Beaufort Sea
Overview
 
The Beaufort Sea is a marginal sea
Marginal sea
The term marginal sea has differing meanings. In one sense the term is equivalent to territorial waters. In another sense the term indicates a partially enclosed sea adjacent to or widely open to the open ocean, but bounded by submarine ridges...

 of the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

, located north of the Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada.Located in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, and Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south...

, the Yukon
Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

, and Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, west of Canada's Arctic islands
Canadian Arctic Archipelago
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago, also known as the Arctic Archipelago, is a Canadian archipelago north of the Canadian mainland in the Arctic...

. The sea is named after hydrographer
Hydrography
Hydrography is the measurement of the depths, the tides and currents of a body of water and establishment of the sea, river or lake bed topography and morphology. Normally and historically for the purpose of charting a body of water for the safe navigation of shipping...

 Sir Francis Beaufort
Francis Beaufort
Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, FRS, FRGS was an Irish hydrographer and officer in Britain's Royal Navy...

. The major Mackenzie River
Mackenzie River
The Mackenzie River is the largest river system in Canada. It flows through a vast, isolated region of forest and tundra entirely within the country's Northwest Territories, although its many tributaries reach into four other Canadian provinces and territories...

 empties into the Canadian part of the sea, west of Tuktoyaktuk, which is one of the few permanent settlements on the sea shores.

The sea, characterized by severe climate, is frozen over most of the year; only a narrow pass up to 100 km (62.1 mi) opens in August–September near its shores.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The Beaufort Sea is a marginal sea
Marginal sea
The term marginal sea has differing meanings. In one sense the term is equivalent to territorial waters. In another sense the term indicates a partially enclosed sea adjacent to or widely open to the open ocean, but bounded by submarine ridges...

 of the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

, located north of the Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada.Located in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, and Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south...

, the Yukon
Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

, and Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, west of Canada's Arctic islands
Canadian Arctic Archipelago
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago, also known as the Arctic Archipelago, is a Canadian archipelago north of the Canadian mainland in the Arctic...

. The sea is named after hydrographer
Hydrography
Hydrography is the measurement of the depths, the tides and currents of a body of water and establishment of the sea, river or lake bed topography and morphology. Normally and historically for the purpose of charting a body of water for the safe navigation of shipping...

 Sir Francis Beaufort
Francis Beaufort
Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, FRS, FRGS was an Irish hydrographer and officer in Britain's Royal Navy...

. The major Mackenzie River
Mackenzie River
The Mackenzie River is the largest river system in Canada. It flows through a vast, isolated region of forest and tundra entirely within the country's Northwest Territories, although its many tributaries reach into four other Canadian provinces and territories...

 empties into the Canadian part of the sea, west of Tuktoyaktuk, which is one of the few permanent settlements on the sea shores.

The sea, characterized by severe climate, is frozen over most of the year; only a narrow pass up to 100 km (62.1 mi) opens in August–September near its shores. The seacoast was populated about 30,000 years ago, but the population density is very low. The sea contains significant resources of petroleum and natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 under its shelf, such as the Amauligak field. They were discovered in the period between 1950s and 1980s, and their exploration became the major human activity in the area since the 1980s. The traditional occupations of fishery and whale and seal hunting are practiced only locally, and have no commercial significance. As a result, the sea hosts one of the largest colonies of beluga whales, and there is no sign of overfishing
Overfishing
Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....

. There is a long-standing dispute between the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 over the sea border area, but significant steps have been taken in 2010 toward its resolution.

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization
The International Hydrographic Organization is the inter-governmental organisation representing the hydrographic community. It enjoys observer status at the UN and is the recognised competent authority on hydrographic surveying and nautical charting...

 defines the limits of the Beaufort Sea as follows:

On the North. A line from Point Barrow
Point Barrow
Point Barrow or Nuvuk is a headland on the Arctic coast in the U.S. state of Alaska, northeast of Barrow. It is the northernmost point of all the territory of the United States, at...

, Alaska, to Lands End, Prince Patrick Island
Prince Patrick Island
A member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Prince Patrick Island is the westernmost of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The area of the island is , making it the 55th largest island in the world and Canada's 14th largest island...

 (76°16′N 124°08′W).

