Arctic fishing dispute simmering

As climate change opens up potential fishing hot spots, countries begin jockeying for position

Denmark is among several countries eyeing the seas at the top of the world to start tossing out fishing nets.

The UN will ultimately decide the fishing rights around the North Pole, and while the Danes have joined the US and Canada in calling for a moratorium on Arctic fishing until international guidelines are set, Russia  and Norway have not agreed to wait.

Those in favour of the moratorium say that commercial fishing in the fragile Arctic environment could have a negative impact on fish stocks worldwide.

Canada's fisheries minister Gail Shea has joined Denmark and the US in calling for a waiting period.

“There should be a temporary ban on commercial fishing until it is determined whether a fisheries management organisation or special agreement is justified,” Shea told Canada’s Globe and Mail newpaper.

Sea change
Shea’s support is a bit of a change for the Canadian government, which as little as two years ago was unresponsive to feedback from 2,000 researchers who sent an open letter to the authorities of the Arctic region with a call for the immediate protection of the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem.

The melting Arctic seas have added fisheries to the mix along with oil and gas exploration that could reap great rewards for countries in the region but lay waste to Arctic ecology.

READ MORE: Denmark makes new claim for Arctic seafloor

Fishing limits are usually 200 nautical miles from a country's coastline. In practice, fishing zones for many countries are now governed by exclusive economic zones and treaties.