An agreement has been signed between the federal government and the Inuvialuit people of the western Arctic which close commercial fishing in the Beaufort Sea. The memorandum of understanding, which both parties signed Friday in Inuvik, N.W.T., is the first step towards a comprehensive ocean management plan in the Beaufort Sea.
According to this agreement no new licences from being issued for commercial fishing in the Beaufort Sea at least until the management plan is developed and implemented — a process that could take years. Commercial fishing does not usually happen in the Beaufort Sea, but melting sea ice have opened up Arctic waterways to more fishing and commercial traffic.
The Beaufort Sea fishing ban is being put in place before there is a rush to create a new commercial fishery, according to federal and Inuvialuit officials. Fisheries scientist Burton Ayles, a member of the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, which consists of federal and Inuvialuit representatives, said with fish stocks in steep decline around the world, Inuvialuit and others living near the Beaufort Sea do not want the region to be overfished. He added that temporary commercial fishing permits that were issued in the Beaufort Sea over the past 10 years have not worked out well.
Frank Pokiak of the Inuvialuit Game Council said people in the region would rather see Inuvialuit people participating in small-scale traditional fisheries than large-scale commercial fisheries.