International waters of the High Arctic are not yet regulated for commercial fishing, but with the effects of climate change (melting ice and warmer waters) fishing fleet access to the north has become more viable. As such, a ban, supported by the Canadian public, would prohibit all countries from fishing in the High Arctic waters until research has determined the extent of stocks and regulations are established for harvests.
But as stocks decline elsewhere and climate change opens the Arctic, pressure will inevitably build.
“(Fishers) will go North as they exhaust fisheries resources elsewhere,” said Michael Byers, an international law professor at the University of British Columbia.
“We don’t know of any ships that are going into those waters, but one can certainly argue that there is time pressure if you want to get ahead of the problem. When you’re talking about the opening up of any new region, there’s a distinct advantage in having law arrive before the private actors do.”
Northern fisheries could potentially be harvesting migrating cod, crab and pollock.
The council of seven nations that form a ring around the North Pole, the Arctic Council, could potentially regulate the commercial fishery.
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