Defenders of Wildlife Bering Strait Response Teaching Tool
The Bering Strait is a narrow (53 mile wide) body of water between the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and separates the U.S. from Russia. This area is increasingly open to vessel traffic as sea ice continues to shrink and be unpredictable — that unpredictable sea ice along with increasing development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas significantly increases the risk of hazardous spills.
The Bering Strait is an important but vulnerable region that is a pathway for one of the largest wildlife migrations in the world— including significant numbers of whales including bowhead, gray, minke, beluga and killer whales, along with ice seals (ringed, bearded, spotted and ribbon), harbor porpoise, and Pacific walruses and an estimated 12 million seabirds. It is also key habitat for polar bears, Pacific walruses and other imperiled marine mammals and for subsistence resources (waterfowl, fisheries, marine mammals) essential to the food security and culture of indigenous people.
The AOOS/Axiom team worked with Defenders of Wildlife to create the framework for the Defenders of Wildlife Bering Strait Response Teaching Tool (BSRTT) using relevant marine mammal and spill response data layers within the AOOS Ocean Data Explorer.
Alaska Native communities in this dynamic coastal region are key to effective rapid spill response for continued health of the marine environment. Indigenous knowledge of marine wildlife and their habitat is extremely valuable and must be better integrated and utilized in spill planning, preparedness, and response. The BSRTT empowers communities that are on the frontlines.
The BSRTT draws on the latest technology to be a teaching aid and interactive pathway to foster dialogue and action, and ultimately better preparedness.