, Volume 34, Issue 7, pp 955-973
Date: 29 Jan 2011

Arctic fisheries catches in Russia, USA, and Canada: baselines for neglected ecosystems

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Abstract

The Amerasian Arctic, covering northern Siberia (Russia), Arctic Alaska (USA), and the Canadian Arctic, extends over seven coastal Large Marine Ecosystems and makes up the seasonally ice-free part of FAO Statistical Area 18 (Arctic Sea). Historically, the harsh climate has limited marine fisheries (here excluding marine mammal hunting) to small-scale operations conducted mainly in estuaries and river deltas. Most of the catches have traditionally not been reported to FAO, with the result that total catch estimated here from 1950 to 2006 is 75 times higher than the sum of the catches reported for FAO 18 (Arctic). Catches were reconstructed from data on fishing communities in Canada and Alaska, and from various government and non-government sources for Siberia. Based on national data supplied to FAO since 1950, catches have been reported as 12,700 t in toto (reported on behalf of the former Soviet Union). This compares with our reconstructed catches of over 950,000 t, i.e., 770,000, 89,000, and 94,000 t by Russia, USA, and Canada, respectively for the same time period. The reconstructed catch (mainly whitefishes in Siberia, various salmonids in Alaska, and Arctic char in Canada) was 24,100 t year−1 in 1950, but declined to 10,200 t year−1 by the mid-2000s. Reasons for these trends are discussed by country, along with sources of uncertainty (particularly large for Siberia). Catches were allocated to Large Marine Ecosystems to present ecosystem-relevant baselines for the impact of fisheries on the Arctic, which can be expected to increase, as industrial fisheries move into a warming Arctic following the invasion of boreal species, unless countries apply precautionary ecosystem-based management approaches.