Friday, June 14, 2013

Protections could be coming for Bering Sea Canyons

Bering Sea photo credit NOAA
On Monday, June 10th the North Pacific Fishery Management Council heard your comments and those of tens-of-thousands of others and voted to identify areas in the Bering Sea Canyons and consider measures to protect them. From Jackie Dragon, with ESC member organization Greenpeace:

After eight days of relentless presentations and discussions on the canyons issue, with so many ups and downs I could not possibly predict where we would end up on this roller coaster ride. The Council moved forward, unanimously, with two motions to begin a process that can, finally, protect the Bering Sea Canyons, and the vibrant ecosystem and productive fisheries they support. Up till the very last minute industrial-sized fishing industry representatives, especially the pollock trawlers, fought tooth and nail to convince the Council that more research on the canyons was in order, but certainly not anything more. The catch phrase echoing around the Council halls was “they want to kick the can down the road.” Read more...
This is a major victory for the Bering Sea Canyons and the marine species like endangered sea lions, orcas, and humpback whales that live there. It's also a momentous moment in public participation and the impact that can have. From Greenpeace's Philip Radford:

What else is new with this campaign is the truly remarkable amount of citizen engagement. This week, as the Council deliberated in Juneau, everywhere they went flyers, posters, and banners held by activists reminded them that more than 100,000 people were urging them to protect the canyons -- an unprecedented amount of public input in this process. When Council member John Henderschedt spoke to his breakthrough motion yesterday he began by saying, "thanks to all who provided comments -- your voices are important to this process, and they have been heard." If the industry and government operated in secret, who knows what it would take for them to work sustainably. But because Greenpeace and other conservation groups have been able to show the wider world what's at stake in the Bering Sea, people have been able to decide for themselves how they want their world.

There is still work to be done in protecting the "Grand Canyons of the Sea" but this is an enormous step in the right direction. We will keep you updated on the effort and how you can help. Thanks to everyone that took action.

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