Is the opening of the Northwest Passage a problem for wildlife?
Is it ever okay to swim with dolphins and how do newts find ponds?
AArctic sea-ice has now retreated to the point that the Northwest Passage, which links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via Canada’s northern coast, and the Northern Sea Route, which traverses Arctic Russia, are both open to shipping for at least part of the year, with traffic expected to increase. Little is known about the biology of Arctic marine mammals in general, so the impacts are difficult to judge, but a survey published in 2018 identified narwhals and walruses as particularly vulnerable to disturbance from boat collisions, noise and developments in infrastructure, especially at bottlenecks such as the Bering Strait, through which both shipping and migratory animals must pass.
The Arctic is predicted to be significantly more navigable by 2050. Walruses, narwhals and bowhead and beluga whales are likely to be most affected.