Arctic Fishery Management Plan
Precautionary Management for Arctic Fisheries
No commercial fisheries exist on the Outer Continental Shelf north of the Bering Strait at present because sea ice has blocked access. However, the current rate of ice melt due to climate change could soon make the Arctic Ocean more accessible to commercial fishing.
In February 2009, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended that a precautionary approach called be taken to managing the U.S. Arctic Ocean. That approach, called the Arctic Fishery Management Plan, proposed closing the waters north of the Bering Strait to commercial fishing until or unless scientific research determined that such activities would not harm the ecosystem or local people who subsist on its bounty. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke approved the fishery management plan in August 2009 and it took effect in early December 2009. This is a landmark measure because:
- The fishery management plan is the first major recommendation by any federal entity for a precautionary, proactive approach to resource use in order to protect an entire ecosystem.
- The plan was supported by the Alaska fishing industry, fishery managers, Arctic community leaders and conservation groups.
- The plan establishes an important precedent for other nations whose territorial waters encompass part of the Arctic Ocean.
The Department of Commerce recognized that proper management and more research about the Arctic ecosystem could protect vital habitat for marine mammals, fish and birds and help sustain indigenous communities’ subsistence way of life.
How to Address U.S. Arctic Science Needs
The Pew Charitable Trusts and Ocean Conservancy recently released a white paper in which 14 independent Arctic marine scientists reviewed and reinforced the recommendations of a USGS Arctic science gap analysis. The white paper also recommends concrete steps the Obama administration should take to address science gaps and inform conservation and development decisions in America’s Arctic Ocean.
VIDEO: Don't Put America's Arctic Ocean at Risk
The oil industry recently submitted exploration plans to drill up to 10 wells over the next two summers in the U.S. Arctic Ocean for review by the Department of the Interior. As the video below shows, to allow drilling now would put this extraordinary ecosystem—and vibrant communities that have practiced a traditional way of life for thousands of years—at risk.
Arctic Oil Spill Report
Oil Spill Prevention and Response in the U.S. Arctic Ocean: Unexamined Risks, Unacceptable Consequences is the most comprehensive analysis yet on challenges to preventing and containing spills along the nation’s northernmost coast. Find details, downloads, and video >