A vast, natural treasure — and a vital part of the nation’s economy — Alaska’s oceans face the climate crisis head-on

Arctic Ocean Walrus  ©Mike Dunn, NOAA

Covering 900,000 square miles, Alaska’s offshore waters are a world of wonder!  Marine mammals that occur nowhere else in the nation—polar bears, walrus, ice seals, Steller sea lions—are found throughout Alaska’s waters. The largest remaining wild salmon populations in the world journey out to these seas.

For millennia, Alaska’s oceans have provided traditional Native cultures with food to survive and thrive. Fishing is worth $1.7 billion a year to Alaska’s economy—the state’s largest industry based on a renewable resource. And Alaska fisherman risk life and limb to harvest 50% of U.S. seafood from Alaska’s waters to our dinner plates.

Beneath the surface, researchers have recently discovered ancient coral gardens. Located off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands are the highest diversity of cold water corals in the world and the most spectacular ever seen!

Though Alaska’s oceans are wild and remote, human exploitation is taking its toll.

The threat: changing the ocean — forever

Climate change is drastically shrinking the Arctic ice pack, while the warmer water is disrupting the undersea ecosystems. As carbon dioxide pollution floods the atmosphere, it dissolves into the world’s oceans, making them more acidic, which is starting to kill off the microscopic marine life at the base of the ocean food chain. Oil companies are eager to drill in Alaska’s stormy, ice-choked northern waters, even though any spill would be a disaster and these companies have no capacity to respond to an oil spill in Arctic seas.

A dozen species are already listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the polar bear, Steller sea lion, and several types of birds and whales. Bottom-trawl nets from industrial fishing fleets ravage the sea floor as they scoop up tons of fish at a time. Each year, thousands of cargo ships in the Asia trade pass through, braving the region’s hurricane-force winds, creating the risk of catastrophic spills.

Limiting the impact

Alaska Conservation Foundation supports and provides funding to groups like Bering Sea Elders and Alaska Marine Conservation Council as well as Alaska Native tribes working on a range of issues, including:

  • limiting the devastating impacts of industrial fishing in the Bering Sea;
  • regulating international shipping through Alaska’s marine waters; and
  • limiting ocean contaminants and industrial development—including offshore oil development—in polar seas.

Alaska Conservation Foundation also provides operating support to groups that are helping protect the rest of Alaska’s oceans and stands ready to help those groups responding to urgent new threats and emerging opportunities.

You can help!

Donate today to Alaska Conservation Foundation to help keep Alaska’s ocean defense forces strong and it’s coastal communities healthy.

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