As we all know, Arctic Ice has been melting at (recently) unprecedented rates, causing more of the Arctic Ocean to become available to fishing. Although Polar Bears are first on everyone’s mind when it comes to disappearing ice caps, these recently uncovered areas of the Arctic Ocean also make resources that were once permanently protected by ice vulnerable to human impact. For example, until now only small fisheries could operate in the Arctic. However, with the ice coverage melting and making way for large boats, commercial fishing is now becoming a possibility.
What is concerning is that much of the newly exposed open water falls within international waters, void of fishing regulations.
Last month, the PEW Environment Group issued a letter signed by over 2000 scientists from 67 countries urging the five countries that border the Arctic Ocean – Canada, United States, Norway, Russia, and Greenland – to sign a moratorium prohibiting commercial fishing until researchers have assessed the area.
The PEW Environment Group letter outlines that researchers need to assess the abundance and distribution of fish, what the state of fisheries will look like, and how removing fish will affect the ecosystem. In urging governments to hold off on Arctic commercial fishing, the letter states, “…the international community can take action now to protect these waters until we have the science and governance in place to ensure sustainable development of fisheries."
Research already suggests that the world’s fish population has decreased significantly since the industrial revolution. Even though the far northern part the Arctic Ocean has been left untouched, some studies suggest that organisms in these regions have felt the impacts from neighbouring areas. Bottom trawling is already thought to have put stress on bottom creatures and fish, like the Arctic charr, lack any reliable information regarding numbers and management tactics.
PEW Environment Group needs your help. Visit their website here to find out what you can do to help persuade the Canadian Government to postpone commercial fishing in the Arctic.
Ashley Perl is a recent graduate from the University of Western Ontario with an Honours Psychology degree, a minor in Biology, and a Certificate in Writing. Outside of school, she enjoys being outdoors through biking, yoga, running, snowboarding, and SCUBA diving. Before pursuing further education, Ashley plans to write and travel the world. She hopes that her contributions to The Starfish will encourage other to think about the resources we consume.