What is beyond the ice? A glimpse into fascinating Arctic marine wildlife

OPINION: Besides iconic creatures like polar bears and whales, the Arctic Ocean is home to 240 types of fish, 50 species of sea stars and 50 species of jellyfish. Getting to know them is the first step toward conserving their habitats.

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If we want to protect nature, we have to know it first.

Little known to most people, the Arctic Ocean and its seas are teeming with life — from big mammals, such as whales and seals, to tiny creatures like the sea angels. These remarkable inhabitants include more than 240 types of fish, 50 species of sea stars and 50 species of jellyfish.

This online exhibition of photos obtained from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration features a small sample of the abundant Arctic marine wildlife, from more familiar animals to only recently discovered ones. It aims to give the viewer a glimpse into the waters of the Arctic Ocean and what is at stake in terms of environmental protection there.

Currently, less than 5 percent of the Arctic’s coastal and marine areas are under any type of environmental protection, making the Arctic Ocean the least protected ocean of the world. But it faces increasingly visible environmental threats caused by humans: Climate change is causing the ice caps to melt and the ocean water to acidify, while expanding commercial fishery and cargo shipping made possible by the disappearing ice leads to water pollution. In addition, oil and gas drilling is picking up in the region, threatening fragile habitats.

From Inuit to Norwegian communities, the Arctic Ocean has been an integral part of human life, providing food and livelihood for millions of people living in this extreme environment. We invite you to get to know some other beings that call the Arctic their home!

Martina Müller is a Master in Public Policy candidate at Harvard Kennedy School as a Louis Bacon Environmental Leadership Fellow. She is a lawyer originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has been working on biodiversity and climate change at the international and sub-national level.

Acknowledgement: Müller thanks NOAA for makings its media available for public use.

This piece is one of a series of op-eds written by student-scholars of the Arctic Innovators Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Arctic Initiative. You can read the full series on this site.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Arctic Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary (at) arctictoday.com.