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Arctic Fishing Ban

Federal panel bans fishing in 150,000 nautical miles of sea north of the Bering Strait

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Melting sea ice at the top of the world does more than kill baby polar bears; it’s opened thousands of miles of previously inaccessible ocean to commercial fishing. Most of our country’s seafood already comes from the cold oceans near the Bering Strait, so it’d be simple for fishermen to just keep trawling north, overfishing and eventually leading to a crash in fishing stocks.

But in a rare move supported by both the fishing industry and environmentalists, the federal group known as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to protect 150,000 miles of pristine ocean now made accessible by a warmer Arctic climate. The ban on fishing in these far north waters would continue until extensive scientific studies determine the impact of climate change on the oceanic species of the region.

Lisa Speer, Director of the International Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the move.

“This is the kind of leadership we need to see for our fisheries and our oceans,” Speer tells BACKPACKER.com. “It sets an important precedent that we hope other Arctic countries will follow as we continue to deal (with) the impacts of a warming climate.”

Current fishing spots in the Arctic Sea will remain unaffected, and indigenous tribes will still be allowed to subsistence fish in new regions, but nobody else gets to cast line or net. In the meantime, our previous challenge stands: Who wants to be the first person to kayak the Northwest Passage? I’d do it myself, but I’m a terrible paddler.

—Ted Alvarez

Arctic Sea Partly Closed to Fishing (NY Times)