Disputes over arctic fishing resources have already lead to increased tensions between arctic nations
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In addition to large deposits of Arctic oil, gas, and other natural minerals, the Arctic Ocean is connected to several significant breeding areas of fish stocks, which are anticipated to move farther north as an apparent result of changes in Arctic water temperatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has stated that this shift has been going on for the past 40 years, with some stocks nearly disappearing from U.S. waters as the fish “seem to be adapting to changing temperatures and finding places where their chances of survival are greater.”23 In fear of uncontrolled new developments, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council decided in 2009 to ban all commercial fishing in a 200,000-square-mile Arctic area, from the Bering Strait to the disputed U.S.-Canadian maritime border. As a reshifting of fish stocks takes place, increased fishing oppor- tunities are likely to result in disputes over quotas and fishing areas. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is already patrolling the Bering Sea border with Russia, which has been the source of some tension because of overfishing and boundary disputes. Norwegian and Russian cooperation on fishing in the Barents Sea has generally been promoted as a positive example of border cooperation, but incidents between the Norwegian Coast Guard and Russian trawlers have occurred from time to time, such as the arrest of the Russian trawler Sapphire II for illegal dumping of fish in waters around Svalbard in late Sep- tember 2011. While the company owning the trawler was given a €57,000 fine, both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre moved quickly to diffuse the issue and stress that there was “no conflict” between the countries regarding fisheries.24 With increased fishing activity in the Arctic, such issues are again likely to develop. At the same time, increased activity demands increased capacity from the national coast guards, as a large part of search-and-rescue activity revolves around fishing vessels.
Currently, there is no major tension between the Arctic states. They all want peaceful solutions to their border disputes and see the advantages of freedom of navigation through the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. However, at the time when the coastal nations are able to increase their oil production in the Arctic, conflict can more easily occur. A shortage of energy and other resources will make the nations more determined to solve their border issues, which may increase the tension between them.