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Climate change makes the Arctic a strange kettle of fish
Published:  12 September, 2012

Decisions on managing fish stocks in the Arctic should be based on fact and not idealism, maintains University of Hull fisheries expert, Dr Magnus Johnson.

Speaking at the “The Future of the High North and the Challenges for Maritime Governance” conference, being held this week (September 13-14) at the University of Hull, Dr Johnson, of the University of Hull’s Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences, will claim that over-regulation risks endangering the livelihood of indigenous people in the region.


Climate change is likely to have a profound impact on the fishing industry in the High North, as increasing temperatures see warm water fish travelling further into the Arctic.


While the thawing ice also makes it possible for boats to fish in these previously inaccessible areas, there have been calls to prevent the start of commercial fishing in international Arctic waters until more research has been done into how fish stocks can be managed sustainably.


Dr Johnson will explain some of the challenges of managing fish stocks in international waters and call for a pragmatic approach to regulation.


“We need to remember that, while many of the conservation arguments put forward by organisations such as Greenpeace are often compelling, we need to base our decisions on the management of fisheries on fact and not idealism,” he says.


“There are a great many people whose livelihoods depend on being able to fish in the Arctic as the fish move further north, out of territories that are covered by government regulation. It’s really important that the management measures put in place in these new areas take sufficient account of these needs. If they don’t, there is a danger these people could become ‘conservation refugees’, where people are displaced and lose their livelihoods to conservation efforts.”


Dr Johnson will be speaking at the conference alongside Caroline Cowan, Head of Negotiations and Stock Conservation for Marine Scotland. Caroline’s presentation will focus on the lessons that can be learned from the negotiations that have taken place between other inter-governmental fisheries and looking at the historical precedents that might inform the Arctic situation.

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