Our oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain almost 100 percent of the planet’s water. But our oceans are not an infinite resource and activities taking place around the globe are putting this vital resource in serious peril. rom fishing practices that put profit ahead of ecological stability, to the continuation of so-called “research” whaling, to land-originating pollution that is literally choking delicately balanced ecosystems to death, the crimes committed against our oceans are many. The work to be done preserving and protecting them is immense. The cost, should the destruction of our oceans and their resources continue, is immeasurable.
Milestone: A Bering Sea Adventure
Home to some of the largest underwater canyons in the world, the Bering Sea not only provides sea creatures with habitats deep enough to be protected from industrial fishing operations, but likely serves as a home to marine life yet to be seen with human eyes. Due to their isolation, there could well be species living in the depths of marine canyons that are found nowhere else on earth.
But these areas are increasingly vulnerable as they also serve as home to ocean life with a high commercial value. That’s why the commercial fishing industry has pushed back hard against attempts to limit annual catches in the Bering Sea, as well as efforts to create marine reserves where bottom trawling and other destructive fishing practices would be prohibited.
This was why, in 2007, Greenpeace and a team of scientists embarked on a massive exploration of the Bering Sea’s Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons, two of the largest undersea canyons in the world. Our research expedition included the first in situ exploration of the Zhemchug Canyon and the first manned submersible exploration of the Pribilof. Even our initial discoveries were exciting and notable – corals previously unrecorded in the Bering Sea, the presence of 18 species of sea sponge (including an entirely new species) and evidence of even greater potential.
Thanks in part to this research and the support of Greenpeace activists and allies worldwide, in early April 2011, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council initiated a new process that could lead to protections for the largest underwater canyons in the world. The decision came in response to requests from more than twenty organizations, including conservation groups, tribal organizations, and even seafood businesses.
Greenpeace’s work in the Bering Sea continues, fueled by our desire to protect, educated and discover more about this fascinating region.