The Esperanza's Save the Arctic tour in Alaska
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza traveled to the Arctic to show what's at stake as melting sea ice opens the region to offshore drilling and unsustainable fishing. Scientists explored the little known waters and sea floor of the Bering and Chukchi Seas with small research submarines, and made discoveries that will help protect this pristine environment. We met with the people who have called this region home for generations, and joined a growing global movement to save the Arctic.
In the Bering Sea, we documented a rich ecosystem of corals, sponges, and other fragile marine life in the largest underwater canyons in the world, which provide a living habitat for juvenile fish and crabs. This science will help protect these important canyons from the impacts of trawling and overfishing, to ensure that the management of the largest fishery in the United States protects the food supply for marine mammals, birds and Native communities who depend on a healthy marine ecosystem for their survival.
As we work to protect these Bering Sea canyons from destructive fishing methods, we still have a chance to get it right in the Arctic. This type of industrial fishing hasn’t yet reached the waters further north in the Chukchi Sea - but industrial fishing fleets are eyeing the north as the sea ice melts, just like the oil industry.
During the first ever research submarine dive in the Chukchi Sea, Greenpeace discovered abundant corals known as "sea raspberry" where Shell hopes to begin offshore drilling in the Arctic. The discovery of these abundant corals shows just how little is known about this fragile and unique region, and raises questions about why the Arctic corals are not adequately addressed in the environmental impact statement for Shell's drilling program.
We shared our research and discussed our campaign with some of the Native Alaskan people who call this region home. We returned to the communities in the Pribilof Islands to present our discoveries and hear from people who have depended upon the fish and wildlife of the Bering Sea for generations, but are now struggling with the impacts of overfishing and destructive fishing methods like trawling.
We met the people of Point Hope, an Arctic community that has survived for thousands of years with the bounty of the Chukchi Sea. These waters, which they call their garden, are now threatened by pollution, noise, and the risk of an oil spill that would come with Shell's plans for offshore drilling in the Arctic.
The people and wildlife who call the Arctic home are on the front lines of climate change, as sea ice melts at record rates and the region warms twice as fast as the rest of the planet. But the Arctic matters for all of us too, helping keep our climate stable by reflecting the sun’s rays off its ice. As the Arctic melts, we'll see more of the extreme weather that has ravaged the planet this summer.
As the Esperanza's tour ends, our campaign to save the Arctic is just beginning. Activists around the world have challenged Shell, from its corporate headquarters in the Hague and Houston to gas stations in London and beyond. Supporters all around the world are using social media to expose Shell's multi-billion dollar Arctic hoax. Alongside our allies in the United States, we're calling on the Environmental Protection Agency and President Obama to reject Shell's request to violate air quality standards for its drilling fleet, and challenging Shell's oil spill response plan in court.
This is a global challenge, as the oil industry's record in the Russian Arctic makes clear; tons of oil are spilled on land each year, and every 18 months more than four million barrels spews into the Arctic Ocean - nearly as much as BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. As other oil companies seek to exploit the melting sea ice and begin drilling in Arctic waters, we know we need a global movement to draw a line in the ice and protect this fragile region. More than a million people have come together calling for a global sanctuary in the high Arctic, and a ban on offshore drilling and unsustainable fishing in Arctic waters, and more are joining every day.
Be one of them.