Arctic fishing plan proposed

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service on Thursday announced it will open the public comment period on a proposed plan to manage fishing in the Arctic waters of the United States in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

If adopted, the plan will govern commercial fishing for all finfish and shellfish stocks in federal waters, except Pacific salmon and Pacific halibut, which are managed under other authorities. It would not affect fisheries for salmon, whitefish and shellfish in Alaskan waters near the Arctic shore. The plan identifies Arctic cod, saffron cod and snow crab as likely initial target species for fishermen.

“Historically, there have been no commercial fisheries in our Arctic seas," said Doug Mecum, acting administrator of the Alaska region of National Marine Fisheries Service. "But with Arctic sea ice receding, more human activities may likely begin there, including increased interest in commercial fishing.

"The new management plan sets up a framework for possible development of Arctic fisheries in the next decades,” he added. “It would ensure that we proceed carefully and do not allow commercial fishing to expand northward before we know what level of fishing the Arctic can sustain."

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council began considering options for fishery management in the area in 2006. Ultimately, the council decided to take a precautionary approach, voting to prohibit commercial fisheries until researchers gather sufficient information on fish and the Arctic marine environment.

Comments on the Arctic Fisheries Management Plan are due 27 July.

The proposed plan can be viewed at

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