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Divide over Arctic overfishing claims
Published:  03 March, 2011

A BIG debate has opened up in Canada over claims that Arctic fishing grounds are being overfished. A study  published  in the journal Polar Biology claimed that the amount of fish caught in the Arctic has been dramatically under-reported for decades, making the northern ocean environment appear far more pristine than it really is.

The report said that around  50,000 tonnes of fish were caught in Russian, Canadian and US Arctic waters between 1950 and 2006, was 75 times higher than reported by the United Nation's agency that records catch levels.  Dirk Zeller, a lead researcher at thee University of British Columbia blamed ineffective reporting saying it had given  a false sense of comfort that the Arctic is still a pristine frontier when it came to fisheries.

But this has been strongly denied by native fishing goups in northern Canada. Jerry Ward, chief executive officer of the Baffin Fisheries Coalition, told the Canadian broadcaster CBC News: "I certainly don't think there's overfishing."

He added that north Canadian fishing groups believes  quotas should only be increased if good science supports that kind of move. Mr Ward said fishing vessels off Nunavut's coast are taking in less than six per cent of the estimated turbot population - a much smaller catch than in southern Canadian jurisdictions, because of the colder and more fragile Arctic environment. The Nunavut are native Canadians and part of the Inuit race who have their own government in North West Canada. Mr Ward added that in any case independent observers are closely monitoring the northern turbot and shrimp fisheries to ensure there was no overfishing.

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