On the East. From Lands End through the Southwest coast of Prince Patrick Island to Griffiths Point, thence a line to Cape Prince Alfred, the Northwestern extreme of Banks Island

Banks Island
One of the larger members of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Banks Island is situated in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. It is separated from Victoria Island to its east by the Prince of Wales Strait and from the mainland by Amundsen Gulf to its south. The Beaufort Sea lies...

, through its West coast to Cape Kellet, the Southwestern point, and thence a line to Cape Bathurst
Cape Bathurst
Cape Bathurst is a cape and a peninsula located on the northern coast of the Northwest Territories in Canada. Cape Bathurst is the northernmost point of mainland Northwest Territories and one of the few peninsulas in mainland North America protruding above the 70th parallel north...

 on the mainland (70°36′N 127°32′W).

Border dispute


There is an ongoing dispute involving a wedge-shaped slice on the International Boundary in the Beaufort Sea, between the Canadian territory
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

 of Yukon and the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 of Alaska. Canada claims the maritime boundary
Maritime boundary
Maritime boundary is a conceptual means of division of the water surface of the planet into maritime areas that are defined through surrounding physical geography or by human geography. As such it usually includes areas of exclusive national rights over the mineral and biological resources,...

 to be along the 141st meridian west
141st meridian west
The meridian 141° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 out to a distance of 200 nmi (370.4 km), following the Alaska-Yukon land border. The position of the United States is that the boundary line is perpendicular to the coast out to a distance of 200 nmi (370.4 km), following a line of equidistance from the coast. This difference creates a wedge with an area of about 21000 km² (8,108.1 sq mi) that is claimed by both nations.

Canada's position has its roots in Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1825)
Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1825)
The Treaty of Saint Petersburg of 1825, also known as the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1825, defined the boundaries between Russian America and British claims and possessions in the Pacific Northwest of North America at 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude, which had the year before been established...

 between the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 and the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 that set the boundary between the two. Canada is the successor state
Succession of states
Succession of states is a theory and practice in international relations regarding the recognition and acceptance of a newly created sovereign state by other states, based on a perceived historical relationship the new state has with a prior state...

 to Great Britain insofar as the continued applicability of this treaty, which set the boundary line between Canada and what was to be ceded to the U.S. as Alaska. The treaty stipulates that:
Canada maintains that this treaty is extensible from the land into the Beaufort Sea along the meridian; whilst the United States rejects this extension and instead asserts a boundary line based upon equidistance. The United States' bargaining position is somewhat undermined, however, by the fact that in the 1867 treaty where Alaska was ceded
Alaska purchase
The Alaska Purchase was the acquisition of the Alaska territory by the United States from Russia in 1867 by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The purchase, made at the initiative of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, gained of new United States territory...

 to it, the United States accepted similar treaty wording, and a similar interpretation. Both the U.S. and Canada agree that they are bound by the 1958 Convention on the Continental Shelf
Convention on the Continental Shelf
The Convention on the Continental Shelf was an international treaty created to codify the rules of international law relating to continental shelves. The treaty, after entering into force 10 June 1964, established the rights of a sovereign state over the continental shelf surrounding it, if there...

; and they both agree that the boundary should be "equitable", as determined by the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

. They differ on what should be deemed "equitable". The U.S. contends that "equidistance is an appropriate principle for determining a maritime boundary where there are no special circumstances in the area and when equidistance results in a boundary in accordance with equitable principles". Canada contends that an equidistance principle
Equidistance principle
The equidistance principle or principle of equidistance is a legal concept introduced in maritime boundary claims.The phrase denotes a concept of political geography and international law — that a nation's maritime boundaries should conform to a median line equidistant from the shores of...

 does not result in an equitable boundary, because distortion would occur. The coast of Yukon is concave, whereas the coast of Alaska is convex; and thus an equidistance principle would result in a significant extension of the U.S. possession.

This dispute has taken on increased significance due to the possible presence of natural reserves within the wedge, which according to Canada's National Energy Board
National Energy Board
The National Energy Board is an independent economic regulatory agency created in 1959 by the Government of Canada to oversee "international and inter-provincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries"...

 may contain 1700000000 m³ (60,034,932,561.5 cu ft) of gas, which would cover the national consumption for 20 years, and more than 1000000000 m³ (35,314,666,212.7 cu ft) of oil. Because of this, Canada argues that "special circumstances" apply to this border, a position that the U.S. rejects. This dispute is in this respect a mirror image of the dispute between the U.S. and Canada over the Gulf of Maine
Gulf of Maine
The Gulf of Maine is a large gulf of the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of North America.It is delineated by Cape Cod at the eastern tip of Massachusetts in the southwest and Cape Sable at the southern tip of Nova Scotia in the northeast. It includes the entire coastlines of the U.S...

