The Pew Environment Group has called for an international agreement on commercial fishing in the Arctic as ice retreats and fresh resources fall under the beady eyes of corporations and governments.
New maps show that the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has opened up as much as 40% of the region, leaving it open and vulnerable to commercial fishing. Although this fishing may not yet have occurred, scientists believe that the waters could remain ice free throughout the summer months in the next 10-15 years making the virgin seas an appealing target for the international commercial fishing industry.
More than 2000 scientists from across 67 countries have signed a letter urging coastal Arctic leaders to prevent the fishing of these waters. The letter, released by The Pew Environment Group, sets out the actions required to ensure that the waters remain untouched.
It calls for a moratorium to be placed on fishing activity in the area until an evaluation of the Arctic ecosystem has been completed and the establishment of a management system that would enable the monitoring and enforcement of the area before any fishing begins.
Henry Huntington, the Pew Environment Group’s Arctic science director said, “Scientists recognise 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.
“There is no margin for error in a region where the melting sea ice is rapidly changing the marine ecosystem”.
In 2009, the United States adopted the precautionary measure of closing its Arctic waters, including the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, to commercial fishing to allow an assessment of the area’s ecosystem.