Greenpeace Ends Arctic Expedition, calls for urgent ocean and climate protection

Press release - 13 July, 2010
SVALBARD, Norway, Tuesday 13 July 2010. As its two-month Arctic Under Pressure ship expedition ends today, Greenpeace renewed its calls for urgent climate action and an immediate moratorium on industrial activities in the Arctic Ocean. During the expedition, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza examined some of the threats facing fragile Arctic Ocean ecosystems.

As well as capturing breathtaking images of previously unseen areas of the sea floor north of Svalbard [1], the expedition supported groundbreaking research into the effects of ocean acidification caused by CO2 pollution[2].

As climate change causes the Arctic sea ice to melt, the Arctic Ocean is coming under increasing threats from potentially expanded industrial activities, including fishing, and oil and gas exploration.

"Greenpeace saw for the first time a very diverse and sensitive Arctic Ocean ecosystem rich in marine organisms such as soft corals, sea squirts and sponges", said Greenpeace Nordic expedition leader Frida Bengtsson. "Allowing industrial fishing fleets to take advantage of the melting ice by advancing northwards puts these incredible habitats at risk of destruction even before they have been properly studied."

Greenpeace urges the world to learn from the collapse of fish species such as North Atlantic cod, from overfishing, and the devastation wreaked by the Gulf oil spill, and apply those lessons to the Arctic Ocean.

 "We must give the Arctic Ocean - a pristine polar ocean wilderness - real protection from the double threat of resource exploitation and climate change," continued Bengtsson. "Governments must agree stronger controls to protect the Arctic, including an international moratorium on all industrial activities."

The expedition also supported German marine science institute IFM-GEOMAR in carrying out the largest ever experiment on ocean acidification, a process caused by the ocean's absorption of CO2 pollution from industrial emissions [3].

"The experiment was a success," said Professor Ulf Riebesell leader of the IFM-GEOMAR ocean acidification project. "Not only do we now have the most comprehensive data set ever on the impacts of ocean acidification in Arctic waters, we have also learned from this experiment that ocean acidification in these waters has a definite impact on the base of the food web, which can have implications for
the entire ecosystem.

 "If we keep emitting CO2 at the current rate, marine organisms will experience changes in ocean acidity beyond anything they have experienced in the last 20 million years of their evolutionary history."

"Immediate and substantial greenhouse gas emission cuts are needed if we are to avoid the devastation of marine ecosystems" concluded Bengtsson. "Governments meeting in Cancun, Mexico in December for the next round of UN Climate negotiations, must add ocean acidification to the list of compelling reasons to agree a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal to reduce CO2."

See for more information about the expedition


Photo and Video available

John Novis, Greenpeace International photo desk, Mob:  + 44 (0) 7801 615 889
Photo feature available at:

Michael Nagasaka, Greenpeace International video desk, Mobile: +44
(0)7533 625 409

On shore:
Jo Kuper, Greenpeace International communications, +31 (0) 6 46 16 20 39
Dr. Andreas Villwock, IFM-GEOMAR press office, tel: +49 431 600 2802
On board the Esperanza:
Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International Communications, +353 87 2207023

1. In June 2010, the Esperanza used a "drop camera"  - a camera that can be lowered down to 400m to view the sea bed, and a remotely-operated vehicle with a high definition camera to survey and document two areas of seabed north of Svalbard, each approximately 1400 square kilometres, reach as far as 81 degrees north latitude. In each area, the drop camera was used to survey 12 transects, each approximately 2.8 kilometres in length. These transects were spread across the area, to ensure comprehensive geographical cover, and across different depth contour lines.

2. The Esperanza transported nine huge mesocosms, or 50,000 litre"test tubes", to and from the international research base at Ny-Ålesund, along with 30 tonnes of other scientific equipment from IFM-GEOMAR's base in Kiel, Germany. During the experiment, the CO2 concentration within each mesocosm was increased by adding high-CO2 water, giving a range of concentrationsfrom pre-industrial values (~280 ppm) to those expected by the middle of the next century (~1250 ppm), producing different levels of acidification.  Over five weeks in June and July 2010, scientists took daily samples to monitor changes in the chemistry and biology of the seawater trapped within each mesocosm, testing what happens under increasing CO2 and acidification. See: The experiment was based in the waters of Kongsfjord, next to the international research station at Ny-Ålesund, on Svalbard's west coast. In summer, scientists from many institutions and countries, specialising in environmental and earth science research, populate the station.

3. Ocean acidification is caused by rising CO2 levels in the oceans as a result of burning of fossil fuels and forest destruction. Oceans absorb around 8 billion tonnes of the CO2 produced by humans each year through use of fossil fuels alone. IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Chapter 7, Table 7.1 (page 516) and Section 7.3.2 (pages 515-526) When carbon dioxide enters the ocean, it forms a weak carbonic acid; this happens faster and with more impact in cold Arctic waters, and has a detrimental effect on the ability of shell and skeleton-building organisms, such as corals, shellfish and plankton to form their structures. Simulating future scenarios by adding CO2 to seawater inside mesocosms, the IFM-GEOMAR scientists will gain insight into how ocean acidification will affect the marine ecosystem in coming decades.