It’s 2017, and a suite of new standards and practices are now in place for vessels operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. The new set of rules—called the Polar Code—is designed to increase ship safety and environmental protection in high-latitude waters. Adopted by a specialized agency of the United Nations called the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Polar Code sets standards for ship safety and for prevention of pollution from international shipping. The Polar Code took effect on January 1 of this year (with a one-year phase in period).
The Polar Code is so important because as sea ice continues to decline, the Arctic Ocean is becoming more accessible to vessel traffic. But as more ships operate in those remote and challenging waters, there are substantial safety and environmental risks—including possible impacts to food security of Arctic indigenous peoples.
When it comes to iconic ocean animals, seabirds are often overlooked. But seabirds, or birds that make their living primarily from the ocean, are a crucial part of marine ecosystems. From the tiny least storm petrel to the massive wandering albatross, seabirds consume an estimated 7% of ocean productivity and are an important food source for marine and terrestrial predators.
In honor of National Bird Day, we’re taking a moment to celebrate five fascinating seabirds.
For many of us, the ocean is a place of hope—it inspires us and supports us and in turn, we work hard to protect it. 2016 has been quite a year, full of ups and downs. But when it comes to the ocean, 2016 was a year of fantastic victories that remind us what is possible when we come together in support of our ocean, and give us hope for our ocean’s future.
Celebrate with me—I have some incredibly exciting news! President Obama just declared important protections for the northern Bering Sea and the Bering Strait by establishing the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.
The Northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait is like no place on Earth. It is home to indigenous communities who have relied on the rich resources of the area for millennia. The traditional subsistence way of life is inextricably tied to this rich marine ecosystem. President Obama responded to requests from over 70 tribes in the region to create the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.
The Executive Order issued by President Obama establishes comprehensive management for the region that establishes a role for Alaska Native tribes and traditional knowledge into federal management. The order also provides important safeguards against threats from increased vessel traffic and oil and gas development, and maintains the current closure to bottom trawl fishing, while allowing existing commercial fishing and sustainable economic development to continue.
For forty years, I have worked as a bayman in New York’s rich waters. You could find me bullraking hard clams, sail dredging oysters, dredging bay scallops and potting lobster. I have earned a living from these waters my whole life. Declines—and the occasional full crash—in shellfish stocks, however, have forced me to look at other occupations.
Ocean Conservancy congratulates the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for finalizing the first regional ocean plans in the nation. From Virginia to Maine, state and regional ocean users, decision-makers, tribes and the fisheries management councils came together to plan for the future of the ocean in a coordinated way. These plans are the culmination of years of work, bringing both regions towards a more holistic, science-based and stakeholder informed ocean management process that will ensure the ocean economy remains strong while ocean ecosystems remain healthy.