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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Arctic Fisheries

The Arctic region is warming, faster on average than the rest of the planet. This is true for marine as well as terrestrial areas of the Arctic.

The United States anticipates that the range and distribution of at least some fish stocks that occur in sub-Arctic regions will likely extend or move into more northerly areas. In addition, as currently ice-covered areas of the Arctic become seasonally open waters, fishing effort will likely move into those areas. Finally, the scientific understanding of Arctic ecosystems and the fish populations within them is quite limited. There is a need to conduct research and exploration to gather data and information on ecosystems and fish populations within them in advance of new fisheries exploitation in the Arctic.

In May 2008, former President George W. Bush signed a joint resolution passed by Congress relating to Arctic Fisheries. That resolution emphasizes the need for the United States to work with other nations to prepare for conserving and managing future Arctic fisheries.

The United States also recognizes that the Arctic is not really a single region for purposes of fisheries management.

In the area of the Arctic closest to the North Atlantic, there already are extensive commercial fisheries and numerous international mechanisms to manage those fisheries. As those fisheries extend farther north, presumably some of those management mechanisms will need to adapt.

By contrast, in the area of the Arctic closest to the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, there are not commercial fisheries of major significance at this time. On the U.S. side, there are only limited subsistence and artisanal fisheries close to shore. There are no international management mechanisms for fisheries north of the Bering Strait.

-- 03/04/09 Arctic Fisheries in Focus; remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary David Balton 


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