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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy



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.

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A Celebration for the Aleutians

Posted On January 1, 2016 by

This New Year’s Day, I’m raising a toast in celebration of increased protection for 160,000 square miles of ocean surrounding Alaska’s windswept and ecologically rich Aleutian Islands that go into effect today.

Thousands of ships – some of which are carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic fuel – that ply this busy segment of the Great Circle Trade Route will now have to maintain a distance of 50 miles from the shoreline surrounding the Aleutian Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Defined as Areas To Be Avoided (ATBA), this newly enacted protection will buffer the Alaskan archipelago’s most sensitive coastal areas against pollution, noise and accidents.

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BOEM Report: 75% Chance of Spill in Arctic

Posted On December 2, 2014 by

Large ice flows in the Arctic Ocean

Copyright Corbis. All rights reserved.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently released a revised environmental analysis of oil and gas activity in the Arctic Ocean.

BOEM’s latest analysis leaves no doubt that development and production of the Chukchi Sea oil and gas leases could be devastating to the Arctic marine ecosystem. Perhaps most troubling, a statistical analysis used by BOEM indicates that there is a 75% chance of one or more large spills over the lifetime of Chukchi Sea development and production. BOEM admits that a very large oil spill could result in the death of large numbers of polar bears, bowhead whales, seals, and marine and coastal birds.

The agency is accepting comments until December 22. Join Ocean Conservancy in telling BOEM to say no to risky Arctic drilling.

This environmental analysis and opportunity to comment has been a long time in the making. Almost seven years ago, in February of 2008, the federal government auctioned oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska. The auction was known as Lease Sale 193, and it purported to give successful lessees—including Shell—the conditional right to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

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Tell the Department of Interior to Protect Walruses

Posted On October 10, 2014 by

When I first saw the photo above, I couldn’t believe it was real.

Those are 35,000 walruses – packed together onshore in Alaska.

If you’re saying to yourself “that doesn’t look normal,” you’re right. Packs like this were unheard of before 2007.

The sea ice walruses usually rest on is disappearing, forcing them to come all the way to shore between feedings. These changes to sea ice are putting walruses at great risk.

Now, Shell has proposed a plan to drill for oil in the waters where walruses live, feed, and raise their young. Risky Arctic drilling will cause even more stress for the walruses that are already struggling to cope with the loss of sea ice. We need to stop Shell’s plan.

Click here to tell the Department of Interior to protect the walrus’s home. Say no to risky Arctic drilling.

New Report Will Promote Integrated Arctic Management

Posted On July 30, 2014 by

Photo: Jay DeFehr

With a new University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) report, we finally have a comprehensive view of oil, gas, and commercial transportation development in Arctic Alaska.

In a report to the President issued last year, a federal interagency working group called for a new, integrated approach to stewardship and development decisions in the U.S. Arctic. This new approach—called “Integrated Arctic Management”—is intended to integrate and balance “environmental, economic, and cultural needs and objectives” in the region.

Effective application of Integrated Arctic Management demands not only an understanding of Arctic ecosystems, but an understanding of the impacts of industrial development in the region. Until now, information on industrial development in the U.S. Arctic has been available only in piecemeal fashion, scattered throughout a range of documents and publications. This has made it difficult to understand how planned and proposed development activities will intersect with existing industrial operations to affect the region as a whole.

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Alaska in the Spotlight: Supporting Communities Facing the Big Risks From Ocean Acidification

Posted On July 29, 2014 by

The total risk of Alaska’s boroughs and census areas from ocean acidification. Red areas are at highest risk, while blue areas are at lowest risk. Population size (circles), commercial harvest value (dollar sign size), and subsistence fishing significance (fish icon size) contribute to the total risk. Reprinted from Progress in Oceanography.

We know that some people will be more at risk than others as a result of ocean acidification. We have seen this with oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest.  Scientists are now trying to determine what puts certain regions at greater risk than others from ocean acidification. Before I came to Ocean Conservancy, I helped lead a study on this question for Alaska, and it’s just been published in Progress in Oceanography this week.

My coauthors and I found that many of southwest and southeast Alaska’s boroughs and census areas (similar to counties or parishes in other states) face social and economic risk from ocean acidification – namely, many of the foods they eat and sell for income, all coming from the sea, are threatened by changes in the ocean’s chemistry.

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My Labor of Love

Posted On May 21, 2014 by

Colleen Rankin is a debris cleanup veteran. She lives in Blue Fox Bay, Alaska. Colleen regularly hauls debris from miles away back to her home, where she re-uses whatever she can and stores the rest for eventual disposal.

I am fortunate to live in one of the most remote locations on Earth. I have one seasonal neighbor 5 miles away and another family 25 miles from there. The closest town is 40 miles from us. All of us live on different islands separated by the powerful waters of the Gulf of Alaska. To live here is to witness the rhythm of the interdependent cycles of life on these beaches  ̶  the sea depositing kelp and seashells on the shorelines, creating what I call the line of life. We see bears, birds and other animals foraging in them. We call it the ocean’s gift of nutrition.  I have felt a part of an ancient world. But that is changing. And even here on the coast of Alaska, I’m surrounded every day by reminders of people from far away places.

That’s because the beaches near my home are literally covered in plastic, trash and netting. I take my skiff out and fill it with debris, stopping only because the boat is full to capacity. The beaches are accumulating trash at an alarming rate, and I am giving back to this beautiful place that has enriched my life so much in the most obvious way I can. And that is cleaning the beaches, sometimes the same beach over and over.

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