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U.S. Arctic May Close to Fishing
Written by Daniel   
Friday, 06 February 2009 12:53
Industry and environmentalists agree that newly opening waters in the Arctic should be off-limits to fishing
February 5, 2009
By David Biello

FISHING BAN: Newly opening waters north of the Bering Strait will likely be closed to commercial fishing.

All U.S. waters north of the Bering Strait may soon be closed to commercial fishing. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council—the government body charged with administering Alaskan waters—voted unanimously in Seattle today to close 196,000 square miles (507,600 square kilometers) of ocean to any fishing.

"This will close the Arctic to all commercial fishing," says Jim Ayers, vice president for Pacific and Arctic affairs at ocean conservation organization Oceana, based in Juneau, who testified before the vote. "This is the beginning of a concept of large protected marine areas."

These seas—U.S. territorial waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas—are not currently fished, but sea ice melt and the northward migration of certain fish species, such as salmon, raises the possibility that they would be in the not too distant future. This vote precludes that possibility unless scientific studies showed that such fishing would not harm Arctic ecosystems or the traditional lifestyle of indigenous populations.

"There is at present too little known about how marine ecosystems function in the Arctic, let alone how they will respond to the dramatic changes in progress, to prescribe safe harvest levels for living marine resources in the U.S. Arctic," 43 marine scientists said in a letter to the Council chair. "Until the rate and likely duration of sea ice losses as well as the ensuing ecosystem responses are better understood, closing the U.S. Arctic to commercial fishing is a prudent measure." [Scientific Anerican...]   [Comments...]

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