, where the U.S. argued for "special circumstances" and Canada argued for the equidistance principle. (It is to be noted that in that latter dispute, both of those arguments were rejected, and the border was drawn based upon geometric principles taking into account geographic factors.) Neither the U.S. nor Canada have pressed for a swift resolution for the matter, or arbitration at the International Court of Justice, however; and the two have in the meantime cooperated in several measures aimed at preserving the maritime environment.

The US had leased eight plots
Scientific visualization
Scientific visualization is an interdisciplinary branch of science according to Friendly "primarily concerned with the visualization of three-dimensional phenomena , where the emphasis is on realistic renderings of volumes, surfaces, illumination sources, and so forth, perhaps...

 of terrain below the water to search for and possibly exploit oil reserves
Oil reserves
The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...

 that induced a diplomatic protest from Canada (issued by the end of 2004). On 20 August 2009, United States Secretary of Commerce
United States Secretary of Commerce
The United States Secretary of Commerce is the head of the United States Department of Commerce concerned with business and industry; the Department states its mission to be "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce"...

 Gary Locke
Gary Locke
Gary Locke may refer to:*Gary Locke , Chinese American politician; U.S. Secretary of Commerce and former Governor of Washington*Gary Locke *Gary Locke...

 announced a moratorium on commercial fishing of the Beaufort Sea
Moratorium on commercial fishing of the Beaufort Sea
On August 20 2009 United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced a moratorium on fishing the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska.According to Locke: There is no widespread commercial fisheries in those waters now....

 north of Alaska, including the disputed waters. In July 2010, US-Canada negotiations have started in Ottawa with the next meeting planned in 2011. A joint geological survey of the area has been initiated, and the issue was marked as settled by the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 World Factbook
The World Factbook
The World Factbook is a reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States with almanac-style information about the countries of the world. The official paper copy version is available from the National Technical Information Service and the Government Printing Office...

, though no official document has been released by September 2010.

Geography

Several rivers such as the Kongakut River
Kongakut River
The Kongakut River is a river in North Slope Borough, Alaska, United States....

 in Alaska and the Firth River in Yukon empty into the Beaufort. The major river to flow into the sea is the Mackenzie, Canada's longest, which empties into the Canadian part of the sea, west of Tuktoyaktuk. The coastal shelf
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

 area is rather narrow, especially near and east of Point Barrow in the Alaskan part of the sea, and contains numerous submarine valleys
Submarine canyon
A submarine canyon is a steep-sided valley on the sea floor of the continental slope. Many submarine canyons are found as extensions to large rivers; however there are some that have no such association. Canyons cutting the continental slopes have been found at depths greater than 2 km below sea...

. It becomes wider near the delta of the Mackenzie River but nowhere exceeds 145 km (90.1 mi). Near the coast, the depths are shallower than 60 m (196.9 ft) but they rapidly increase northwards up to a few kilometers, transforming into a massive platform which is geologically similar to that of the oceans. There are many small islands in the sea and in the delta of the Mackenzie River. A few larger ones lie west of the Mackenzie River, such as Herschel Island
Herschel Island
Herschel Island is an island in the Beaufort Sea , which lies off the coast of the Yukon Territories in Canada, of which it is administratively a part...

 (4 km (2.5 mi) off the shore, area 18 km² (6.9 sq mi)) and Barter Island
Barter Island
Barter Island is an island located on the Arctic coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, east of Arey Island in the Beaufort Sea. It is about four miles long and about two miles wide at its widest point....

 (0.3 km (0.186411820994942 mi) from the coast, area 13 km² (5 sq mi)). The coasts are low, with the maximum elevations between 250 metre. The soil is frozen all year around at the depth below about 1 m (3.3 ft) or less, forming permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

, and only top few tens centimeters thaws in summer. Consequently, buildings have to be elevated above ground on wooden piles that are immersed into the permafrost.

