Ocean Currents

Donate Today

Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

//

New Report Evaluates Risks of Vessel Traffic in the Bering Sea

Posted On January 12, 2017 by

Photo Credit: NOAA Fisheries

As Arctic sea ice continues to melt, the Bering Sea—including the narrow Bering Strait—is experiencing more and more ship traffic. As ship traffic increases, so too do the risks, including oil spills, vessel strikes on marine mammals, air pollution, discharge of wastes into the water, and production of underwater noise.

A new report, commissioned by Ocean Conservancy and conducted by Nuka Research and Planning Group LLC, evaluates the risks from vessel traffic in the Bering Strait.

The Bering Sea is used by millions of seabirds, and an array of marine mammals including whales, seals, walruses and polar bears. Alaska Native peoples who live near the Bering Sea depend on its fish and wildlife as a key source of food and to support cultural practices that date back millennia. And the Bering Sea is home to rich commercial fisheries: in 2014, five of the top 10 most valuable commercial fisheries in the United States were based in or near the Bering Sea.

Continue reading »

A New Year, a New Set of Rules for Polar Waters

Posted On January 6, 2017 by

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.

Continue reading »

Arctic Sea Ice Hit the Second Lowest Minimum on Record

Posted On September 15, 2016 by

Polar bears are highly dependent on sea ice.

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.

It matters.

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.

Continue reading »