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Arctic sea ice retreat raises new fishing challenge, suggests Aberdeenshire councillor
Published:  02 March, 2012

An Aberdeenshire councillor has raised a new challenge that faces the Scottish fishing industry.

Councillor Paul Johnston, leader of the Democratic Independent Councillors on Aberdeenshire Council has asked that the issue of Arctic sea ice is discussed again in a future council meeting.

The surprise suggestion from Councillor Johnston has been raised following more recent scientific information regarding the extent of Arctic sea ice which suggests fully commercially navigable seaways through the Arctic Ocean in the near future.

“The retreat of the permanent ice cover due to global climate change is raising considerable interest in shipping companies to cut huge mileage and journey times from far east Asian ports by using new sea lanes over Russia or Canada and Alaska.

“This alters fundamentally the main shipping routes to major western European ports like Rotterdam and Hamburg. Those routes will be through the North Sea past Shetland and Orkney and that will mean busier sea routes and possible considerable disruption to fishing opportunities” said Cllr Johnston.

Cllr Johnston had raised the issue previously with the European Commission at a conference on marine spatial planning in Peterhead as long ago as 2009. Recent events he says have confirmed the circumstances.

“The prospects of considerable marine traffic brings the possibility of more NO GO areas for fishing in the North Sea, combined with the expected zones around energy installations, this need to be carefully evaluated and understood. The effects on fishing opportunities could on the face of it, be considerable.

“The routes will have potential impacts on Arctic environment as well, which is very fragile. Marine systems and fishing in the Barents sea and Arctic ocean are vulnerable to the impact 100s of thousands of shipping movements and the inevitable accidents that will bring.

“The change may be sooner than first thought but will not be next year. The changes however, need careful planning.”

Councillor Paul Johnston is a member of Aberdeenshire Council’s Fisheries Working Group and has a long record of interest in fisheries issue in the North East.




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