8 June, 2018
Safety measures put in place for the Bering Strait – good news on World Oceans Day!
Photo: © Anne Henshaw / Oak Foundation
Photo caption: Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska 2013
On 8 June, World Oceans Day, Oak celebrates the announcement that the International Maritime Organization has put safety measures in place in the Bering Strait.
The Bering Strait, only 53 miles wide at its narrowest point, is the only marine gateway between the Arctic and the Pacific. The region is home to Alaska Native peoples who have depended on the health and bounty of the oceans here for millennia. A clean, healthy ocean is critical to food security and their way of life. The Bering Strait is a critical migratory pathway for thousands of marine mammals and millions of seabirds who move north through the Strait every spring.
A joint US/Russia proposal was submitted in February 2018 to establish new two-way routes to encourage ships to travel in offshore regions that have been charted to modern standards. Going forward, vessels will steer clear of three islands in the region (St. Lawrence, Nunavik and King Islands) which are environmentally sensitive and are important to subsistence activities.
The new routes proposed reduce the risk of vessel incidents that could endanger lives, lead to devastating oil spills, or adversely impact subsistence lifestyles.
“In 2018, less sea ice formed in the Bering Sea than usual, and communities were significantly impacted by some of the poorest conditions on record,” says Anne Henshaw, Programme Officer for Oak’s Environment Programme. “So, this news comes at the right moment! These measures will protect many endangered species and help preserve the sustainable livelihoods of the Alaskan Native Peoples who have lived there for millennia.”
Happy World Oceans Day everyone!