World Oceans Day a Good day for Fisheries and Arctic Conservation, but much more needs to be done

On World Oceans Day, June 8, Greenpeace announced that  it had brokered an agreement between fishing companies, processors and retailers that will prevent fishing for cod in a part of the Arctic Ocean where it has not been fished previously.  (Canada has also signed on to a 5-nation Arctic Fisheries Declaration in July 2015, pledging to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in  the central Arctic Ocean).  However, the peril of the larger Canadian fishery is comprehensively described in Here’s the Catch: How to Restore Abundance to Canada’s Oceans  released by Oceana Canada on June 23, and summarized at the National Observer  .  The National Observer has reported repeatedly on the difficulties of Canada’s salmon fishery, and most recently, “Dire warnings in the battle for Atlantic Canada’s lucrative northern shrimp” (June 10).

Shell Canada marked the World Oceans Day  by transferring  its 30 offshore exploration permits in Lancaster Sound, in the Eastern Arctic, to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which will transfer them  to the federal government, allowing the government to finalize creation of the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, one of the richest   marine mammal areas in the world . Although the company maintains it is not related, the World Wildlife Fund had filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in Canada in  April, 2016 demanding that Shell’s  permits be declared invalid.

Also on June 8, Spanish oil and gas company Repsol abandoned drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska.  According to ThinkProgress, “The Spanish company joins the rush of oil drillers — Shell, ConocoPhillips, Eni, and Iona Energy — departing the Arctic region after concluding that offshore drilling is not worth the expense or the risk.”  CBC reported about the start of this exodus  in September 2015,  in “Oil companies give Arctic the cold shoulder ”  .

The Brookings Institute provides  a sober overview of the issues and some international research: “On World Oceans Day, a reminder that climate change action must consider the oceans” , but last word goes to Howard Breen, the Director of Urgent Ocean and Climate Rapid Response (UCORR)  in “We need tsunami of action to stop runaway ocean collapse”  (June 3)  : “Given the dire prospect of runaway ocean collapse, we must immediately build an aggressive citizen consensus that fossil fuels have absolutely no moral justification, and their urgent abolition is now critical.”

 

Commercial Fisheries Still on Hold in the Arctic

Although there is currently no commercial fishing in the Arctic, the rapidly warming waters may allow for one to develop. In 2012, scientists from 67 countries called for a moratorium on such fishing pending more research, to avoid damage to fish stocks. In February 2014, the five Arctic coastal countries – Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway – agreed to avoid commercial fishing themselves and to work to include other countries in the agreement. In March, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for protection of the High Arctic, prohibiting fishing, and prohibiting pollution from ships and oil rigs. See “Canada agrees to work to prevent fishing in High Arctic” on the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/canada-agrees-to-work-to-prevent-fishing-in-high-arctic-1.2554332. As part of its extensive work on ocean conservation, The Pew Charitable Trust provides many studies on the Arctic at: http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_detail.aspx?id=606; documents on Ocean Conservation and overfishing are at: http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_category.aspx?id=134.