U.S. pushes for limits on fishing in Arctic Ocean

SEATTLE – U.S. officials are heading to Greenland for a three-day meeting to persuade other Arctic nations to place a moratorium on high-seas fishing in the Arctic Ocean, where climate change is melting the permanent ice cap and allowing trawlers in for the first time in human history.

The United States is proposing an agreement “that would close the international waters of the Arctic Ocean to commercial fishing until there is a good scientific foundation on which to base management of any potential fishing,” said David Benton, a member of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, who will be part of the negotiations in Nuuk, Greenland.

The first step toward protecting the Arctic Ocean and its fish population, which has never been studied, is for the five nations bordering the body of water to reach an agreement on a moratorium. To date, the United States, Canada and Greenland are on board, but Russia and Norway have not joined in.

All coastal countries control the fisheries within 200 miles of their own coastlines. The high seas beyond that zone do not belong to any nation, are not covered by any regulations and can only be protected by international agreement.

Once the five Arctic nations are in accord on a fishing moratorium, Benton said, they would then reach out to other countries with major commercial fishing fleets, such as China, Japan and Korea, to negotiate full protection for the central Arctic Ocean.

Benton, who advises the U.S. negotiating team, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the Arctic nations would reach agreement during the three-day meeting, which begins Monday.

“The Arctic is experiencing a fairly rapid rate of change,” said Benton, as the permanent ice melts. “That’s potentially causing large changes in the ecosystem, but we don’t understand what’s going on up there. If we want to do things right, this is the approach we should be taking.”

In 2009, the United States adopted its own Arctic Fishery Management Plan, closing American waters north of Alaska to commercial fishing until scientific research proves that the fishery is sustainable.

“What the United States did in its waters was a precautionary action that takes into account how Arctic warming is changing the ecosystem faster than science can keep up with it,” said Scott Highleyman, director of the international Arctic program for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“There are no stock surveys or scientific assessments for fish there,” Highleyman said. “You don’t want to fish a place where you don’t know the fish population dynamics. Any time we’ve done that, it led to catastrophic overfishing.”

One example, Highleyman said, is the New England Atlantic cod fishery, which was shut down in the 1980s due to overfishing, costing 50,000 jobs.

There is much at stake in the central Arctic Ocean, of which about 1.1 million square miles are largely unregulated international waters. An open letter to the Arctic governments, signed by 2,000 scientists from around the world, notes the mysterious and fragile nature of the region.

If it is overfished, the scientists say, that will affect seals, whales and polar bears as well as the people who make the harsh region their home and rely on such creatures to feed their families.

“Until recently, the region has been covered with sea ice throughout the year, creating a physical barrier to the fisheries,” the scientists wrote. “In recent summers, however, the loss of permanent sea ice has left open water in as much as 40% of these international waters .… A commercial fishery in the central Arctic Ocean is now possible and feasible.” (Los Angeles Times)



Six new observers to Arctic Council

Heads of seven of the member delegations in Kiruna

China, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore were all welcomed as new observer states by the Arctic Council during the ministerial meeting in Kiruna today.

China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore are the first Asian countries to  gain observer status to the Arctic Council.

The European Union’s application for observer status was received affirmatively but has not yet been approved, as the union must first address several questions about its bid, including concerns on its ban on sea products from Canada, which today took over the chairmanship of the council from Sweden. The EU banned the import of seal products in 2009. It is an issue of key importance to Canada, as seal hunting is an important part of life for many indigenous groups. The EU was granted the right to observe council proceedings until a final decision is made.

The ministerial meeting also adopted an observer manual that will define what rights the observer states have and clarify which decisions that are not included in the observers’ mandate. (Barents Observer)

Finland’s Fennovoima negotiates with Russian company

Finnish power consortium Fennovoima has entered into negotiations with Rossatom, the Russian nuclear company, over a new reactor planned at Pyhäjoki in northern Finland.

Talks are to start immediately. Fennovoima is especially interested in Rossatom’s 1200 megawatt AES-2006 pressurised water reactor.

Rossatom is currently working to fill 19 orders for that model from all over the world. The company is also building two similar reactors in Russia.

The Finnish company has also been negotiating with the Japanese firm Toshiba since February. A decision is expected within a year. (Eye on Arctic)

***  Nuovo reattore nucleare in Finlandia  ***

Il consorzio energetico finlandese Fennovoima ha iniziato una trattativa con la compagnia nuclerare russa Rossatom, per un nuovo reattore nucleare presso Pyhäjoki, nel nord della Finlandia.

I colloqui sono iniziati immediatamente. Fennovoima è interessata particolarmente all’AES-2006, reattore nucleare ad acqua pressurizzata.

La Rossatom sta attualmente lavorando su ulteriori 19 ordini per questo tipo di reattore, provenienti da tutto il mondo, che si vanno a sommare ai due che la compagnia sta ultimando per la Russia.

La compagnia finlandese ha avviato trattative anche con l’industria giapponese Toyota. A fine anno verrà presa la decisione finale.

La Svezia appoggia la Corea del Sud al Consiglio Artico

La Corea del Sud ha soddisfatto le sue obbligazioni in termini di prospettive economiche, ambiente e sicurezza delle aree artiche, e quindi potrebbe entrare a far parte del Consiglio Artico: la richiesta di Seoul di diventarne un Osservatore Permanente avrà il massimo supporto dalla Svezia, che attualmente presiede il Consiglio. Lo ha detto lunedì scorso Lars Danielsson, ambasciatore svedese nel paese asiatico.

Il prossimo 15 maggio, in Svezia, si terrà il meeting delle otto Nazioni Artiche, che dovranno pronunciarsi sull’ammissione come Osservatore Permanente di alcuni paesi esterni all’area polare, ma con possibili futuri interessi in essa, tra cui appunto la Corea del Sud ma anche Cina e Giappone, per esempio.

“Ciò che serve adesso – ha spiegato Danielsson – è l’unanimità tra tutti gli Otto, e noi stiamo lavorando per creare quel consenso. Tuttavia, la nostra posizione principale è che la Corea del Sud sarebbe molto gradita”. (Global Post)