Artico: summit Casa Bianca, Italia protagonista con radar

8a28fe74dd201f17bdfa6f6e4a25223bWASHINGTON – Un sistema di osservazione pan-artico per aumentare il monitoraggio spaziale e temporale dell’Artico e condividere meglio i dati sul suo preoccupante scioglimento per mitigarne gli effetti e consentire l’adattamento e la resistenza delle popolazioni locali: e’ l’obiettivo della riunione dei ministri della ricerca scientifica ospitata oggi alla Casa Bianca, un summit di 25 Paesi dove l’Italia, rappresentata da Stefania Giannini, relatrice di una delle quattro sessioni, figura tra i protagonisti, in particolare per i suoi radar satellitari.

“Ci si aspetta un forte contributo scientifico dall’Italia”, ha spiegato il ministro della Ricerca in un briefing con la stampa italiana all’ambasciata di Washington, presente il capo delegazione, Armando Varricchio. “L’Artico e’ tra le priorita’ anche del nostro piano della ricerca, con uno stanziamento di alcune decine di milioni di euro nel triennio 2016-2018”, ha sottolineato il ministro, ricordando inoltre che presso il ministero degli esteri e’ stato riattivato il Tavolo Artico, un gruppo informale di consultazione composto da membri provenienti dal mondo accademico, della ricerca e delle imprese. Tra queste Eni, impegnata, oltre che in programmi di estrazione in Norvegia e in Russia, anche in progetti per il miglioramento delle condizioni di sicurezza dei trasporti marittimi (oilspill), la riduzione dell’impatto ambientale e la tutela delle comunità indigene. “L’obiettivo della ministeriale Giannini – ha riferito – e’ quello di rafforzare e internazionalizzare la cooperazione scientifica. L’Italia, dal 2013 membro osservatore del Consiglio Artico, collabora già con Usa, Canada e Paesi scandinavi e ha rapporti importanti con la Russia, in una sorta di ‘science diplomacy'”.

Oggi i Paesi coinvolti presenteranno i loro progetti. L’Italia ne proporrà 3-4: tra questi spicca quello del Cnr, un radar satellitare che a distanza di centinaia di km e’ in grado rilevare deformazioni di pochi cm del terreno, come nel caso del terremoto ad Amatrice ma anche di fusione del permafrost nella regione artica, con effetti su abitati e infrastrutture. “Il 15 settembre scorso abbiamo registrato un nuovo record nello scioglimento dei ghiacci marini a causa del riscaldamento globale, pari a oltre il 40% rispetto a 15-20 anni fa”, ha spiegato il prof. Enrico Brugnoli, direttore del dipartimento terra e ambiente del Cnr. “Con questi ritmi, nei prossimi 10 anni e’ possibile prevedere nell’Artico estati prive di ghiaccio o con poco ghiaccio”, ha proseguito, ricordando che a questo bisogna sommare l’ancora più allarmante fusione del ghiaccio continentale, “che procede più velocemente di quanto previsto 15 anni fa”. Un fenomeno che “solletica anche appetiti energetici e marittimo-commerciali, per la possibilità di sfruttare le riserve di gas e petrolio e di utilizzare nuove rotte a nordovest che ridurrebbero i porti italiani a scali regionali per quasi meta’ anno”. (Ansa)

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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)

 

Canada and Denmark claim pieces of the Arctic

Canada’s deadline is Friday to apply to the commission for exclusive rights to what is likely to be another 1.7 million square kilometers of Arctic sea floor. The application under the Convention on the Law of the Sea will be the culmination of a decade of work and more than $200 million in public money.

Collection of data for the application has required more than a dozen icebreaker voyages, as well as trips by helicopters, airplanes and an unmanned, remote-controlled submarine that spent days under the ice, Leader-Post writes.

Denmark and Greenland last week submitted a claim for 62,000 square kilometers of Arctic sea floor, reports Politiken newspaper. The claim is the fourth of five that Denmark is expected to submit before a deadline in 2014 which in total could expand Denmark’s territory by around a million square kilometers.

Politiken reports that other Arctic countries have also submitted claims that overlap Denmark’s and with around 50 cases currently being processed, they may have to wait until 2019 for a verdict.

Norway in 2009 became the first Arctic nation to settle an agreement with the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in the north. Norway’s newly defined continental shelf in the north covers 235,000 square kilometers or three-quarters the size of mainland Norway. (Barents Observer)

More concerned with fish health than quotas

Pedersen slices open a frozen haddock to reveal the mass of salmon feed pellets in its stomach. This fish was caught in the vicinity of salmon farms in Vestre Jakobselv, Pedersen said.

