I’m in the Arctic in the waters of Svalbard, north of Norway, at 78º North Latitude during the time of year when the sun never sets. For a few days I’m a guest aboard Greenpeace’s ship Arctic Sunrise.
We’re concerned about damage to the seafloor by a recent influx of fishing trawlers into the high Arctic as the ocean warms, ice shrinks, and cod and other fish—and boats—move north. The issue: dragging heavy nets causes damage. Greenpeace has spear-headed an agreement with major fishing and seafood-selling companies to halt further expansion until a plan can be formulated and agreed to for protection of some large areas.
To compare an area hit with a trawl net to an undisturbed part of the seafloor, we send a remotely operated camera on a cable, down to 140 meters, about 450 feet. It goes off the back of the ship on a thick orange cable from a big, turning spool. It’s very loud back here with noise from the engine and steering mechanism. Ear-protectors help. I endure the noise to get a real-time view of the deep dark seafloor. First, using GPS, we get right on the track of one of the trawlers.