Save the Arctic's Marine Ecosystems

The Arctic Ocean is facing changes unparalleled on the planet. Over the last 100 years, the Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the planet.  Since the 1950s, an area of sea ice about half as big as the land area of the United States has been lost. 

 Species such as Polar Bears, Walrus, Spectacled Eiders, Bowhead whale, Steller sea lions and North Pacific Right Whale are facing population declines and most are already listed under the Endangered Species Act. 

Currently, there are no commercial fisheries north of the Bering Strait.  But the rapid loss of sea ice is creating the potential for commercial fisheries in the Arctic Ocean. If allowed, commercial fishing may harm important habitat and could directly harm marine mammals – not to mention compete with subsistence users who depend on the marine environment to survive.

The rapid reduction in  the northern sea ice will not only bring enormous change to the Arctic marine ecosystem, retreating sea ice will also create vast new territory for unprecedented oil and gas drilling and industrial shipping and fishing.

It is important that we develop a careful science-based approach for this fragile environment. Please sign our petition urging the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to close the Arctic to commercial fishing – unless and until it can be shown that commercial fishing can occur without harming the health of the marine ecosystem.

Mr. Eric Olson, Chair
North Pacific Fishery Management Council

Dear Chairman Olson:

I am writing to thank the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for developing a forward-looking Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for U.S. waters in the Arctic. I strongly urge the Council to continue to exercise leadership on this issue by adopting Alternative 2 of the proposed Arctic FMP. Alternative 2 would protect the health of the Arctic ecosystem by closing the entire region north of the Bering Strait to all commercial fishing until it can be shown that commercial fishing can occur without harming the health of the marine ecosystem or the subsistence way of life.

As the Council has recognized, global climate change is already having profound effects on the marine environment of the Arctic. Foremost of these has been the rapid loss of sea ice cover and the increase in ocean temperature. These and other related changes are placing great stress on the Arctic ecosystems and the thousands of people who live there. Polar bears, walruses, whales, seabirds and other Arctic animals are struggling to adapt to rapid changes, and would face new threats if additional human industrial activities were added to the stress of climate change.

Relatively little is known about the abundance, distribution, and role of fish and other marine species in the Chukchi and Beaufort ecosystems, there is no way to anticipate the degree to which commercial fishing may impact these ecosystems. In light of these uncertainties and the unprecedented pressures on the Arctic Ocean ecosystem, I urge the council to take a precautionary approach and adopt Alternative 2 of the Arctic FMP at its February meeting in Seattle. By adopting Alternative 2, the Council will lead the world in protecting Arctic fishery resources and set a precedent for how other agencies responsible for the Arctic Ocean can proceed.


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