Arctic Ocean: Reduced Amount Of Ice
Signed in Oslo on July 16th by the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark (on Greenland's behalf) and Norway, the agreement prohibits unregulated commercial fishing in a 2.8 million square kilometre zone within the Arctic Ocean.
"Climate change is affecting the migration patterns of fish stocks," said Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende. As early as 2012, prominent scientists have called for a ban on fishing in the Arctic waters.
Although the central Arctic has no commercial fish stocks, fish such as cod are expected to be drawn northwards due to the melting sea ice. Hence, the agreement would "prevent a problem from arising ahead of time," said David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, US Department of State.
Based on the current trends of the melting ice, the Arctic Ocean might become ice-free during the summer months. Between 1971 and 2015, the ice has thinned by 65 percent. In fact, the area was open water for a brief period in the summer of 2012 when the ice shrank to a record low of 40 percent.
Besides fishing, another threat to this area is the extraction of mineral resources in the neighbouring states. Oil company Shell intends to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast later this year. If it does establish drilling operations, there would be a 75 percent possibility of the occurrence of at least one serious accident, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a US government agency.
Greenpeace arctic expert Larissa Beumer is calling for a halt to oil exploration, saying that Shell has unscrupulously put the sensitive region at risk.
To date, Shell has already endangered the lives of thousands of whales and seals in the Arctic. The tremendous noise generated by its seismic testing, drilling and icebreakers disrupts the communication and orientation of marine mammals, causing them to lose their way or avoid their preferred feeding areas. In extreme cases, this could even lead to mass stranding or death.