Friday Flick: Protecting the Bering Sea

Spanning more than 770,000 square miles between western Alaska and Russia’s Siberian coast, the rich waters of the Bering Sea are home to a billion-dollar commercial fishing industry which 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 all.

Greenpeace and others are advocating for the creation of Marine Protected Areas – including fully protected marine reserves – to restrict fishing gear that damages vital habitat.

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The Bering Sea’s 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.

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, Greenpeace is calling on fishery managers and the National Marine Fishery Service to identify and implement measures to protect the Bering Sea canyons and ecosystem.

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