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Arctic governments and industry still unprepared for oil spills 20 years after Exxon Valdez
Date:3/19/2009

ic conservation program, also recommends that the most vulnerable and important areas of the Arctic be deemed permanently off-limits to oil and gas development. Such "no-go zones" should be based on the sensitivity and productivity of special priority areas, where oil spill response would be virtually impossible to clean up or where any spill would cause irreparable long-term damage. These areas include Bristol Bay in the southeastern Bering Sea in Alaska, known as "America's fish basket," where more than 40 percent of all wild seafood is caught in the United States. Oil and gas development in the bay is estimated to bring in $7.7 billion over the 25-40 year lifetime experts predict it would take to extract the resources. By comparison, the renewable fisheries of the Bristol Bay region are valued at $50-$80 billion over that same time period.

"Fishermen's livelihoods are at stake," said Keith Colburn, a Bristol Bay crab fisherman featured on Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. "Loss of the Bristol Bay fisheries would put thousands of fishermen out of work and break down the engine of a fishery that brings in $2.2 billion to the economy each year. It's not worth the risk."

WWF is urging Arctic countries to conduct comprehensive risk assessments of industrial activities, such as shipping and petroleum development, along with climate change-induced impacts on the marine environment. In addition, Arctic countries should also adopt a region-wide comprehensive agreement for spill response and launch conservation plans that assess the health, biodiversity and functioning of Arctic ecosystems.

"The Exxon Valdez spill has been the best-studied oil spill in history and scientists have found that even 20 years later, the damage from the spill continues," said Margaret Williams, managing director of WWF's Alaska program. "Fishermen's livelihoods were destroyed, many wildlife and fish populations still haven't recovered and the Alaskan economy los
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Contact: Steve Ertel
steve.ertel@wwfus.org
202-495-4562
World Wildlife Fund
Source:Eurekalert

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