Hydrology and climate

The Beaufort Sea is frozen over through the year, except for August and September when the ice breaks near the coast and opens a 50 – wide strip of open water. The channels of the Mackenzie River thaw earlier, in late May–early June. This thawing increases the average water discharge from about 150000 m3/s.

Hidden changes in the ice cover of the Beaufort Sea were discovered in 2009. Whereas the ice area remain stable, as detected by the observation satellites, so as the associated water temperature and salinity
Salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

, the ice structure has changed recently. The new ice, called rotten ice
Rotten Ice
Rotten ice is loose term for ice that is melting, disintegrating, or otherwise formed, having water, air or contaminants between ice grains, causing the ice to be honeycombed. It forms on open water, when snowpack and ice are mixed together and other conditions. It may be transparent, causing it to...

, is thinner and much weaker structurally.

The sea water has a stable temperature and is separated into four distinct layers as follows. The top 100 m (328.1 ft) are surface water
Surface water
Surface water is water collecting on the ground or in a stream, river, lake, wetland, or ocean; it is related to water collecting as groundwater or atmospheric water....

 which has a temperature of -1.4 C in summer and -1.8 C in winter. The next layer is formed by the inflows from the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 and Bering Sea
Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves....

 coming through the Bering Strait
Bering Strait
The Bering Strait , known to natives as Imakpik, is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnev, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, the easternmost point of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA, the westernmost point of the North American continent, with latitude of about 65°40'N,...

; it extends up to the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

. The warmest, deep Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 layer has the temperatures between 0 and 1 °C (32 to 34 °F), and water at the bottom is a bit colder at −0.4 to −0.8 °C (31.3 to 30.6 °F). The average salinity varies between 28‰ and 32‰ (parts per thousand) from south to north. Typical air temperatures (at Tuktoyaktuk) are -27 C in January and 11 °C (51.8 °F) in July.

The water currents form the clockwise-directed Beaufort Gyre
Beaufort Gyre
The Beaufort Gyre is a wind driven ocean current located in the Arctic Ocean. The gyre contains both ice and water. It accumulates fresh water by the process of melting the ice floating on the surface of the water.-Studies:...

, that results in south-westerly and westerly currents near the shores. The Mackenzie River partly affects this circulation inducing minor eastwards streams near its mouth. The river annually brings about 15 million tonnes of sediments which are rich in dolomite
Dolomite
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock dolostone....

 and calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

. Those deposits are spread over the sea and mixed with mud and gravel.

Flora and fauna

The shoreline of the Beaufort Sea is covered with tundra
Tundra
In physical geography, tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes through Russian тундра from the Kildin Sami word tūndâr "uplands," "treeless mountain tract." There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine...

 and the northern limit of the terrestrial range of the polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

 in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. The Mackenzie River is an important habitat for whales and sea birds and is still relatively untouched by commercial traffic. The delta of Mackenzie River contains numerous lakes and ponds which are inhabited by muskrat
Muskrat
The muskrat , the only species in genus Ondatra, is a medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent native to North America, and introduced in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The muskrat is found in wetlands and is a very successful animal over a wide range of climates and habitats...

.

The sea hosts about 80 species of zooplankton
Zooplankton
Zooplankton are heterotrophic plankton. Plankton are organisms drifting in oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. The word "zooplankton" is derived from the Greek zoon , meaning "animal", and , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter"...

, more than 70 species of phytoplankton
Phytoplankton
Phytoplankton are the autotrophic component of the plankton community. The name comes from the Greek words φυτόν , meaning "plant", and πλαγκτός , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter". Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye...

, and nearly 700 species of polychaete
Polychaete
The Polychaeta or polychaetes are a class of annelid worms, generally marine. Each body segment has a pair of fleshy protrusions called parapodia that bear many bristles, called chaetae, which are made of chitin. Indeed, polychaetes are sometimes referred to as bristle worms. More than 10,000...

s, bryozoa
Bryozoa
The Bryozoa, also known as Ectoprocta or commonly as moss animals, are a phylum of aquatic invertebrate animals. Typically about long, they are filter feeders that sieve food particles out of the water using a retractable lophophore, a "crown" of tentacles lined with cilia...

ns, crustacean
Crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

s and mollusks
Mollusca
The Mollusca , common name molluscs or mollusksSpelled mollusks in the USA, see reasons given in Rosenberg's ; for the spelling mollusc see the reasons given by , is a large phylum of invertebrate animals. There are around 85,000 recognized extant species of molluscs. Mollusca is the largest...

