such ecosystems caused by development would be slow to recover. As indicated in the summary, “These factors do not preclude industrial activity in the Beaufort Sea region. But it is evident that development must proceed with caution; and it must demonstrate a philosophical respect for the land and its people. This report is not an impact statement. Its purpose is to present information; not arguments for or against the development of petroleum or other resources in the western arctic.”

Many papers and reports were used in the preparation of this overview summary report. The studies have given us much knowledge of birds and mammals in this area of the Arctic to be able to state, “Enough has been learned to impress upon us that massive, unplanned, or premature industrial development could have catastrophic environmental consequences.”

As pointed out in this summary, it is certain that development projects will proceed at some point in time, especially in the Beaufort Sea area, and short-term wildlife studies of one or two years are not adequate to evaluate complex ecological impacts of such activity. The following quotes are some study areas where little is now known, the overwintering range of bowhead and white whales, the size and variability of seal populations, and the ecological relationships of polar bears, seals and white foxes.

Birds and Marine Mammals - The Beaufort Sea and the Search for Oil (reprint)
by Donald A. Blood
Edited by Brian D. Smiley
Line drawings by Joey Morgan

Reproduced with the permission of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2010.
124 pages (PDF format - 76 MB)

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