Fishing fleets are increasingly venturing into the pristine seas of the Arctic as the ice cover retreats, according to a report.
Vessel-tracking data analysed by Greenpeace showed that more than 100 Russian and Norwegian trawlers had fished in the northern Barents Sea near the Svalbard islands in the past three years, according to The Times.
Catch reports by Norwegian boats also showed a five-fold increase in the amount of cod caught in the northern Barents Sea since 2001.
Scientists have become increasingly concerned about the dramatic temperature rises in the Arctic, which is warming faster than the rest of the world. Last week Dr Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in California, warned it could have a “possibly catastrophic” effect on the planet’s climate. Temperatures have hit record highs of about 4C above the average for the region between 1951 and 1980 and it is thought this is having an effect on storms affecting much of the northern hemisphere.
However, the melting ice means industrial-scale trawlers are able to venture much further north.
Climate change around the world - in pictures
Climate change around the world - in pictures
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
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3/17 Food security
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4/17 The global economy
The Evening Standard headline board showing the words 'Black Friday Shares Crash' in London in October 2008 in London. The report warns a global mean temperature increase of 2.5C above pre-industrial levels may lead to global aggregate economic losses of between 0.2 and 2.0 per cent
5/17 Human health
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6/17 Human security
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7/17 Freshwater resources
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8/17 Unique landscapes
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A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
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Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
But this method of fishing, in which the nets are dragged across the seabed, threatens colonies of 50-year-old sea pens, and basket stars, animals with several arms that look like moving plants. Humpback, beluga and blue whales also feed in this area during the summer months.
Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at York University, told The Times that the international community should act to prevent the Arctic seas from being wrecked.
“Areas of the Arctic protected by sea ice represent one of the last pristine refuges from trawling and need urgent protection,” he said.
“Bottom trawling is one of the most destructive methods of fishing. Over the last 200 years it has converted once rich and complex sea bed habitats to endless expanses of shifting sands and mud.”
Fish companies Young’s and Birds Eye said they would examine Greenpeace’s findings.
However Seafish, a public body that supports the British seafood industry, said: “The Barents Sea is one of the most well-managed regions in the world... and for Greenpeace to suggest otherwise is unwarranted.”