14 April 2016
Source: National Gepgraphic
Authors: Carl Safina & Erica Cirino
When thick sheets of sea ice began melting in the Arctic waters around Svalbard, Norway, a few years ago, a new expanse of sparkling blue sea opened up. As climate change continues to drive ice melt here on the previously untouched waters of the North Barents Sea, what many ocean conservationists consider to be unwelcome guests are starting to arrive in droves: trawling vessels.
And this trend toward more open sea and more ship traffic could have a harmful affect on the North Barents Sea ecosystem, according to Greenpeace. The conservation group is so worried about the detrimental effects of bottom trawling in the waters near Svalbard that they launched their own investigation into commercial fishing practices in the region.
“Industrial fisheries moving into newly accessible areas pose a serious threat to seabed communities,” says Greenpeace in its investigation report, This Far, No Further, published in March. The group cites a 2015 Norwegian Institute of Marine Research study on North Barents Sea seabed fauna that found a decline in biomass for all species in trawled areas as compared with those that are not trawled, with especially vulnerable species like sea stars, sea sponges and sea cucumbers experiencing the greatest losses.