Climate Change and the Arctic: Adapting to Changes in Fisheries Stocks and Governance Regimes

Jeffers, Jennifer

       This Note analyzes climate change impacts on Arctic fisheries and governance structures, and examines the role of science, policy, and law in minimizing future repercussions of such impacts. The Arctic is currently undergoing unprecedented shifts in marine species, and climatic conditions in the region are changing at a rate nearly twice as fast as those at lower latitudes. In addition, long-term climatic changes present entirely new challenges. These ecological and socioeconomic alterations will have a significant effect on fisheries governance structures and interactions between Arctic countries and could potentially destabilize existing management regimes. Positive changes to fishery stock compositions and distributions may also lead to conflicts between Arctic nations due to overlapping jurisdictional claims, unregulated fishing, and a lack of multi-regional agreements. The current Arctic regulatory and governance framework is not sufficient in scope and flexibility to adequately address future fishery changes brought on by climate change. This Note suggests that the region needs a new, dynamic management regime in order to successfully negotiate the uncertainties inherent in climate change predictions and anticipate the effects such climatic changes will have on fisheries stocks. I propose four primary components of such a regime: (1) increased overlap of nation-state actors and scientists, (2) institutional nesting, (3) division and management of resources (both in terms of jurisdictional concerns, as well as conservation and utilization principles), and (4) non-political measures. I integrate these components into specific governance options for the future, including the creation of an Arctic regional treaty, an overhaul of the Arctic Council, and the formation of an Arctic-wide Regional Fisheries Management Organization. This Note concludes that although a regional treaty or agreement is currently unrealistic, overhauling the Arctic Council and establishing a new Arctic Ocean Regional Fisheries Management Organization may be feasible options to create an effective governance regime.