How will the diminishing sea ice affect commercial fishing in the Bering Sea?

Published: 2018
Product type: Science Brief
Categories: Sea Ice

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The Bering Sea supports one of the largest, most profitable food fisheries in the world. Commercial fisheries are the largest private-sector employer in Alaska. The extent, duration and timing of sea ice advance and retreat are changing dramatically in the warming Arctic, and this accelerated transformation affects food webs on which commercially important fisheries depend. In the eastern Bering Sea, the availability and distribution of some commercially important fish species currently used for human consumption depends on adequate sea ice.

Why it matters

Fishing is the core economy for much of coastal Alaska where 5ish harvesting and processing often provide the only significant opportunities for private sector employment and where fisheries support businesses that provide property and sales tax as the largest source of local government revenues. Nearly two million metric tons of Pacific cod, walleye pollock, and salmon, as well as a variety of other fin fish and crab, are harvested annually from the Bering Sea, accounting for over half of total U.S. harvest volume and almost a third of U.S. harvest value.

Changes in fish-stock abundance and distribution impact the harvests, as well as the economies of communities participating in the harvests and their processing. Understanding and predicting these changes enables decision makers to adapt fisheries management strategies, for example, adjusting the total allowable catch of a given species to reflect its predicted future abundance.