Saturday, February 21, 2009

US blocks fishing trawlers from following retreating Arctic ice

Science Daily: Commercial fishing in US Arctic waters is to be banned at least until its effects are understood, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has decided [dated February 5]. In the most powerful application yet of the precautionary principle to fisheries, the council said its prohibition should stay in force until impacts of commercial fishing in previously ice covered waters are fully understood.

“This is a courageous and ethical move by Alaska’s fishermen,” said Bill Fox, Vice President of Fisheries with WWF-US. WWF, along with other groups, has been lobbying for a ban on commercial fishing in the Arctic until a fisheries management plan for the region is developed.

“We do not know enough about the ecology of these areas to allow them to be fished commercially. Until we have that information in hand, we should not tamper with these vulnerable ecosystems, particularly at a time when climate change is already threatening them.”

Council member Bill Tweit, of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “Traditional knowledge and the precautionary principle is applied here which is important in the scientific management of fisheries in the Arctic" while US State Dept Nicole Ricci described the decision as “a pioneering piece of domestic regulation which will provide international leadership for fisheries management in the Arctic”

…Arctic ecosystems are considered extremely fragile and slow to recover from disruptions or damage. Fish stocks are particularly sensitive to ocean temperatures with even small changes resulting extremely unpredictable shifts in the locations and productivity of the stocks and even a small commercial fishery in the Arctic could have substantial impacts…..

USCGC Polar Sea, shot by Jcmurphy

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