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Fishing Vessels in the Arctic

(from AMSA Report 2009)


Fishing vessel operations constitute a significant portion of all vessel activity in the Arctic in 2004, given that some of the world’s most productive fisheries are in the Arctic region. The amount of fishing activity reported in the AMSA database almost certainly underestimates the amount of activity actually taking place, as there are regions of the Arctic for which no data was submitted, but there is known to be commercial fishing occurring. Also, much fishing activity is likely to take place on smaller vessels, which are, for the most part, not captured in the AMSA database. The reported fishing vessel activity takes place in a few key areas, including the Bering and Barents seas; on the west coast of Greenland; and around Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Very limited fishing activity occurs in the Arctic Ocean and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, mostly small-scale food fisheries. Since fishing in the Arctic takes place up to the ice edge, not in close ice pack conditions, operations are in completely or seasonally ice-free or low ice concentration areas and opportunistic in nature. Fishing vessel activity in the database has been categorized according to the Large Marine Ecosystem in which the activity took place. LMEs are geographical entities defined as ecosystems based on a series of ecological criteria. Each comprises a fairly large sea area, typically 200,000 km2 or larger, with distinct bathymetry, hydrography, productivity and trophically dependent populations.

Map 5.3 shows general levels of activity in each of the LMEs within the AMSA area of study and highlights those for which data was not available. Fishing vessel data is presented in terms of days in an area rather than as routes, because fishing vessels typically meander in search of catch rather than follow a specific itinerary. Although further analysis of the impacts of fishing or its potential growth fall outside the scope of this report, it is important to appreciate that fishing activity represents a significant proportion of all current vessel activity in the Arctic region in considering cumulative effects.


  •  1. Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Report 2009

Arctic Council, 2009, Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), Arctic Council.©

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