Fact Sheet

Arctic Fishery Management Plan

Arctic Fishery Management Plan

No commercial fisheries exist on the outer continental shelf north of the Bering Strait because sea ice has long blocked access. However, the melt rate has accelerated as a result of climate change, which could make the Arctic Ocean more accessible to commercial fishing.

In February 2009, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted the Arctic Fishery Management Plan, which adopted a precautionary approach to managing U.S. Arctic Ocean fishery resources. The plan closed the waters north of the Bering Strait to commercial fishing unless or until scientific research determined that such activities would not harm the ecosystem or local people who subsist on its bounty. Gary Locke, then U.S. secretary of commerce, approved the plan in August 2009, and it took effect in early December 2009.

This landmark measure:

  • Is the first major adoption by any federal entity of a precautionary, proactive approach to resource use to protect an entire ecosystem.
  • Was supported by the Alaska fishing industry, fishery managers, indigenous Arctic leaders, and conservation groups.
  • Establishes an important precedent for other nations whose territorial waters encompass part of the Arctic Ocean.

The Department of Commerce recognized that proper management and more research on the Arctic ecosystem could protect vital habitat for marine mammals, fish, and birds and help sustain indigenous communities’ way of life.