The Travel Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with the travel industry to integrate sustainable tourism into their business — to protect the environment and create opportunities for local people in tourism destinations. Their annual Make Your Holidays Greener Month, during July, celebrates the locations around the world we love to visit and encourages visitors and the travel industry alike to take part in a cleanup — the Big Holiday Beach Clean.
Earlier this year, a report from the World Wildlife Fund valued the world’s ocean at $24trillion – a figure largely calculated from the value of fishing, shipping and tourism. Whilst many already view the ocean as priceless, the attempt to put a monetary value on it highlights to businesses around the world the importance of taking action to protect marine ecosystems.
For tourism, the ocean and sea are vastly important. Many of the holidays we take have beaches and coastlines at their center and these environments are an inherent part of the product marketed by tourism companies to their customers. As a result, this industry is well placed to mobilize action, particularly on the growing and pervasive threat of marine litter.
The Bering Strait is the only marine connection between the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean to the north and the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean to the south. Just 55 miles wide, the Strait separates Alaska to the east and Russia to the west.
The Bering Strait is a biological hotspot. Millions of seabirds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals use the Strait as a migratory corridor, and the Bering and Chukchi Seas are one of the most productive ocean ecosystems in the world.
Recent posts on The Blog Aquatic have focused on the Bering Strait: the 50-mile-wide gateway that separates Alaska from Russia, and that provides the only marine passage between the North Pacific and the Arctic oceans.
Two weeks ago, we highlighted the extraordinary abundance of wildlife that migrates through the Bering Strait each spring—from bowhead whales and ice-dependent seals to walruses and seabirds. We also emphasized the importance of the region’s highly productive marine ecosystem to the residents of coastal communities who rely on marine resources to support their subsistence way of life and cultural traditions.
The Bering Strait—the only marine gateway between Pacific and Arctic oceans—is a key biological hotspot. As this recent blog post explained, the strait hosts an extraordinary abundance of wildlife. Every spring, huge numbers of marine mammals and birds migrate north through the strait on their way to Arctic waters.
In recent years, the Bering Strait has also turned into a hotspot for shipping. As sea ice in the Arctic retreats, vessel traffic is growing steadily. A recent analysis by the U.S. Coast Guard notes that “commercial ventures in the Arctic have increased maritime traffic in the Bering Strait. From 2008 to 2012, traffic through the Bering Strait increased by 118 percent.” Many types of vessels contribute to the growth in maritime traffic. Some of these ships provide supplies to coastal communities, some support oil and gas activities, and some travel between Europe and Asia across the Arctic Ocean on the Northern Sea Route along the Russian Arctic coast.
With 90 percent of the world’s trade being transported across our ocean, it was only a matter of time before the receding sea ice in the Arctic Ocean captured the interest of the shipping industry. Shipping goods through the Northern Sea Route across the Russian Arctic coast, along the fabled Northwest Passage of the Canadian and U.S. Arctic coasts, or straight across the North Pole could save time and money. But at what cost? The Arctic Ocean is far from a safe place for vessels, and the inevitable accidents in this remote and rapidly changing region could devastate the fragile ecosystem. Fortunately, the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations that regulates global shipping, is developing a mandatory ‘Polar Code’ designed to minimize impacts of the anticipated Arctic shipping boom.
Rose George’s recent book, “Ninety Percent of Everything,” offers an outsider’s look inside an immensely important, but remarkably obscure industry. George is a stranger on a strange sea, but she is able to enter deeply into the world of the shipping industry in a short time.
Her writing is clear, elegant and direct, making even discussions of shipping’s many acronyms and abbreviations—TEUs, UNCLOS, IMO, MARPOL, ECDIS—compelling.
George brings the personal into a world that has grown ever more distant and impersonal. She gains her entry into the closed world of shipping by traveling as a “supernumerary,” a working guest (her book is the work) on the Maersk Kendal.
She also joins a European Union Naval Force vessel, the Vasco de Gama, to see firsthand the international efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.
President Obama’s plan to address climate change is a step in the right direction on the long road toward making real progress in reducing carbon pollution. There is no greater threat to the life on our planet than the effects of putting too much carbon into the atmosphere, and we are already seeing the impacts. It’s urgent, and we must act now.
The Arctic is experiencing the effects of climate change more than anywhere else, with air temperatures warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Water temperatures are rising and seasonal sea ice is melting at a record-breaking pace.
As we have increased the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the air, the ocean has absorbed more and more of it, becoming 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. This has a ripple effect up the food web and across livelihoods.
There is something we can do about it. The ocean should be at the center of our solutions to the rising threat of carbon pollution. You can learn more about Ocean Conservancy’s work on this issue in my blog, The Ocean in a High CO2 World: