Figure 7: Oil and gas exploration sites in the Beaufort Sea

Figure 7 highlights several areas in the Beaufort Sea Mackenzie Delta that are occupied by oil and gas exploration sites (exploration rights granted until 2006) and other areas to the east in the delta call for bids for implementing oil and gas exploration projects. In 2008, four new exploration permits were granted in the Beaufort Sea. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, in May 2010, there were three offshore platforms operating in Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador). However, there were no platforms operating in the Beaufort Sea at that time.

The main potential impacts of these activities on polar bears are the fragmentation and destruction of their habitat, and the risk of accidents (spills), which would be very difficult to deal with, given the climatic conditions in these areas. If there were a spill, the bears might ingest toxic substances which would reduce their fur’s insulating properties and cause them to eat more food to increase their caloric intake. However, no consensus has been reached on possible disturbances in nursing dens caused by seismic surveys.