Discovering abundant corals at Shell’s Arctic drill site

August 3, 2012

USA ALASKA CHUKCHI SEA 26JUL12 - Pack ice egde at 71º20' North and 163º34' West in the Chukchi Sea near a proposed Shell drill site north of Point Hope, Alaska.The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is on an Arctic expedition to study unexplored ocean habitats threatened by offshore oil drilling, as well as industrial fishing fleets.Photo by Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace© Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

Some of the support vessels for Shell's drilling program havebegun to moveinto the Arctic to exploit the melting sea ice, despite the fact that the company does not have final permits needed to begin drilling, its oil spill response barge has not been certified, and it can't meet required clean air standards for its drill rig, the 46 year old converted log carrier known as the "Noble Discoverer." With the threat of Arctic drilling looming, marine biologist John Hocevar took a small research submarine down to the site where Shell hopes to drill this summer, and discovered abundant corals known as "sea raspberry." Corals are particularly important because they provide a living habitat for fish and other species, and asHocevar told the Washington Post, Deep-sea corals are cold-water, slow-growing and long-lived animals and highly vulnerable to disturbance.The discovery of these abundant corals shows just how little is known about this fragile and unique region, and it also raises more questions.Why weren't these Arctic corals includedin the environmental impact statement for Shell's drilling program? The Arctic and the people and animals that call it home are already struggling with rapidly melting sea ice, as the region warms twice as fast as the rest of the planet. It's a unique place that we should strive toprotect, to study, and to better learn what's at stake as the impacts of climate change become clearer and ever more serious.

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