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According to an open letter addressed to Arctic country governments, which was signed by 2,000 scientists, “a commercial fishery in the central Arctic Ocean is now possible and feasible.”

While this might sound like great news – more economic opportunities, right? — it is in fact an ominous sign as it means that a large amount of Arctic ice has already melted away and more melting is projected to occur thanks to human-induced climate change and global warming.

“Before long – quite possibly before mid-century – the Arctic Ocean will be free of ice during part of each summer,” Climate News Network reports.

So yes, a commercial fishery may exist now (or very soon) in the Arctic, but it is at a direct expense to its fragile ecosystem and the animals – from polar bears to snowy owls — that call it home.

It’s critically important that we tread carefully on this subject because the Arctic’s future has far reaching effects around the globe, even if we don’t fully realize this yet.

As the Natural Resources Defense Council states, “The Arctic is global warming’s canary in the coal mine. It’s a highly sensitive region, and it’s being profoundly affected by the changing climate. Most scientists view what’s happening now in the Arctic as a harbinger of things to come.”

While many may be skeptical of the United States’ stance (or lack thereof) on a number of matters, in this instance the U.S. took the first big step in addressing the issue of an Arctic commercial fishery.

In fact, the U.S. has urged all countries that border the Arctic to ban commercial fishing in this fragile area, and has already met with success!

As of this Wednesday, February 26, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway along with the U.S. have all agreed “to work toward a deal to block commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean until more is known about the potential of the resource,” as The Chronicle Herald reports.

Now that these five countries have reached this decision after three days of meetings in Nuuk, Greenland, they will work together to get other countries with “major commercial fishing fleets,” including China, Japan and Korea, to sign an international agreement that will prohibit commercial fishing in Arctic waters before the end of the year.

Let’s hope for their continued success! In the mean time, consider sending a thank you message to the White House for being at the forefront of this ban and supporting Arctic protection! (Don’t we all need to know when we’re doing a good job every once in a while?)

Image source: U.S. Geographical Survey / Flickr

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