Chapter 8: The exploitation and management of marine resources in the Arctic: law, politics and the environmental challenge
The Arctic is rich in marine resources. Historically, the most important have been marine mammals, whose subsistence exploitation had, until recently, been the basis of existence for many of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic since time immemorial. Today the Arctic is a changing environment. The rapid reduction in ice cover as a result of global warming threatens the survival of several species of marine mammal endemic to the Arctic. However, decreasing sea ice will permit an expansion northwards of commercial fisheries, which hitherto in the Arctic have largely been confined to the Barents Sea, one of the richest and most productive fishing areas in the world. In time, the absence of ice may allow more exploration for and exploitation of oil and gas, which are thought to be present in large quantities beneath the Arctic seabed. Other minerals may also be found on or under the seabed. The exploitation of Arctic marine resources, like the exploitation of marine resources anywhere, presents an environmental challenge. Living resources – marine mammals and fish – should be exploited at or below levels that are sustainable. The exploitation of non-living resources, especially oil and gas, should be carried out in such a way as to minimize the risk of any pollution: in the Arctic this is particularly important given its delicate environment and the fact that oil is broken down by natural processes far more slowly in polar regions than in warmer climes.
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