, but their total volume is relatively small owing to the cold climate. Major fish species include polar cod
Polar cod
The polar cod , also known as the Arctic cod, is a fish of the cod family Gadidae, related to the true cod . Note that there is another fish with the common name Arctic cod, Arctogadus glacialis....

 (Boreogadus saida), Arctic cod
Arctic cod
The Arctic cod is an Arctic deepwater fish related to the true cod .-Names:The fish has several common names, including polar cod and Greenland cod...

 (Arctogadus glacialis), saffron cod
Saffron cod
The saffron cod , is a commercially harvested fish closely related to true cods . It is dark grey-green to brown, with spots on its sides and pale towards the belly. It may grow to 60 cm and weigh up to 1.3 kg....

 (Eleginus gracilis), Arctic char
Arctic char
Arctic char or Arctic charr is both a freshwater and saltwater fish in the Salmonidae family, native to Arctic, sub-Arctic and alpine lakes and coastal waters. No other freshwater fish is found as far north. It is the only species of fish in Lake Hazen, on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic...

 (Salvelinus alpinus), chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), Arctic cisco
Arctic Cisco
Arctic cisco is an anadromous species of freshwater whitefish that inhabits the Arctic parts of Siberia, Alaska and Canada. It also has a close freshwater relative in several lakes of Ireland, known as the pollan, alternatively regarded as conspecific with it, or as a distinct species...

 (Coregonus autumnalis), least cisco
Least cisco
The least cisco, Coregonus sardinella, is a freshwater species of fish that inhabits some marginal seas of the Arctic. It is found from the Murchison River in Canada to Bristol Bay in Alaska, and in the Russian Arctic from the Kara Sea eastwards across the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea, the...

 (Coregonus sardinella), lake whitefish
Lake whitefish
The lake whitefish , also called the Sault whitefish or gizzard fish, is a species of freshwater whitefish from North America. Lake whitefish are found throughout much of Canada and parts of the northern United States, including all of the Great Lakes. A valuable commercial fish, they are also...

 (Coregonus clupeaformis), broad whitefish
Broad Whitefish
The broad whitefish is a freshwater whitefish species. Dark silvery in colour, and like a herring in its shape, its distinctive features include a convex head, short gill rakers, and a mild overbite. It is found in the Arctic-draining streams, lakes, and rivers of far eastern Russia and North...

 (Coregonus nasus), Pacific herring
Pacific herring
The Pacific herring, Clupea pallasii, is a species of the herring family associated with the Pacific Ocean environment of North America and northeast Asia. This species is a silvery fish with unspined fins and a deeply forked caudal fin...

 (Clupea pallasii), fourhorn sculpin
Fourhorn sculpin
The fourhorn sculpin is a species of fish in the Cottidae family. It is a demersal fish distributed mainly in brackish arctic coastal waters in Canada, Greenland, Russia, and Alaska, and also as a relict in the boreal Baltic Sea...

 (Myoxocephalus quadricornis), inconnu
Inconnu
Stenodus leucichthys is a species of freshwater whitefish in the family Salmonidae. It is also known variously by the common names sheefish, inconnu, connie, nelma and beloribitsa...

 (Stenodus leucichthys) and flatfish
Flatfish
The flatfish are an order of ray-finned fish, also called the Heterosomata, sometimes classified as a suborder of Perciformes. In many species, both eyes lie on one side of the head, one or the other migrating through and around the head during development...

.

The eastern part of the sea is a major habitat of beluga whales with an estimated population of 39,000. This population is stable and might even be increasing; it is not affected (yet) by the offshore oil exploration in the area. Belugas spend summer in the coastal area and Mackenzie River delta, which are free of ice then, and in winter migrate log distances to the polynyas of the deep sea. Genetic analyses have confirmed that belugas of the Beaufort Sea are clearly distinct from those of other Canadian and Alaskan waters, despite they often share a common wintering habitat.

