08/18/2011 - The Arctic: As global warming eases access to the vast polar region, shorter trade routes and rich resources are in prospect – but strategic issues grow more acute for surrounding nations, writes Bernard Simon
A team of Canadian archaeologists and oceanographers will mount a fresh search next week to solve a great mystery of the British empire: What fate befell the 19th-century expedition led by Sir John Franklin in search of the North-West Passage?
Fish from the Arctic are set to emerge as a huge resource, but also a potential source of friction. Experts predict mass migration of marine life to warming Arctic waters, coupled with the growing shortage of fish elsewhere, will attract trawlers from Japan, South Korea and China, among others.
“The barriers to commercial fishing are falling pretty rapidly,” says Scott Highleyman, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ international Arctic programme, based in Bellingham, Washington state. Trawlers could appear around the Chukchi Plateau, north-west of Alaska, within the next five years, he predicts. A Chinese vessel has already conducted marine research in the area. Michel Rocard, a former French prime minister and now the country’s ambassador for polar affairs, foresees “a splendid conflict” between coastal states and non-Arctic fishing nations.
The US closed its Arctic waters to industrial fishing in late 2009. Pew, among others, is now urging Canada, Russia and the US to spearhead a multilateral agreement that would limit fishing in international waters, stretching over an area the size of the Mediterranean Sea.
Read the full article, The Arctic: Through Icy Waters, on the Financial Times' Web site.