Today, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that sea ice in the Arctic Ocean hit the second lowest minimum on record during the summer of 2016.
This is why:
Sea ice is the foundation of the Arctic ecosystem. Wildlife like the iconic polar bear depends on sea ice to hunt prey such as ringed seals, forage and breed. As their sea ice habitat continues to diminish, it is estimated that by 2050, global polar bear populations will decrease by 30%.
Sea ice is tied to indigenous culture and the subsistence way of life. The Arctic is home to indigenous communities that depend on a healthy marine environment to survive. As sea ice diminishes, many communities are being forced to travel much further to hunt, and face new challenges like more frequent, more severe storms.
Last month, President Obama made history by establishing the largest protected marine area ever in Hawaii.
Now, he’s at it again.
Today, President Obama announced the protection of a new marine area in New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. That means that in just a matter of weeks, Obama has protected more U.S. waters than any other president.
Does all of this trash talk have you feeling down in the dumps? For 30 years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), has helped keep trash off our beaches and out of the ocean!
Volunteers from states and territories throughout the U.S. and more than 100 countries come together each year and participate in an ICC event near them. You can sign up to clean up or propose a new cleanup site! Three decades of Cleanups have yielded more than 210 million pounds of trash being collected and saved from polluting our ocean. Over 11.5 million volunteers have covered more than 360,000 miles of coastlines across the world.
This week, Ocean Conservancy is focusing on the Our Ocean conference here in Washington, D.C. As a parallel to this conference, Crystle Wee will be attending the Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit at Georgetown University.
By Crystle Wee
My earliest memories of the sea were when my grandmother showed my sister and I how to dig for colorful, butterfly-shaped remis clams at a beach near my home. As a child, the ocean was a place of wonder—the waves never stopped playing with us, and we tried to grab fistfuls of sand before the waves hid the clams from us again and again. We spent hours at the surf, on the edge of the sea digging for them, racing to see who could fill their pail first so we could fry them in garlic for dinner. Little did I know that this was the start of my lifelong fascination with the sea.
I live in Singapore, a small island at the tip of a long tail that is the Malay Peninsula. Ask anyone in my country why the ocean is important and they are bound to mention that it enables trade. Traders in the past have exchanged goods from crates full of intoxicating opium to pungent spices and dried tea leaves, sailing between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Needless to say, modern Singapore still has one of the busiest ports in the world. I guess you could say that the ocean has and will always be our gateway to the rest of the world. How the ocean is governed, who can pass through it and how it is used has a direct impact on my country.
Time flies! In the blink of an eye summer came to an end and now kids are back to school. And, in only one week it’ll be time again for Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup. We have been very busy here getting ready—making sure there are enough bags, gloves and data card at locations around the globe.
All my life, I’ve measured the “good life” with days on the water fishing. Escaping work, shunning worry and forgoing the pressures of daily life to enjoy the elemental world of water, weather and a fish has defined the happiest moments of my life. Actually, it’s a natural inheritance since my family has called Alabama and these Gulf waters home for several hundred years.
As with any natural inheritance, I tend to be protective of my roots. Supporting my protective bent, the United States has some of the best fisheries management practices in the world. The overall law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, is effective because it is implemented using science-based rules, such as annual catch limits and rebuilding timelines, as currently defined by National Standard 1 (NS1). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is responsible for establishing and assessing these rules, and the nation’s eight regional fisheries management councils are mandated to execute them.
Last monththe Crystal Serenity set sail from the Alaskan port of Seward on a voyage through the Northwest Passage to New York City, making it the first cruise ship of its size to attempt this journey. The luxury liner stopped at ports of call along the Alaskan coast, including the town of Nome (population 3,850). Thanks to Nome resident Austin Ahmasuk for sharing his perspective with us.
Peering seaward south of River Street at 7:57 am, I saw the ship climb over the horizon as it materialized out of the fog. The P/V Crystal Serenity, with 1,700 passengers and crew aboard, arrived on time as predicted and slowly made its way shoreward. My eyes were glued to its deliberate movements. I knew it was big and, as the largest cruise ship to visit Nome got closer, its size towered in contrast to Nome’s normally modest waterfront.
I scanned for signs of its escort vessel, the RRSErnest Shackleton. It surely must be near to provide assistance in case something went wrong. But the Ernest Shackleton was nowhere to be seen. The website showed that it was in Baffin Bay, Canada several thousand miles distant!
If something were to go wrong—an oil spill or shipwreck—our small town’s local volunteers and handful of response vessels would be the ones expected to answer the call.