The food chain of the Beaufort Sea is relatively simple: It starts with phytoplankton and epontic algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 (single-cell algae associated with the lower interface of sea ice), which provide energy to zooplankton, and epontic and coastal amphipods. The latter serve as a food for sea birds and fish, primarily as polar cod and Arctic char. Polar cod is a major food of Arctic char, beluga, narwhal
Narwhal
The narwhal, Monodon monoceros, is a medium-sized toothed whale that lives year-round in the Arctic. One of two living species of whale in the Monodontidae family, along with the beluga whale, the narwhal males are distinguished by a characteristic long, straight, helical tusk extending from their...

, sea birds and seals, which are dominated by the Bearded Seal
Bearded Seal
The bearded seal , also called the square flipper seal, is a medium-sized pinniped that is found in and near to the Arctic Ocean. It gets its generic name from two Greek words that refer to its heavy jaw...

 (Erignatus barbatus) and Ringed Seal
Ringed Seal
The ringed seal , also known as the jar seal and as netsik or nattiq by the Inuit, is an earless seal inhabiting the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions...

 (Pusa hispida). Bearded seal and walrus
Walrus
The walrus is a large flippered marine mammal with a discontinuous circumpolar distribution in the Arctic Ocean and sub-Arctic seas of the Northern Hemisphere. The walrus is the only living species in the Odobenidae family and Odobenus genus. It is subdivided into three subspecies: the Atlantic...

 also feed on benthic
Benthos
Benthos is the community of organisms which live on, in, or near the seabed, also known as the benthic zone. This community lives in or near marine sedimentary environments, from tidal pools along the foreshore, out to the continental shelf, and then down to the abyssal depths.Many organisms...

 invertebrates. On top of the food pyramid stands polar bear, which feeds primarily on seals, but also on any large marine mammals when it has a chance, such as carcasses and whales trapped in ice fields.

Human activities

The Beaufort Sea coasts were populated about 30,000 years ago by migrating aboriginal peoples from Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

. Later, around 9,000 years ago, they were replaced by Indians (First Nations
First Nations
First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...

/Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

, approximately 4,000 ago by Paleo-Eskimo
Paleo-Eskimo
The Paleo-Eskimo were the peoples who inhabited the Arctic region from Chukotka in present-day Russia across North America to Greenland prior to the rise of the modern Inuit and/or Eskimo and related cultures...

s such as the Dorset culture
Dorset culture
The Dorset culture was a Paleo-Eskimo culture that preceded the Inuit culture in Arctic North America. It has been defined as having four phases, with distinct technology related to the people's hunting and tool making...

, followed, around 1,000 years ago, by the Thule
Thule people
The Thule or proto-Inuit were the ancestors of all modern Inuit. They developed in coastal Alaska by AD 1000 and expanded eastwards across Canada, reaching Greenland by the 13th century. In the process, they replaced people of the earlier Dorset culture that had previously inhabited the region...

 and finally by the modern Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

. From early ages, they practiced fishing – bones of Arctic char were found at the 4,000 years old settlements. While originally they lived nomadic life, later, they started to form permanent settlements. Modern Inuit are mostly concentrated near the Mackenzie River delta. Their population is increasing, but the unemployment rate is relatively high.

Bowhead whales were hunted in the sea between 1888 and 1914. This practice stopped, first due to the decline in whale population and then due to government regulations, but resumed in 1990s.

The major settlements along the Beaufort Sea are Tuktoyaktuk (population 930 in 2009) in Canada and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
Prudhoe Bay or Sagavanirktok is a census-designated place located in North Slope Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, the population of the CDP was 2,174 people; however, at any given time several thousand transient workers support the Prudhoe Bay oil field...

. Although Prudhoe Bay is permanently populated by only a few people, there are thousands contract workers in the area employed at petroleum production at the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field
Prudhoe Bay oil field
Prudhoe Bay Oil Field is a large oil field on Alaska's North Slope. It is the largest oil field in both the United States and in North America, covering and originally containing approximately of oil.. BP. August 2006...

, which is located on the coastal lowland known as the North Slope
Alaska North Slope
The Alaska North Slope is the region of the U.S. state of Alaska located on the northern slope of the Brooks Range along the coast of two marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean, the Chukchi Sea being on the western side of Point Barrow, and the Beaufort Sea on the eastern.The region contains the...

