The Bering Sea Canyons, one of the wildest regions in the ocean and deeper than the Grand Canyon, are in trouble. We preserve some of the most special places on earth to ensure their vitality, wonder, and resilience for future generations. Just as we have protected special places on land, like Yellowstone, Yosemite or Denali national parks, we need to preserve some of the most special places in the sea. The seafood industry is overfishing one of our last remaining wild places, and pollution, habitat destruction and climate change threaten to turn this rich, dynamic ecosystem into a lifeless desert. The Bering Sea, spanning more than 770,000 square miles between western Alaska and Russia's Siberia Coast, is important because it provides fish, and jobs, subsistence foods for native peoples, and even the oxygen that we breathe through the health of its ecosystems. All of this bounty is fueled by nutrient-rich upwelling along the Green Belt and up from the depths of the largest underwater canyons in the world - it's as irreplaceable as any of our national parks.
Conservation groups including Greenpeace, Ocean Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Oceana, Center for Biological Diversity, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Marine Conservation Institute and more have been seeking protections for the giant underwater canyons in the Bering Sea for more than a decade. So far the organization tasking with protecting this region, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, have denied our requests to protect the Bering Sea. Instead, they sided with the fishing industry, pushing for more fishing now at the expense of healthy fisheries for generations to come. However, they named the canyons a top research priority so Greenpeace took up the challenge! In 2007, and again last summer, we brought together government and independent researchers survey the slopes of Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons. With small submarines equipped with hi-definition video cameras, we dove into these "Grand Canyons" and brought back proof of their vitality. We saw vibrant coral and sponge communities, juvenile fish nestled into sponge holds, Giant Pacific octopuses sidled up to sea fan corals, and huge nurseries for slow-to-hatch skates. Sadly, there were also scarred swaths of seafloor with nothing more than broken coral remnants where fishing gear had destroyed all signs of life.
Now, we are closer than ever to protecting the canyons. In June, government scientists will present the latest science on the canyons and their vulnerability to fishing. Once again, the Council will judge whether or not something should be done to stop the fishing that is systematically destroying this beautiful and important place. The fishing industry will be there too, no doubt urging more trawling through the canyons, choosing quick profit over this wonder of the sea. Your voice matters because these canyons belong to all of us. Together we can protect this essential part of the Bering Sea so the whole ocean system may continue to thrive. Marine reserves are a simple and proven tool to manage healthy ecosystems. When we leave the ocean alone fish return, larger, more diverse and abundant. Join us in telling the North Pacific Fishing Management Council that we have waited long enough to protect this special place, one of the most remarkable on land or in the sea: the Bering Sea Canyons.
Your support is invaluable,
Bering Sea Campaigner