International Agreement Needed To Protect Arctic Fisheries

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MCA Backs Resolution calling for Precautionary Approach given Climate Change

For Immediate Release – Juneau, AK – Facing up to the realities of global climate change and the receding polar ice pack, the Marine Conservation Alliance is supporting a bipartisan resolution sponsored by Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) that calls for an international agreement to manage and protect fish stocks in the Arctic Ocean.
“Ocean scientists have witnessed remarkable change in Arctic sea and ice conditions in recent years,” said David Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance. “While commercial fishing was once limited because of the impenetrable ice pack and the general scarcity of fish, the warming of the Arctic could soon attract both fish and the fishing fleets of many nations. Before this happens, we need to ensure that any expansion into the Arctic is managed effectively and responsibly, and that’s the aim of the Stevens-Inouye resolution.”

Noting the change in global climate regimes, the resolution (S. J. Res. 17) supports a halt to any commercial fishing activity in the Arctic until agreement can be reached on managing migratory, transboundary and straddling stocks. Warming ocean temperatures are expected to cause some species of fish to migrate north where they could become vulnerable to fishing efforts in the newly opening waters. The resolution emphasizes that effective management of these waters would require an international agreement between all nations bordering the Arctic: the United States, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, and the European Union.

With a history of supporting healthy oceans and sustainable fisheries, the Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA) recognizes the importance of properly managing these emerging fisheries. In June, the MCA supported the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s recommendation to close all U.S. waters in the Arctic Ocean to fishing until a management regime is put in place. S. J. Res. 17 follows the Council’s lead.

Alaska is acknowledged as a world leader in managing fish stocks for commercial, recreational, and subsistence purposes. One of only three well-managed fisheries in the world according to National Geographic (the others are Iceland and New Zealand), Alaska produces over 50 percent of the nation’s seafood harvest and none of its fish stocks is overfished.

“Now is the time for our nation to meet the next great challenge by managing emerging fisheries in the Arctic Ocean,” said Benton. “With sound science as our foundation, we must work with other countries to assure the sustainability of this critical resource.”

S.J. Res. 17 has passed the Senate and is now pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is also sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John Sununu (R-NH), John Kerry (D-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

About the Marine Conservation Alliance The Marine Conservation Alliance is a coalition of seafood processors, harvesters, support industries and coastal communities that are active in Alaska fisheries. The MCA represents approximately 75 percent of the participants in Alaska shellfish and groundfish fisheries and promotes science-based conservation measures to ensure sustainable fisheries in Alaska. For more information, visit

Alison Bradley
Brown Lloyd James