Regulators may protect a fishery before anyone even had a chance to cast a net. Melting sea ice and the migration of salmon and other fish farther north make the Arctic region attractive. Because of a lack of studies detailing the impact of commercial fishing in the area, the U.S. North Pacific Fishery Management Council—charged with administering Alaskan waters—voted unanimously on February 5 to close off to any fishing all U.S. waters north of the Bering Strait—some 196,000 square miles of ocean. Studies to determine safe harvesting levels and the impact on indigenous people would be required before any fishing could begin. The proposed prohibition does not mean that the entire Arctic is safe—seven other countries have claims there, including Norway, which has already begun fishing in its waters.
This article was originally published with the title "No Nets in the Arctic" in Scientific American 300, 4, 31 (April 2009)