U.S. needs to engage multilaterally to prevent overfishing of Arctic fishing stocks
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Not all Arctic resources are buried in the continental shelf. In the United States, fisheries and the seafood industry account for $30 billion domesti- cally, $12 billion in exports, and employ more than 100,000.38 In the southern Arctic region (Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska), they are leading employers and sustain the indigenous people.39 World-class fisheries are found in the Barents and Bering seas, the Central North Atlantic off Greenland and Iceland, and the Newfoundland and Labrador seas off the coast of northeastern Canada.40 Regulating and monitoring these stocks in the Arctic are critical economically and strategically. If not protected, the fisheries would be decimated by overfishing. The 110th Congress stated that ‘‘the United States should initiate international discussions and take necessary steps with other Arctic nations to negotiate an agreement or agreements for managing migratory, trans-boundary, and straddling fish stocks in the Arctic Ocean and establishing a new international fisheries management organization or organizations for the region.’’41
The United States remains in a holding pattern. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to close the Arctic to commercial fishing until it can be conducted sustainably, a management mechanism is developed, and we can implement an ecosystem-based management policy for Arctic resources.42 At some point, the United States cannot maintain this policy unilaterally and must enforce an international regime through patrolling and monitor- ing foreign fishing and fish-processing vessels in the region.
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS will boost efforts to manage fishing populations in multiple ways. First, UNCLOS provides a clear legal framework for resolving disputes between countries over fishing rights, as for example the disputes between the U.S. and Canada. Secondly, becoming a party to UNCLOS gives the U.S. Coast Guard more legal tools to enforce existing regulations within the U.S. EEZ. Finally, by aceeding to UNCLOS the U.S. will be able to better lead on cooperative solutions to the global problem of overfishing.