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Executive Summary for July 8th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including the ongoing negotiations over fishing in the central Arctic Ocean and a new study that traces U.K. plastics into the Arctic.

Published on July 8, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Arctic High Seas Fishing Negotiations Continue

Arctic and non-Arctic nations met in Iqaluit this week to continue negotiations over Arctic Ocean fishing regulations, reported the CBC.

There is currently no commercial fishing going on in the Arctic high seas, but international law says that the high seas are open to anyone.

With the growing retreat of the Arctic sea ice in the summer due to climate change, there are concerns that these international waters will soon be accessible to commercial fishing fleets. In 2012, 40 percent of the central Arctic Ocean was ice free, reported Radio Canada International.

Last year, Denmark, Canada, Norway, Russia and the U.S. signed a declaration agreeing to keep their commercial fleets out of the area until science-based assessments of the region’s fisheries can be completed.

At the time, the Arctic coastal states recognized that non-Arctic nations might be interested in fishing in those waters and needed to be included in the decision making.

The talks in Iqaluit include representatives from Canada, the U.S., Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the E.U., China, Japan and South Korea. They build on previous meetings that took place in Washington, D.C., in April, as reported by Arctic Deeply, and in Oslo in August 2015. Their success will depend on whether the outcome is a binding or nonbinding agreement, reported by the Nunatsiaq News.

U.K. Plastic Waste Drifts to Arctic

Plastics disposed of in the waters surrounding the U.K. are shuttled to Arctic waters within two years, reports New Scientist.

Researchers from Imperial College London tracked the garbage from British coastlines, through the Barents Sea north of Norway, where a sixth garbage patch may be forming, and into the Arctic.

It’s unknown exactly how much plastic flows into the world’s oceans each year, but a 2010 estimate puts the figure at between 4.7 million and 12.7 million tonnes. The plastic comes from storm water discharges, sewage overflows, illegal dumping, industry and beach litter, according to the New Scientist article.

Scientists have found plastics in birds, fish, marine mammals and other ocean organisms, reports the Guardian. Larger pieces can obstruct feeding in fish and birds. The effects of microplastics are still being studied.

Iceland Tries to Keep Birds from Crossing the Road

Brightly painted roads are being used to turn back Arctic tern chicks from crossing a busy thoroughfare on the Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland, reports the Iceland Review.

The chicks are attracted by the warm, dark asphalt, which also camouflages them, and are being hit by vehicles, including those driven by the increasing number tourists visiting the area.

The biologists involved in the project are testing three colors: red, yellow and white. The painted sections may deflect some of the heat and will also allow the young birds, whose feathers are mottled brown, to show up more clearly, the BBC reported.

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