Ocean Currents

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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


About Andrew Hartsig

Andrew Hartsig is the director of Ocean Conservancy’s Arctic Program. He lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. In a bid to put off taking the bar exam after law school, he paddled a sea kayak from Bellingham, Washington to Juneau, Alaska in the summer of 2005. [Ed. note: Fortunately, he made it back safely and passed with flying colors.]


The Future: Arctic Five-Year Plan

Posted On October 18, 2016 by

We have less than a month to keep the Arctic Ocean safe from offshore drilling.

Right now, President Obama is preparing a new five-year leasing plan, and it could allow risky oil and gas leasing to go forward in the Arctic Ocean. We can’t let that happen.

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Luxury Cruises and Other Realities of a Changing Arctic

Posted On September 29, 2016 by

© Diane Bondareff, Crystal Cruises

With far less attention than she garnered at the start of her journey, Crystal Serenity sailed into New York City on September 16, 2016, becoming the first cruise ship of her size to complete the journey through the Northwest Passage.

For us at Ocean Conservancy, the success of this expensive pleasure cruise is yet another symbol of a changing Arctic. The science is clear: global climate change is hitting this fragile region faster and more furiously than perhaps any other place on the planet.

The precipitous decline of seasonal sea ice is a clear example. In an announcement that came less than 24-hours before Crystal Serenity reached her final port, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean dropped to the second lowest level on record during the summer of 2016.

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Cruising the Northwest Passage: A Symbol of a Rapidly Changing Arctic

Posted On August 17, 2016 by

Photo: Ocean Conservancy / Sarah Bobbe

SEWARD, ALASKA – Small only in comparison to the rocky peaks surrounding the city, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity easily dwarfed every other structure in Seward, Alaska. On August 16, she slipped her moorings and started a month-long voyage through the Northwest Passage with over 1,700 passengers and crew onboard. 

This is an important milestone to us. The impact of climate change has now ushered in an era where a luxury cruise ship is able to sail from the North Pacific to the Atlantic via the fabled Northwest Passage—a route that once defeated even the most intrepid explorers. While other vessels have made the transit, this is the first time a tour ship of this size—almost the length of three football fields—has attempted the passage. Crystal Serenity’s journey is yet another symbol of a rapidly changing Arctic.

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Leaving the Arctic

Posted On June 9, 2016 by

The news from the Arctic this week has been all about what’s leaving the Arctic. It’s good news when oil and gas companies leave the Arctic, but it’s really bad news when sea ice leaves the Arctic!!

First, let’s get to the good news. Repsol, an oil and gas company, just announced it’s abandoning 55 of its oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea and plans to abandon the remaining 38 over the next year. In addition, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Iona Energy and Shell have given up more than 350 leases covering more than 2 million acres in the Chukchi Sea. Soon, there will be only one lease remaining in the Chukchi Sea—and additional drilling on that lease is unlikely.

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Five Reasons to Love the Arctic Tern

Posted On June 8, 2016 by

Call up the Guinness Book of World Records! In the news this morning, we learned that a tiny bird from the Farne Islands, in England, has logged the longest migration ever recorded. The Arctic tern’s journey to Antarctica and back was recorded as a total of 59,650 miles—that’s more than twice the circumference of the planet. Astounding!

Here are five reasons that I love the Arctic Tern (and I hope you will, too)!

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Icy Waters for Shell

Posted On May 10, 2016 by

Yesterday, Shell gave up almost all of its oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea. This marks another nail in the coffin for risky offshore oil drilling in the Arctic.

But Shell still has one lease remaining in the Chukchi Sea, along with leases in the Beaufort Sea off northern Alaska. What’s more, the Obama Administration is still considering whether to allow the sale of more offshore oil leases in Arctic waters.

There is too much at stake to risk additional leasing. Will you join us in protecting our Arctic by taking action today?

Some of the world’s largest seabird populations congregate in the Arctic. Iconic wildlife thrives in this amazing ecosystem, including polar bears, beluga whales and ringed seals.

Please take action by asking the Obama Administration to drop Arctic leasing from the final version of the 2017 to 2022 leasing program.

Breaking News: Offshore Drilling Moves Forward in Arctic; Atlantic Spared

Posted On March 15, 2016 by

Today, the Obama Administration issued a proposed offshore leasing program that contains some good news and some bad news.

First the good news: the Administration’s proposed program will protect the Atlantic Ocean from oil and gas leasing until 2022.

Last year, the Administration signaled that it was considering opening the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Virginia to risky offshore oil drilling. Federal waters in the Atlantic provide vital habitat for marine mammals and fish, and support thousands of coastal communities and billions of dollars in business from fishing, tourism and more. Allowing oil leasing in the Atlantic would have opened a new frontier for drilling and jeopardized these existing uses and values. Today’s proposed program precludes leasing in the Atlantic Ocean and eliminates the threat of Atlantic drilling for years to come—a big step in the right direction for the whales and sea turtles that call the Atlantic home.

However, not all the news is good: the proposed five-year leasing program would still allow risky oil and gas leasing to go forward in the Arctic Ocean.

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