Bearing Sea and North Sea


The Bering Sea, from our TV program Deadliest Catch you got to see some great footage of the Bering Sea.  Also Russia and the US share the waters of the Bearing Sea where as for the landings from Alaskan waters represents half the U.S. catch of fish and shellfish.  Commercial fisheries catch approximately $1 billion worth of seafood annually,  while Russian Bering Sea fisheries are worth approximately $600 million annually.

From Wikipedia:

The Bering Sea supports many species of fish. Some species of fish support large and valuable commercial fisheries. Commercial fish species include 6 species of Pacific Salmon, Alaska Pollock, Red King Crab,Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Yellowfin Sole, Pacific ocean perch and sablefish.

The Bering Sea ecosystem includes resources within the jurisdiction of the United States and Russia, as well as international waters in the middle of the sea (known as the “Donut Hole”). The interaction between currents, sea ice, and weather make for a vigorous and productive ecosystem.

Biodiversity:

Fish variation is high, and at least 419 species of fish have been reported from the Bering Sea.  The Bering Sea is home to some of the world’s most interesting wildlife.  This sea supports many endangered whale species including Bowhead Whale, Blue Whale, Fin Whale, Sei Whale, Humpback Whale, Sperm Whale and the rarest in the world, the North Pacific Right Whale.  Other marine mammals include walrus, Steller Sea Lion, Northern Fur Seal, Beluga, Orca and Polar Bear.  The Bering Sea is very important to the seabirds of the world. Over 30 species of seabirds and approximately 20 million individuals breed in the Bering Sea region.

History:

Most scientists believe that during the most recent ice age, sea level was low enough to allow humans and other animals to migrate on foot from Asia to North America across what is now the Bering Strait.  This is commonly referred to as the “Bering land bridge” and is believed by some though not all to be the first point of entry of  humans into the Americas.

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North Sea

Historically, the North Sea has featured prominently in geopolitical and military affairs, particularly in Northern Europe but also globally through the power northern European actors projected worldwide during much of the Middle Ages and modern era.  The North Sea was the centre of the Vikings’ rise and subsequently, the Hanseatic League, the Netherlands, and the British each sought to dominate the North Sea and through it to control access to the markets and resources of the world.  As Germany’s only outlet to the ocean, the North Sea continued to be strategically important through both World Wars.

Conservation:

Due to the heavy human populations and high level of industrialization along its shores, the wildlife of the North Sea has suffered from pollution, overhunting, and overfishing. Flamingos, pelicans, and Great Auk were once found along the southern shores of the North Sea, but went extinct over the 2nd millennium.  Gray whale also resided in the North Sea but were driven to extinction in the Atlantic in the 17th century Other species have dramatically declined in population, though they are still found. Right whales, sturgeon, shad, rays, skates,salmon, and other species were common in the North Sea until the 20th century, when numbers declined due to over-fishing.  Other factors like the introduction of non-indigenous species, industrial and agricultural pollution, trawling and dredging, human-induced eutrophication, construction on coastal breeding and feeding grounds, sand and gravel extraction,offshore construction, and heavy shipping traffic have also contributed to the decline. 

The OSPAR commission manages the OSPAR convention to counteract the harmful effects of human activity on wildlife in the North Sea, preserve endangered species, and provide environmental protection.  All North Sea border states are signatories of the MARPOL 73/78 Accords, which preserve the marine environment by preventing pollution from ships.  Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands also have a trilateral agreement for the protection of the Wadden Sea, or mudflats, which run along the coasts of the three countries on the southern edge of the North Sea.

Oil and gas

As early as 1859, oil was discovered in onshore areas around the North Sea and natural gas as early as 1910.  Although the production costs are relatively high, the quality of the oil, the political stability of the region, and the nearness of important markets in western Europe has made the North Sea an important oil-producing region.  The largest single humanitarian catastrophe in the North Sea oil industry was the destruction of the offshore oil platform Piper Alpha in 1988 in which 167 people lost their lives.

Besides the Ekofisk oil field, the Statfjord oil field is also notable as it was the cause of the first pipeline to span the Norwegian trench.  The largest natural gas field in the North Sea, Troll gas field, lies in the Norwegian trench dropping over 300 metres (980 ft) requiring the construction of the enormous Troll A platform to access it.

The price of Brent Crude, one of the first types of oil extracted from the North Sea, is used today as a standard price for comparison for crude oil from the rest of the world.  The North Sea contains western Europe’s largest oil and natural gas reserves and is one of the world’s key non-OPEC producing regions.

The North Sea is Europe’s main fishery accounting for over 5% of international commercial fish caught.  Fishing in the North Sea is concentrated in the southern part of the coastal waters. The main method of fishing is trawling.  In 1995, the total volume of fish and shellfish caught in the North Sea was approximately 3.5 million tonnes.  Besides fish, it is estimated that one million tonnes of unmarketable by-catch is caught and discarded each year.

In recent decades, over-fishing has left many fisheries unproductive, disturbing marine food chain dynamics and costing jobs in the fishing industry.  Herring, cod and place fisheries may soon face the same plight as mackerel fishing, which ceased in the 1970s due to over-fishing.   The objective of the European Union Common Fisheries Policy is to minimize the environmental impact associated with resource use by reducing fish discards, increasing productivity of fisheries, stabilising markets of fisheries and fish processing.

Major features:

For the most part, the sea lies on the European continental shelf with a mean depth of 90 metres (300 ft).  The only exception is the Norwegian trench, which extends parallel to the Norwegian shoreline from Oslo to an area north of Bergen.  It is between 20 and 30 kilometres (12 and 19 mi) wide and has a maximum depth of 725 metres (2,379 ft).

The Dogger Bank, a vast moraine, or accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris, rises to a mere 15 to 30 metres (50–100 ft) below the surface.  This feature has produced the finest fishing location of the North Sea.  The Long Forties and the Broad Fourteens are large areas with roughly uniform depth in fathoms, (forty fathoms and fourteen fathoms or 73 and 26 m deep respectively). These great banks and others make the North Sea particularly hazardous to navigate, which has been alleviated by the implementation of satellite navigation systems.  The Devil’s Hole lies 200 miles (320 km) east of Dundee, Scotland.  The feature is a series of asymmetrical trenches between 20 and 30 kilometres (12 and 19 mi) long, 1 and 2 kilometres (0.62 and 1.2 mi) wide and up to 230 metres (750 ft) deep.

Fish and shellfish:

Copepods and other zooplankton are plentiful in the North Sea. These tiny organisms are crucial elements of the food chain supporting many species of fish.  Over 230 species of fish live in the North Sea. Cod, haddock,whiting, saitheplaice, sole, mackerel, herring, poutingsprat, and sandeel are all very common and are fished commercially.  Due to the various depths of the North Sea trenches and differences in salinity, temperature, and water movement, some fish such as blue-mouth redfish and rabbitfish reside only in small areas of the North Sea.

Crustaceans are also commonly found throughout the sea. Norway lobster, deep-water prawns, and brown shrimp are all commercially fished, but other species of lobster, shrimp, oyster, mussels and clams all live in the North Sea. Recently non-indigenous species have become established including the Pacific oyster and Atlantic jackknife clam.

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