04/22/2012 - The leaders of the five Arctic coastal states - including Prime Minister Stephen Harper - are being urged by more than 2,000 scientists from around the world to impose a moratorium on industrial fishing in the increasingly accessible waters of the central Arctic Ocean until experts can determine the size and sustainability of the resource.
In an open letter signed by 551 Canadian scientists - along with about 1,500 others from 67 countries - the researchers issued an appeal to the governments of Canada, the U.S., Russia, Norway and Denmark to develop an international fisheries accord that would avoid decimating potentially lucrative species such as Arctic cod before enough is known about their populations.
"Scientists recognize the crucial need for an international agreement that will prohibit the start of commercial fishing until research-based management measures can be put in place,'' said Henry Huntington, Arctic science director of the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group, which organized the global scientific appeal. "There's no margin for error in a region where the melting sea ice is rapidly changing the marine ecosystem.''
The area in question lies beyond the 370-kilometre, nearshore "exclusive economic zone'' within which each Arctic coastal country has acknowledged fishing rights.
Trevor Taylor, policy director for Oceans North Canada - a Pew offshoot in Canada - said the proposed moratorium on commercial fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean would be "highly unlikely'' to affect aboriginal fishing in Canada's North.
"In order to ensure sustainable Inuit fisheries continue, industrial fishing must be managed and regulated in the most effective manner possible,'' Taylor, a former Newfoundland provincial cabinet minister, told Postmedia News. "One of the greatest risks to continued nearshore harvesting of fish and marine mammals by Inuit would be unregulated industrial fishing, leading to collapse of stocks important to Inuit and the marine mammals they depend on.''
Oceans North Canada and allied Inuit groups were recently successful in pressing the Canadian government to approve a conservation zone for much of Lancaster Sound, a biologically-rich area of the Arctic Ocean at the north end of Baffin Island, near the entrance to the Northwest Passage
Read the full Postmedia News article, Leaders Urged to Impose Moratorium on Industrial Fishing in the Arctic, on Canada.com's website.