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Note - The Ice-free Arctic Is Coming: Why a Circumpolar Network of Marine Protected Areas Is Needed to Protect Arctic Fisheries From Climate Change


Changes in the Arctic’s climate and corresponding shifts in marine eco-systems are occurring much more quickly than climate models and scien-tists predicted. At the same time, interest in the Central Arctic Ocean for fishing, transportation, tourism, and oil and gas exploration is increasing. An increase in these activities will diminish the capacity of Arctic living marine resources, including fish, to respond to the environmental changes caused by climate change. Because the resiliency of Arctic fisheries will be diminished, and because these fisheries have economic, cultural, and ecolog-ical significance for Arctic nations, there is a need for an Arctic fisheries management framework that is adaptable enough to accommodate the con-siderable degree of uncertainty intrinsic to the rapidly changing Arctic. This Note considers whether existing international law can provide a framework that is sufficiently flexible to respond to rapid, non-linear changes, and sufficiently comprehensive to adequately protect fisheries that are made vulnerable by the direct and indirect effects of climate change. This Note introduces the unique climate change issues facing the Arctic, as well as the existing international legal framework for Arctic fisheries. This Note concludes by suggesting that a fisheries management regime that em-braces a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach through the establish-ment of a circumpolar network of Marine Protected Areas is needed to en-sure the protection of the Arctic’s present and future fisheries in light of the uncertainties that currently plague the region.