A collection of over 2,000 scientists from 67 different countries recently released an open letter to Arctic leaders asking them to develop fisheries as a way to protect the Central Arctic Ocean’s unregulated waters.
This letter, released by the Pew Environment Group, explains that an exponential loss of sea ice in the region has freed up 40% of the region for industrial fishing. And the new opportunity could seriously harm the area’s ecosystem. To put this new area’s size into perspective, the Central Arctic Ocean is as big as the Mediterranean Sea.
Henry Huntington, the Arctic science director of the Pew Environment Group stated, “Scientists recognize the crucial need for an international agreement that will prohibit the start of commercial fishing until research-based management measures can be put in place.” In addition, more than 60% of the scientists that signed this letter come from coastal Arctic countries such as Canada, the US, Russia, Norway and Greenland/Denmark.
While industrial fishing hasn’t yet reached the far north of the area, the southern waters are open and are much closer to Asian ports than Antarctica’s waters. In these waters, large amounts of krill and toothfish are routinely caught, putting enormous stress on their populations. Without regulation, overfishing is occurring.
Some of the recommendations the letter makes include:
Scientists from Arctic countries work together to protect the Central Arctic Ocean.
Developing international fisheries as a precaution.
Starting with a zero-catch policy until further research of the area is conducted.
Instituting a management, monitoring and enforcement system before any commercial fishing begins.
The United States closed its Arctic waters to commercial fishing back in 2009 with Canada currently contemplating similar actions.