National Fisherman

MOSCOW — It was once protected by ice. Now regulation will have to do the work.

 The governments of the five countries with coastline on the Arctic have concluded that enough of the polar ice cap now melts regularly in the summertime that an agreement regulating commercial fishing near the North Pole is warranted.

Talks are scheduled for later this month among diplomats and fisheries officials from Norway, Denmark, Canada, the United States and Russia. Most concern is focused on newly ice-free waters above the Bering Strait, above the exclusive economic zones of Russia and the United States, and now accessible to trawler fleets from hungry Pacific Ocean nations like China and Japan.

An accord would protect the open water until the fish stocks there can be more fully studied.

Though supported by conservationists, the agreement’s principal intention is not to conserve this new fish habitat, formed by the receding of polar ice as the world warms up. The intention of an accord, backed by fishing industries in the coastal nations, is to manage for commercial exploitation any stocks of fish that already inhabit the ocean but used to live under the ice, like Arctic cod, as well as fish that may migrate into the new ice-free zone from farther south, as the ocean warms.

Russia had been a holdout in the negotiations, started by the United States five years ago. But the upper chamber of Russia’s Parliament, the Federation Council, signaled support for the agreement last year. Talks are scheduled to begin on April 29 in Washington, the State Department has confirmed.

Read the full story at the New York Times>>

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