While many in Washington have and continue to criticize our former governor and now Obama cabinet member, Gary Locke, maybe those of us in the fishing industry should take a closer look.
A Real Fish Story
Here is an unusual fish story. And a positive one.
On Thursday, Gary Locke, the secretary of commerce, approved a plan that would prohibit commercial fishing in a huge swath of American waters in the Arctic that have never been actively fished and that nobody is much interested in fishing now. That sounds odd, but it’s a smart move based on the assumption that the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change will someday make the area more accessible and commercially more attractive. This was also the first time the United States shut down a fishery because of climate change rather than overfishing. Mr. Locke’s objective is to buy time to get a fix on the area’s resources and develop a sustainable fishing plan that would assure lasting protection for a fragile and poorly understood ecosystem. The plan was developed jointly by environmentalists and the Marine Conservation Alliance, a consortium of Alaskan harvesters and processors. Conservationists and industry do not, as a rule, agree on how quickly fish should be taken from the sea. Here they agreed not to take any at all – until it seems safe to do so. The prohibition covers nearly 200,000 square miles north of the Bering Strait. These waters are believed to be rich in cod and snow crab, among other species. In time, they could well provide a new home for cold-water species like pollock and salmon that are already moving north as global warming increases water temperatures in their normal habitats. The hope in Alaska and Washington is that the plan will send a signal to other Arctic nations – including Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark – that are also eyeing the potentially huge resources beneath the thawing Arctic icepack. Fish migrate long distances, and care little for international borders. International cooperation will ultimately be required to protect them. Closing American waters tells the world that the United States is putting its own house in order until science determines that fishing can be allowed in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Thank you to Doug Schaad of the Washington Fly Fishing Club