One of the planet’s last pristine ocean habitats has been given a reprieve. Nine nations in concert with the EU have agreed to a 16 year fishing ban in the Arctic Ocean.
The U.S., Russia, China, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Iceland and South Korea, all major fishing countries, joined with the European Union to give scientists time to study the ecosystems of the northern oceans as global warming makes these waters more accessible to fishing.
Melting ice shelfs are rapidly changing the ecosystems of the polar seas, an area devoid of commercial fisheries at present.
“We are pleased to hear about the research that is set to take place in this largely unexplored and changing ecosystem. The Arctic is fragile and the moratorium on fishing in newly ice-free areas in the Arctic comes at an important time when the pressure on the environment is greater than ever before,” said Rohan Currey, of the Marine Stewardship Council adding “To be able to conduct research while the Arctic is relatively undisturbed is a fantastic opportunity for marine science,” (photo – Nanaimo News)
Marine scientists and conservationists welcomed the news.
“A historic day for the protection of the polar oceans” that “really shows what international collaboration can achieve” said Frida Bengtsson, head of Greenpeace‘s Antarctic Campaign.
Approximately one million square miles of ocean will be off limits with the fishing ban in the arctic and although 16 years sounds like ample time, scientists caution that polar marine research is nothing that can be hurried.
Polar Oceans, “A Different Kettle of Fish”
“In cold, deep waters you typically find organisms that are slower growing, longer lived, and have longer durations before they can reproduce – that means finding a sustainable level of fishing is a different kettle of fish,” said Dr. Chris Yesson with the Zoological Society of London.
“This is an important and symbolic step forward for the international waters around the North Pole, but as always the devil will be in the detail. The real success or failure of this agreement will rely on the cooperation of a diverse group of nations,” said Rod Downie of WWF, adding “The Arctic has already changed irreversibly in our lifetime and as sea ice continues to melt, exposing more open ocean, countries will need to work even closer together to understand, protect and manage it from the increasing threats of climate change and development.” Read more in the Independent.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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