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Greetings from...

THE BERING SEA

The Bering Sea is one of the wildest regions in the world and the source of over half the seafood caught in the United States. Spanning more than 770,000 square miles between western Alaska and Russia's Siberian coast, these rich waters gave rise to the native Alaskan communities throughout the region, some of which date back 10,000 years.



Although Alaska's billion-dollar fishing industry is one of the most closely monitored in the world, there are serious causes for concern. The poster child of U.S. fisheries management is in need of a major makeover if we want to ensure Bering Sea fish and fishing for future generations. Excessive fishing is threatening the food supply for marine mammals and birds as well the Native communities and small-boat fishermen who depend on a healthy marine ecosystem for their survival. Fragile coral and sponge habitat, essential for fish and other marine life, is being destroyed by unregulated fishing gear.

Public stakeholders, Tribal groups and governments, and seafood businesses have come together to demonstrate their shared interest in protecting the "Bering Sea Gold" that belongs to us all.

Protecting Bering

We can protect this ecosystem for future generations through the creation of Marine Protected Areas – including fully protected marine reserves – that restrict fishing gear that damages vital habitat.

Over a billion dollars of seafood - mostly pollock, but other species as well - is harvested in the Bering Sea each year. Zhemchug and Pribliof Canyons – the largest underwater canyons in the world - are carved into the Green Belt zone along the shelf break where they fuel high productivity and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Despite the ecological and economic importance of this stretch of ocean, the increasing threat of climate change, and the uncertainty involved in managing these fisheries, there are no areas protected from fishing along the entire shelf break. That must change. Given how little we understand about deep sea ecosystems or the connections between seafloor habitats and commercially important species, it is extremely risky not to set aside representative portions of the shelf break as a buffer against uncertainty.

Beginning with an historic 2007 expedition into Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons Greenpeace has partnered with independent scientists to provide the best available science to inform the decisions of policy makers. In the summer of 2012 Greenpeace's largest ship, the Esperanza, set sail for the Bering Sea once again. On board with us our submarines allowed researchers to dive into the Bering Sea canyons and bring back more scientific data to increase our understanding of these special places.

With new and compelling scientific evidence, strong support from some of the world's most respected experts on marine life, and the backing of native communities throughout Alaska together with many more public stakeholders we are calling on fishery managers and the National Marine Fishery Service to identify and implement measures to protect the Bering Sea canyons and ecosystem.

Join us to urge decision makers to get this long overdue job done before it's too late.

We must bring balance to the Bering Sea to ensure its ongoing vitality and productivity into the future.

The Skies

Part of the Sea's Ecosystem

The Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska is home to a wide variety of birds. Large birds like the short tailed albatross and smaller birds such as the rock sandpiper play an important role in this delicate ecosystem. Species found here include Albatross, Horned Puffin, Arctic Tern, and the Redfaced Cormorant. The Pribilofs are particularly spectacular, as they are the summer breeding grounds for over two million sea birds.

The Surface

Overfishing Hurts Larger Species

The explosive growth of the pollock fishery since the 1960s has been accompanied by steep declines of top predators in the pollock food web, including whales, endangered steller sea lions, northern fur seals, and pacific harbor seals. Steller sea lion populations in the Bering Sea and western Gulf of Alaska have dropped by about 80 percent. In parts of the Gulf of Alaska, harbor seal numbers have dropped by as much as 90 percent.

Trawl closures put in place in some areas of sea lion critical habitat have helped, but additional measures are needed - particularly for fur seals, which seem headed for an Endangered Species Act listing. Other mammals participating in this food web include the Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Polar Bear, Ringed Seal, Bearded Seal, Ribbon Seal, Harbor Seal, Walrus and Sea Otter.

The Shallows



Going Under the Surface in Submarines

Our 2007 expedition was the first in situ exploration of Zhemchug Canyon of any kind, and the first manned submersible exploration of Pribilof Canyon.

We used an ROV and two Deep Worker mini-submarines to explore the canyons.

Watch the video of the team testing out the submarines for the first time, and share in Timo's awe at seeing bioluminescent comb jellies at 1,000 feet below the surface.

Bering Voices

The Bering Sea is home to native communities that have fished these waters for nearly 10,000 years, but are facing cultural extinction as industrial fleets from as far as half a world away scoop up billions of fish, stealing the resources from their home waters.

Mid-Depth

Take a Submarine Adventure!

Have you ever wanted to drive a submarine? Or descend down deep under the sea to take a look at the amazing creatures living there?

Come dive with us on an expedition into the Grand Canyons of the Bering Sea! Discover a new species and watch out for squid attacks!

Click "play" to get started. As pilot, you will be asked to click on links within the video to choose your adventure path.

Deep Sea Canyons

Unique, Isolated Habitats

Here you will find the largest and deepest submarine canyons in the world—notably the stunning Zhemchug Canyon, which is wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon. These unique habitats are deep enough to provide refuges for species that have literally no place else to hide from industrial fishing operations, and are likely to be home for creatures that have yet to be seen with human eyes. Due to their isolation, there could well be species living in the depths of the canyons that can be found nowhere else on earth.

Destructive fishing practices are decimating these critical deep-water habitats and destroying the ancient corals and sponges that are integral to life here. Factory trawlers drag nets across the canyon walls, uprooting fragile corals and sponges that provide habitat for a host of other species. Some of these slow-growing corals can be hundreds or even thousands of years old.

New Discoveries

Previously Unknown Life

In our explorations we have found at least twelve species of coral, and at least eighteen species of sponge. Many of the corals and sponges we found were previously unrecorded in the Bering Sea or at least unknown that far north, a testament to both how little is known about the deep sea and how unique these canyons are. Unfortunately, we also found considerable evidence of damage from fishing - broken corals and long trenches dug into the seafloor.

Aaptos kanuux

Greenpeace discovered a new species of sponge in the submarine canyons of the Bering Sea. See the new species for yourself! Dive into our Aaptos kanuux video of the new sponge and other species living in the depths of the Bering Sea.

Protect Bering

It’s not too late!

We can protect this ecosystem for future generations through the creation of Marine Protected Areas – including fully protected marine reserves – that restrict fishing gear that damages vital habitat.

Over a billion dollars of seafood - mostly pollock, but other species as well - is harvested in the Bering Sea each year. Zhemchug and Pribliof Canyons – the largest underwater canyons in the world - are carved into the Green Belt zone along the shelf break where they fuel high productivity and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Despite the ecological and economic importance of this stretch of ocean, the increasing threat of climate change, and the uncertainty involved in managing these fisheries, there are no areas protected from fishing along the entire shelf break. That must change. Given how little we understand about deep sea ecosystems or the connections between seafloor habitats and commercially important species, it is extremely risky not to set aside representative portions of the shelf break as a buffer against uncertainty.

Beginning with an historic 2007 expedition into Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons Greenpeace has partnered with independent scientists to provide the best available science to inform the decisions of policy makers. In the summer of 2012 Greenpeace's largest ship, the Esperanza, set sail for the Bering Sea once again. On board with us our submarines allowed researchers to dive into the Bering Sea canyons and bring back more scientific data to increase our understanding of these special places.

With new and compelling scientific evidence, strong support from some of the world's most respected experts on marine life, and the backing of native communities throughout Alaska together with many more public stakeholders we are calling on fishery managers and the National Marine Fishery Service to identify and implement measures to protect the Bering Sea canyons and ecosystem.

Join us to urge decision makers to get this long overdue job done before it's too late.

We must bring balance to the Bering Sea to ensure its ongoing vitality and productivity into the future.

Greetings from...

THE BERING SEA