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5 Reasons to Protect the Bering Strait

Posted On January 25, 2016 by

The Bering Strait is worth fighting for.

Located between Alaska and Russia, the Bering Strait is the only marine gateway between the icy Arctic and the Pacific Ocean. At its narrowest point, the strait is only 55 miles wide.

The Bering Strait may be narrow, but it is teaming with wildlife. It is both a bottleneck and a pathway, home to species superbly adapted to this dynamic environment. It’s a place like nowhere else on earth, and one that we must fight to protect.

Here are five reasons the Bering Strait is worth saving:

1. It’s home to some of the Arctic’s most iconic residents

When you think of Arctic animals, what comes to mind? Walruses? Bowheads? Belugas? All of these species and more can be found in the Bering Strait’s incredibly nutrient-rich and productive waters. This narrow stretch of water is critically important, not only to Arctic species, but also to wider-ranging species like gray whales, spotted seals and migratory seabirds.

2. It has a rich history

For countless generations, residents of Bering Strait communities have hunted and fished in the region’s rich waters and on the sea ice that forms each winter. This subsistence way of life is inextricably connected to health of the marine ecosystem. Now, warming temperatures, melting sea ice and other changes are impacting traditional subsistence practices and pose significant challenges to Bering Sea communities.

3. It’s a seabird’s paradise

An estimated 12 million seabirds nest and forage in and around the Bering Strait. The region is home to a number of designated “Important Bird Areas”, which are places of essential habitat for bird species including spectacled eiders (south of St. Lawrence Island), pelagic cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, and least, parakeet and crested auklets. Overall, the Bering Strait region is the largest bird concentration area in Alaska. More broadly, the Bering Sea boasts North America’s largest concentration of breeding seabirds.

4. It’s a superhighway for Arctic animals

Springtime in the Bering Strait brings one of the largest migrations in the world. Each year, millions of birds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals follow retreating sea ice north through the Bering Strait. Throughout the journey, ice-dependent seals use the sea ice for resting and feeding, while polar bears and walruses use the ice to hunt.

5. It’s running out of time

The Bering Strait is under threat. Retreating sea ice is shrinking crucial habitat while increasing potential for oil and gas exploration, shipping and other industrial activities that contribute to higher levels of vessel traffic. Higher traffic levels in these icy, foggy, and rough seas increase the risk of oil spills and other accidents that could cause irreversible damage to the marine ecosystems and jeopardize the ability of Bering Strait communities to hunt and fish in their local waters.

This region is home to one of the most productive ocean ecosystems on the planet—and it needs our help. Will you take a stand to protect the Bering Strait?