. Artificial island
Artificial island
An artificial island or man-made island is an island or archipelago that has been constructed by people rather than formed by natural means...

s, such as Endicott
Endicott Island
Endicott Island is a 45-acre artificial island located in the U.S. state of Alaska, 2.5 miles offshore and 15 miles from Prudhoe Bay of the Beaufort Sea...

 and Northstar
Northstar Island
Northstar Island is a artificial island in the Beaufort Sea, northwest of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and north of the Alaska coast. The island was created to develop the Northstar Oil Pool, which is located approximately below the seabed...

 have been raised near the shores in 1987 and 2001, respectively. The crude oil is transported through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System , includes the Trans Alaska Pipeline, 11 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world's largest pipeline systems...

 to the southern port of Valdez
Valdez, Alaska
Valdez is a city in Valdez-Cordova Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 4,020. The city is one of the most important ports in Alaska. The port of Valdez was named in 1790 after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y...

.

The Beaufort Sea contains major gas and petroleum reserves beneath the seabed, a continuation of proven reserves in the nearby Mackenzie River and North Slope. The Beaufort Sea was first explored for sub-shelf hydrocarbons in the 1950s and estimated to contain about 250 km³ (60 cu mi) of oil and 300000 km³ (71,973.8 cu mi) of natural gas under its coastal shelf. Offshore drilling began in 1972; about 70 wells were set up by 1980s and 200 wells by 2000. These activities resulted in displacement of about 46.5 km³ (11.2 cu mi) of the sea bottom
Seabed
The seabed is the bottom of the ocean.- Ocean structure :Most of the oceans have a common structure, created by common physical phenomena, mainly from tectonic movement, and sediment from various sources...

 soil which contained barite, clay, caustic soda, as well as heavy metals zinc, copper, lead, chromium, cobalt, nickel, cadmium and mercury. About 50400 km³ (12,091.6 cu mi) of oil was produced in 1986.
A major gas field, named Taglu field, was discovered in the Mackenzie River delta in 1971, followed by the Parson Lake field and Niglintgak field. The estimated gas reserves of these fields are 58600 km³ (14,058.9 cu mi), 35400 km³ (8,492.9 cu mi) and 13600 km³ (3,262.8 cu mi), respectively. Moreover, further into the sea from the Mackenzie delta lies the Amauligak field. This largest known oil deposit of the Beaufort Sea was discovered in 1984 and is estimated to contain 37.3 km³ (8.9 cu mi) of oil and 38500 km³ (9,236.6 cu mi) of gas. Development of these fields is hindered by their remote location. This problem was alleviated for the Prudhoe Bay by constructing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, but is limiting regular commercial production at Mackenzie River deposits. For example, the Amauligak Project was started soon after the field discovery. In September 1985, the tanker Gulf Beaufort has transported 50300000 l (316,377 bbl) of crude oil to Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, which was the first shipment of oil from the Arctic deposits. However, the project has stalled after that.

Fishing and sea hunting are practiced by local population and have no commercial value, especially after the US moratorium on commercial fishing of the Beaufort Sea adopted in 2009. Trapping of muskrat at the Mackenzie River delta was the main source of income for the Indian and Eskimo
Eskimo
Eskimos or Inuit–Yupik peoples are indigenous peoples who have traditionally inhabited the circumpolar region from eastern Siberia , across Alaska , Canada, and Greenland....

 people during 1920–1960, but has declined since.

See also

  • Petroleum exploration in the Arctic
    Petroleum exploration in the Arctic
    The exploration of the Arctic for petroleum is more technically and physically challenging than for any other environment. However, with increases in technology and continuing high oil prices the region is now receiving the interest of the petroleum industry....

  • List of areas disputed by Canada and the United States
  • Canadian Internal Waters
    Canadian Internal Waters
    Canadian Internal Waters is a Canadian term that refers to "...the waters on the landward side of the baselines of the territorial sea of Canada,..."....

  • Northwest Passage
    Northwest Passage
    The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways amidst the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

  • Arctic Policy of the United States
    Arctic policy of the United States
    The Arctic Policy of the United States refers to the foreign policy of the United States in regards to the Arctic region. In addition, the United States' domestic policy toward Alaska is part of its Arctic policy....


External links

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