The president of Norges Kystfiskarlag, the Coastal Fishermen’s Association, is more concerned with the effects of salmon farming on wild fish populations than he is with the new quota recommendations.

Arne Pedersen is not too concerned about the new quota recommendations for cod and haddock.  It isn’t the quantity of fish that worries him: it’s their health. “This is not natural, this is poison,” Pedersen said, sawing open a frozen haddock to expose the contents of its stomach.

The stomach is filled with a brown, fibrous substance that resembles feed pellets, such as those used in the salmon farms near where Pedersen said he caught the fish.  He produces another frozen haddock, saws it open as well, and the contents of the stomach are the same.

As president of Norges Kystfiskarlag, the Norwegian Coastal Fishermen’s Association, Pedersen represents more than 1,000 fishermen along the coast of Norway from his home in Vestre Jakobselv, in eastern Finnmark.  Part and parcel to protecting the livelihoods of coastal fishermen, he said, is to protect the health of the fisheries they rely on.

But Pedersen said that he has had no response from authorities when he has brought his complaints to bear.  He suspects it has to do with the enormous economic influence of the salmon farming industry in Norway: salmon farming comprises 80 percent of the Norwegian aquaculture industry.  More than 95 percent of Norway’s aquaculture production is exported, destined for more than 130 countries.

“There’s big money in salmon farms, and they do not speak about this conflict with the coastal fishermen in the areas where they farm,” Pedersen said.  “They have a big troop of lobbyists, national and international.”

The controversy surrounding the effects of salmon farming on the environment is not a new one.  A vast amount of research has been conducted on the issue, which in recent years has reached a national scale in countries such as Chile, Canada, and the United States.  In Norway and elsewhere, cited impacts include a decrease in wild salmon populations due to the influence of escaped farmed salmon, and the spread of deadly sea lice (“lakselus”, in Norwegian) and diseases throughout local wild fish populations.

Further down the coast, researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Nature Studies and the Institute for Marine Research found in a 2010 study that wild fish near salmon farms had high concentrations of organohalogenated contaminants (OCs) in their systems –chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) so toxic that their production was banned by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants; and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, a type of flame retardant known as PBDEs.  A total of 45 percent of the fish nearby salmon farms were found to have feed pellets in their stomachs.  The pellets fall through the salmon farm pens and accumulate on the sea floor, and are then consumed by wild fish in the vicinity.  The control fish in the study were found to have no salmon pellets in their system, and up to 50 percent less OCs and PBDEs than the fish nearby salmon farms.

Although salmon farming companies and feed pellet producers tend not to disclose the precise contents of salmon feed pellets, scientists and advocates report that most pellets in the global salmon farming industry contain chemicals such as those indicated in the study, among others.

Pedersen is unaware of any studies that have been conducted within the fjords of Vestre Jakobselv and the surrounding area, but he is eager to see definitive research on what the effects of the chemicals from salmon feed pellets might be on the wild fish.  He said that he has strong suspicions that for wild fish nearby the salmon pens, the chemicals are disrupting their reproduction cycles.

Indeed, the 2010 study recommends further research into this very issue.  But Pedersen is not hopeful this will happen any time soon in his region. “At this moment, the fishermen catching wild fish, we are on the defensive,” he said.  “But in the long term, we have to stay focused on this issue.” (Barents Observer)

Dmitry Berezhkov freed from jail

Indigenous Peoples activist Dmitry Berezhkov is a free man after a court decision in Northern Norway on says the conditions for extradition to Russia is not present.

Saturday’s court ruling says nearly the opposite of the prosecutor’s claims. “The court says the conditions for extradition to Russian authorities are not present,” says Berezhkov’s lawyer Thomas Hansen to Nordlys.

BarentsObserver has spoken to people near Dmitry Berezhkov after the court ruling that says he is now on his way home to his family after having spent two nights in jail. Berezhkov has been living in Tromsø the last year where he is a student at the regional University.

Yesterday, BarentsObserver quoted sources saying there are clearly political reasons for why Dmitry Berezhkov stays in Norway and can’t return to Russia. The source points to the fact that there over a long period had been a dispute between Russian authorities and RAIPON, where Berezhkov earlier was the Vice-President.

RAIPON is the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and organization whose new leaders play the melody of Kremlin after an election thriller at their Congress in March.

RAIPON

The newspaper Nordlys on Saturday published an editorial under the headline “Putin’s prisoner” saying this is a case the Norwegian prosecutor should seriously think through.

“To fabricate false charges of crimes against dissidents is just another weapon in the president’s arsenal against opposition and dissents. The prosecutor and the court in Tromsø must bear in mind that this is not in any way any ordinary criminal case,” the Nordlys editorial reads. (Barents Observer)