By Brett Garling, Mission Blue
In a fantastic event last night at the Seattle Aquarium, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and Greenpeace’s Phil Radford announced the Bering Sea Canyons as the official 19th Hope Spot. The event attracted a large turnout and impassioned speeches in defense of the new Hope Spot. Moreover, a bonafide airship was in play!
The Bering Sea isn’t just chilly…it’s also super cool: these 770,000 square miles (1,994,000 square kilometers) of tempestuous waters off the coast of Alaska and Siberia are home to immense populations of fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and ancient corals, as well as the Bering Sea Canyons, the largest and deepest submarine canyons in the world, even larger than the Grand Canyon.
The rich ecosystem has supported indigenous tribes for thousands of years and currently provides over half the seafood caught in the United States.
If half the total U.S. catch sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Sadly, under this enormous commercial pressure, the Bering Sea is in decline. Since the 1960’s, the region has seen steep declines in top predators — i.e. whales, sea lions, seals — with some populations dipping by over 80 percent of historic levels. Moreover, trawling nets are decimating ancient corals and sponges in the deep canyons, which are critical to the ecosystem and are hundreds to thousands of years old.
The Bering Sea was a rich ecosystem of harmony, and now it faces collapse due to the pressures of industrial fishing. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council are the stewards of these precious waters and, as such, they must protect sensitive habitats so the Bering Sea can continue to be a flourishing ocean ecosystem into the future. With the global ocean in a general decline, the preservation of the Bering Sea as a Marine Protected Area — or Hope Spot — is critical.
Please join your voice in this cause. Sign the Greenpeace petition to help protect the Bering Sea Canyons and reach out to support in any way you can.