Arctic Ocean Fishing Banned by EU and Nine Nations

Arctic Fishing, a huge factor in habitat loss and species decline, is to be curtailed in new measures taken by a number of international bodies.

Russia, China and the US have signed up as part of a deal which will see fishing in the thawing Arctic region outlawed for at least 16 years.

The ruling will mean that the central Arctic Ocean (CAO) is to remain off-limits to commercial fishers, in an attempt to allow diminishing wildlife numbers to steady once again.

The area is warming at twice the average global rate, which means that it may soon see a rise in fish stocks, an appealing prospect for commercial fishing companies.

Arctic Ocean

Canadian Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc said Canada, together with the European Union, China, Denmark – for Greenland and the Faroe Islands – Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Russia and the United States agreed that “no commercial fishing will take place in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean while we gain a better understanding of the area’s ecosystems.”

They also agreed that before any fishing takes places, they must establish “appropriate conservation and management measures.” (Sc. RTE)

Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said of the historic bill: “It will fill an important gap in the international ocean governance framework and will safeguard fragile marine ecosystems for future generations.”

ILULISSAT, GREENLAND: A fishing boat cruises in the Ilulissat fjord, on Greenland's western coast, is seen in September 2004. Located 250 kms (155 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, Ilulissat is home to 5,000 people, most of whom live off of shrimp and halibut fishing as well as the all-important tourism industry. Some 15,000 tourists visit the town each year, or about half of all those who visit Greenland. The Groenlands Posten newspaper sent locals into a tizzy when it a few weeks ago described how the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, one of the most active glaciers in the world, had receded by more than five kilometers (three miles) in the past two years. The chilling news came just two months after UNESCO placed the Ilulissat Icefjord on the World Heritage List. AFP PHOTO / Slim Allagui (Photo credit should read SLIM ALLAGUI/AFP/Getty Images)
ILULISSAT, GREENLAND: A fishing boat cruises in the Ilulissat fjord, on Greenland’s western coast. AFP PHOTO / Slim Allagui (Photo credit should read SLIM ALLAGUI/AFP/Getty Images)

According to a breakdown in Science Magazine:

Thus far, thick ice and uncertain fish stocks have kept commercial fishing vessels out of the CAO, but the region is becoming increasingly accessible because of rapid loss of summer sea ice. In recent summers, as much as 40% of the CAO has been open water, mostly north of Alaska and Russia, over the Chukchi Plateau.

As the summer sea ice becomes thinner and its edge retreats northward, more sunlight is penetrating the water, increasing production of plankton, the base of the Arctic food web. These sun-fed plankton are gobbled up by Arctic cod, which in turn are hunted by animals higher up the food chain, including seals, polar bears, and humans. Some parts of the Arctic Ocean’s adjacent seas, such as the Barents Sea (off the northern coasts of Russia and Norway), saw steep increases in primary production in 2016, approaching 35% above the 2003–15 average.

Under international law, these high seas are open to anyone. In the absence of an agreement, fishing there would not be illegal, but it would be unregulated—and some researchers, environmental groups, and policymakers fear it could harm the fragile and rapidly changing marine ecosystem.”

It’s taken over two years and half a dozen meetings to reach this point, but the move will see 2.8 million square kilometers of international waters in the Arctic sectioned off a protected area.

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