Celebrate with me—I have some incredibly exciting news! President Obama just declared important protections for the northern Bering Sea and the Bering Strait by establishing the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.
The Northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait is like no place on Earth. It is home to indigenous communities who have relied on the rich resources of the area for millennia. The traditional subsistence way of life is inextricably tied to this rich marine ecosystem. President Obama responded to requests from over 70 tribes in the region to create the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.
The Executive Order issued by President Obama establishes comprehensive management for the region that establishes a role for Alaska Native tribes and traditional knowledge into federal management. The order also provides important safeguards against threats from increased vessel traffic and oil and gas development, and maintains the current closure to bottom trawl fishing, while allowing existing commercial fishing and sustainable economic development to continue.
The Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience area is one of the most historically, environmentally, and culturally significant places on our planet. It sustains one of the largest marine migrations on the planet. Bowhead and beluga whales, walruses, seals and over 12 million birds from all over the world pass through the waters of the Bering Strait every summer on their way to and from the productive Arctic feeding and breeding grounds. There are now crucial protections in place that will preserve this amazing region of our entire planet.
Here are five reasons I’m applauding the President’s recent declaration! The Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area is:
- One of the most historically, environmentally, and culturally significant places on our planet.
- A cultural and food security stronghold for the Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Saint Lawrence Island Yupik, and Inupiat peoples who have lived in the region and depended on its rich marine resources for thousands of years.
- Home to one of the largest marine mammal migrations in the world, as millions of animals, including beluga and bowhead whales, walruses, and seals, travel through the funnel of the Bering Strait every year on their way to and from feeding and breeding grounds in the Arctic.
- A critical seabird migration corridor where millions of seabirds, from multiple continents, make their way to the Arctic each spring to take advantage of the seasonal burst of productivity, which also supports invertebrates and fish.
- A key source for vibrant small-scale local fisheries. Communities along the coast engage in small-scale fisheries for salmon, crab, herring, and halibut. These commercial fisheries provide an important source of jobs and income in the mixed subsistence-cash economy. The protections in President Obama’s order will help ensure that these fisheries can endure.
- On the frontline of climate change. Climate change and the rapid depletion of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean are altering the ecology of the area, as the ice melts earlier in the year and freezes later. This impacts fish and wildlife populations, and traditional hunting and fishing practices. As Arctic sea ice melts, the area also becomes more accessible for ship traffic, industrial fishing and oil drilling, posing a threat to Arctic wildlife and the subsistence way of life.
This is such wonderful news! On behalf of the Arctic wildlife, and the entire planet, please join me in taking action and saying THANK YOU to President Obama and his administration.