(Photo by aaroncorey)
National Geographics notes that in recent years, Hokkaido in northern Japan has seen noticeably less drift ice. Arctic sea ice overall has been disappearing much faster than initially predicted, and this may hurt the region's wildlife and tourism. From 1997 to 2007, the amount of sea ice forming in the Sea of Okhotsk shrank by 3.6 percent, says Japan Meteorological Agency. And in 2004 the Shiretoko town of Abashiri had just 54 days of drift ice, much less than the average of 87 days.
"If you just look at the last five years of data, the amount of drift ice is decreasing," said Takashi Yamamoto, director of a tour company that organizes icebreaker trips from Abashiri, Hokkaido. While National Geographics is quick to point out that the vanishing ice is raising fears that global warming is to blame, experts are not so sure. For locals, the link seems clear.
The Okhotsk Sightseeing Federation based in Abashiri has helped set up an organization called the Okhotsk Drift-Ice Trust Movement, with the slogan "Save the Ice, Save the Earth." The group encourages local hotels to turn heating thermostats down a few degrees. They have also introduced buses that run on used cooking oil instead og gasoline, and they ask visitors to bring reusable chopsticks from home. Locals are keen to encourage ecotourism to raise awareness of the possible threat to the drift ice, but are also aware that tourism increases carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming.
"We want people who come on holiday to Okhotsk to realize how the drift ice only survives as part of the Earth's sensitive balance," said the federation's secretary-general Masanori Ito to National Geographics.
The Drift Ice Festivals in Abashiri and Mombetsu are one of many events in winter in Okhotsk. At night, ice sculptures are illuminated by lights and are beautifully contrasted against the night sky. Thousands of people visit Mombetsu and Abashiri for a glimpse of the ice culptures.
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp