With melting sea ice opening up previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean, the fishing industry sees a potential bonanza. But some scientists and government officials have begun calling for a moratorium on fishing in the region until the true state of the Arctic fishery is assessed.
When scientists with the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program began tracking 323 vertebrate species across the entire Arctic several years ago, most assumed that many fish and animals would not fare well in a region where rapid warming is causing such profound changes.
But in a report released recently at the International Polar Year (IPY) conference in Montreal, that scenario isn’t turning out to be as dark as some had originally thought. While it appears that ice-dependent mammals such as polar bears and beluga whales could be in trouble, scientists are reporting that the great bowhead whale that was nearly hunted to extinction in the early twentieth century is making a remarkable comeback. And commercial fish populations such as Pacific herring and ocean perch appear to be expanding dramatically in some places.
Not surprisingly, the world’s fishing industry is watching the swift disappearance of Arctic sea ice and the potential fishing bonanza with great interest. But so are a growing number of scientists, government officials, and conservationists, who are calling for a fishing moratorium in this area until the health of fish stocks can be assessed.