Photo Essay: Dutch Harbor and the Industrialization of the Arctic

by Jackie Dragon

July 6, 2012

USA ALASKA DUTCH HARBOR 4JUL12 - A Steller sea lion rests near Dutch Harbor in Unalaska Island, Alaska, USA. Photo by Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace


Steller Sea Lion in Dutch Harbor

Steller sea lion in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Photo:Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac

We stopped in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska this week, A remote area with spectacular views and wildlife, that will be the staging area for Shell’s Arctic drilling program later this month.

While there the Esperanza crew took in the rich Aleutian Island landscapes and were treated to a front-row seat for Unalaskas midnight 4th of July fireworks show.

Fireworks in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac

On a trip ashore we encountered a huge Steller sea lion bull basking in the sun while a raft of sea otters foraged nearby. Young bald eagles seemed to be testing their wings and gave no objection to our request for portraits. A number of local friends stopped by the ship to wish us well on our journey.

A juvenile bald eagle in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska

A juvenile bald eagle tests its wings with the Esperanza anchored in the distance. Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac

Unalaska is part of a chain of Aleutian Islands that cradle the Bering Sea to the South West of mainland Alaska. The island is best known for Dutch Harbor, the number one fishing port, by volume, in America. A robust fishing fleet and processing plants dominate the economy and geography of the island. From here crabbers, long-liners, and trawlers catch more than half of all the seafood caught in U.S. waters each year in the Bering Sea.

Trawling Vessels in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska

Trawling Vessels in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac

This month Dutch Harbor will host Royal Dutch Shell as they prepare to usher in the industrialization of the Arctic, bent on exploiting the waters recently opened up by global warming and melting sea ice. Shell is currently moving its armada of drilling rigs and support vessels into place just before they advance to the North Slope to begin drilling in the yet pristine Arctic waters.

Ships compass and Unalaska's midnight sunset

One of the Esperanza's compass and Unalaska's midnight sunset over a container terminal. Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac.

Large industrial fishing operations have also expressed interest in moving into newly opened Arctic waters to increase their fishing prospects. For now there is a moratorium on commercial fishing in U.S. arctic waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, where Shell plans to drill this summer, and a moratorium on bottom trawling – the most destructive type of fishing gear in the Northern Bering Sea.

Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska.

Panoramic view of Dutch Harbor. Photo: Sune Scheller

We are headed to the Arctic to show the world whats at stake and why people all around the world are calling for a global sanctuary in the high Arctic, and a ban on oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in this pristine region. So far 500,000 people have signed on, you can help us reach a million.


Our visit to Unalaska provided an opportunity to send a message to Shell: Go fly a kite. Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac


Greenpeace/Jiri Rezac


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.

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