Resources from the edge

In the waters

drying fish
Fish hung up to dry
Arctic Voice

The waters of the Arctic teem with life - the largest halibut ever landed was caught in June 2009 weighing at 203kg!

The Arctic marine ecosystem

Top predators: polar bears and humans

Fish eaters: seals, walruses, whales

Larger fish: mature Arctic cod, Greenland halibut, Arctic char (a relative of the salmon)

Smaller fish: young Arctic cod and other young fish eat the plankton. Small fish like caplin and sand lance are critical in the Arctic food web

Zooplankton eat the phytoplankton

Phytoplankton graze on the algae

Algae blooms (grows) on the underside of ice. Open water lets sunshine in to fuel this growth

Areas of open water occur at almost any time of the year. Some occur at the same time each year and are critical to migrating animals, birds and marine mammals. Any changes in the patterns due to climate change could cause disastrous effects.


fishing through the ice
Fishing through the ice
photo: Arctic Voice

Indigenous people fish through holes in the ice in the winter and tourists visit to experience this form of fishing.

In summer a rod and line from a boat is used and the fish are hung up to dry to preserve them.

Currently there are no large scale fishing operations in the North American Arctic waters. Most of the commercial fishing takes place just outside Arctic waters but it does fish Arctic species that have migrated south.

As the ice melts there are fears that there will be an increase in commercial fishing and the North American governments are drawing up plans to ensure sustainable commercial fishing. One of the difficulties in developing this strategy is that there is little reliable information about the state of fish and shellfish stocks in the Arctic, they seem to be very variable.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has recommended that there should be no commercial fishing in the Arctic until the ecosystem is better understood.

How might less sea ice and affect the Arctic marine ecosystem and its exploitation? Use information from the climate change section and the links below to help you.

Indigenous people also hunt whales.


Home | 1: Climate change | 2: Living on the edge | 3: Arctic science | 4: Hunter or hunted? | 5: Postcard from the edge | 6: Troubled waters | 7: Resources from the edge | 8: Arctic Circumpolar Governance | 9: Snow, water, ice, permafrost | 10: Adapting to change

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