Just as the receding ice is attracting the interest of those who hope to find and extract more climate-changing fossil fuels, so too is it attracting the interest of industrial fishing fleets.
After having fished out many of the stocks in temperate waters, the industrial fishing fleets are now looking at the Poles for new stocks to exploit. In the Arctic they have their eyes on the fish that have historically been protected in a de-facto marine reserve underneath the Arctic sea ice.
Undersized bycatch documented by Greenpeace in the Bering Sea, 20004
Arctic and sub-Arctic waters are among the most biologically productive in the world. At present fishing in the Arctic Ocean is limited by the sea ice that exists for most or all of the year. Climate change means warmer waters moving north, and with them, fish stocks.
It also means longer periods and larger areas of open water, leaving the once protected Arctic breeding grounds open to industrial fisheries. The marine life in the Arctic is already subject to massive pressure due to the climate changes and loss of the sea ice - opening the area up to industrial fishing would be an act of madness that would only further damage the fragile ecosystem just at the time that it most needs protecting.
Spurred by concerns of the impacts of climate change on fishing in the region, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council made the sensible decision in February 2009 to establish a moratorium on commercial fishing in a vast zone off Alaska's northern coast. This move was applauded by Greenpeace, and will help give marine life in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas a much better chance of surviving the loss of sea ice and increasing ocean acidification that are predicted for Arctic waters in the coming decades.