Into the Arctic

by Jackie Dragon

July 22, 2012

Sunrise above the Bering Strait

Sune Scheller / Greenpeace

Sunrise near the Bering Strait this early morning. Photo by Sune Scheller / Greenpeace

We have now crossed the Polar Circle with the Esperanza and we are in the Arctic, and the Chukchi Sea. Here in this extremely fragile environment, Shell is planning to drill for oil. Home to bowhead whales, polar bears, walrus, numerous species of birds and other animals – this is no place for oil drilling!

Even though today is a fairly calm and peaceful day at sea this is an incredibly harsh environment. Intense gales, unpredictable ice and its extreme remoteness means an oil spill here would be catastrophic. A clean up here would be an exercise in the impossible; it would make the clean up after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico look like a walk in the park.

We need your help to protect the Arctic. Not only from dangerous oil drilling but also from industrial trawl fishing companies waiting to get their hands on the spoil. We need you to take action and here is a place to start.

Entering the Arctic also means that we are now leaving the Bering Sea. Over the last couple of weeks we met with the local communities on the Pribilof Islands, St George and St Paul, and listened to their plight to preserve their culture and the marine life around them that has sustained them for thousands of years.

And we conducted 14 submarine dives into the worlds largest underwater canyons Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons in the middle of the Bering Sea. These amazing ocean features are drivers of the productivity and immense biodiversity in the Bering Sea, but they are being damaged by industrial fishing methods like trawling and longlining.

Juvenile rockfish in a sponge

On these research dives we captured a first-hand view of the life at the bottom, including the vital interactions between fish and coral, crab and sponges. All the animals in this vibrant ecosystem are connected. We need to protect the fragile slow-growing animals down in the dark canyon reaches because they provide habitat for many species we want to catch for food, sustainably into the future.

The video record from these dives will soon be in the hands of scientists who will report back to fishery managers. Without a doubt there is much more down there than just mud, sand and silt as some industry players would have us believe. And we got the pictures to prove it!

Jackie Dragon

By Jackie Dragon

Jackie Dragon formerly served as a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. Jackie has been campaigning to protect important places in the ocean since 2008. Her current focus is on the Bering Sea, where she fights to conserve the largest submarine canyons in the world from destructive industrial fishing practices.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.