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Heavy Fuel Oil

EIA is working to reduce the risks that shipping poses to belugas and other Arctic whales, especially the looming threat of a heavy fuel oil spill

As the Arctic Ocean continues to warm and sea ice recedes, shipping in the region is likely to increase. Utilizing routes like the Northern Sea Route along Russia's northern coast, and eventually the Northwest Passage through Canadian and American waters, large shipping vessels can cut thousands of kilometers off of a trip from Europe to Asia. By one estimate, traffic in and out of the Bering Strait is projected to increase by 100-500 percent by 2025.

However, this shortcut poses a serious danger to the Arctic's beluga whales. Many large shipping vessels use Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), which is both toxic and viscous. When HFO spills like the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill occur, the oil does not dissipate, but remains in the marine environment far longer than other fuels. For belugas that return each year to the same estuaries, a large HFO spill could be disastrous for the entire population.

With its partners, EIA has called on the International Maritime Organization to act now and ban the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. Check out our infographic on the impact of HFO and the solutions the IMO should pursue below.

Recent Reports

Five Years of Failure
01/19/2022
A review of the effectiveness of the US Government recovery plan for critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales
Petition to Cap Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Take Authorizations and for Associated Actions and Rulemaking
01/19/2022
Five Years of Failure: A review of the effectiveness of the US Government recovery plan for critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales

Recent Press Releases

Five Years of Failure
01/19/2022
A review of the effectiveness of the US Government recovery plan for critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales
IMO and Arctic States Slammed for Endorsing Continued Arctic Pollution
11/20/2020
NGOs protest outrageous approval of Arctic Heavy Fuel Oil “ban” which will drive continued pollution of the Arctic throughout 2020s