4 Oct 2018 - The Guardian - International agreement will protect vast areas of sea that have opened up as the ice melts.
Commercial fishing will be banned across much of the Arctic under a new agreement signed on Wednesday in Greenland, closing down access to a vast area of sea that is newly opening up under climate change.
The moratorium on Arctic fishing will safeguard an area about the size of the Mediterranean for at least the next 16 years, as warming temperatures allow summer navigation across what was previously ice.
Sea ice in the Arctic reached its annual minimum last week, with what polar scientists confirmed was the joint sixth-lowest extent of ice on record. This year sits with 2008 and 2010 in the rankings of ice minimums, showing a clear trend of diminishing summer ice cover and thickness, with record lows in the last decade and reports of thick multi-year ice showing new vulnerability to break-up.
No fishing takes place there currently, but large ships are starting to explore the area. Maersk, the Danish shipping company, in August sent the first container vessel through the previously frozen route, starting from the Russian city of Vladivostok and arriving safely with its cargo of frozen fish in St Petersburg after a 37-day voyage.
The Arctic is likely to become more attractive to commercial fishing fleets in future years, as climate change is causing major fish stocks including cod and halibut to move further north as lower latitudes warm, and overfishing in traditional grounds makes potential new areas appealing.
Nine nations – the US, Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, South Korea and China – plus the EU signed the Central Arctic Ocean agreement at a ceremony in Greenland, following several years of talks.
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