Barack Obama said “NO” to oil drilling plans in Bristol Bay
Following the US President decision Bristol Bay (Alaska) and south-eastern part of the Bering Sea have been excluded from the state 5-year plan for oil drilling at the continental shelf, formerly approved by George Bush Jr.
“This decision accurately reflects the extraordinary value of Bristol Bay to the American people, - said WWF’s Vice President for Arctic and Marine Policy, Bill Eichbaum. - It is not only one of America’s great natural treasures; it also is the engine that drives the Bering Sea fishery, the single largest source of seafood in the United States that generates nearly $2 billion per year for Alaska’s economy.”
The fact that fisheries-related activity is legally considered a priority to oil extraction is perceived by Alaska fishermen as the top victory won after in total twenty years of struggle. Currently WWF and other environmental NGOs also strive and act for the adoption of the law that will secure permanent protection of the most sensitive Arctic marine areas from oil and gas extraction.
Simultaneously Kamchatka research organisations and environmental NGOs have justified the urgent need to develop and adopt a Law on the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea that provides for one quarter of all the Russian national fish and seafood harvests. This Law that would protect the most valuable areas for reproduction of marine biological resources at the West-Kamchatka shelf is mostly needed given the perspective of oil drilling in this area.
Ecological and economic assessments made at Kamchatka indicate that economic risks linked to potential oil spills in the ice covered waters are many times more costly that the profits that might be obtained from oil extraction in this seismically insecure place. WWF Russia has developed a Concept of the Law that would provide for the zoning and marine spatial planning for the entire Sea of Okhotsk, as well as for effective measures to prevent oil and oil-products pollution and to secure adequate and rapid response in case of oil spills with their consequences kept down to minimum and damage to economy and environment fully compensated.
“The decision of President Obama Administration to ban oil drilling in Bristol Bay which is the largest known globally important habitat for the Pacific Sockeye Salmon school is a good example of care for renewable marine biological resources. WWF Russia is calling for similar care for the Russian national “fisheries hotspot”- West Kamchatka – that is the main and most important harvest area for Salmon, Alaska Pollack, Pacific Herring, Pacific Crab and many other commercially important fish and marine invertebrates, - said Konstantin Zgurovsky, Head of WWF Russia Marine Programme.