Another Cod

In the years ahead, it is possible that growing global demand for cod - particularly in the Far East, where fish is fast becoming highly fashionable - will put increasing pressure on the strict quotas that currently regulate the harvesting of the Barents Sea.32 Trawler captains will be more tempted than ever to violate borders, risking detection, arrest and prosecution in the process, in order to earn high premiums from a market where cod will be a highly prized commodity. It is also possible that some governments, if not quite turning a blind eye, will be increasingly indifferent to such violations because they will want to avoid angry disputes with the fishing lobby and alleviate any political pressures that could result from that. Groups representing fishermen have repeatedly lobbied the Russian government to establish a secure presence around Svalbard, for example.33

While tension could rise and serious incidents (like those that took place in 1975 or 1994) might quite conceivably break out, this is far from being a recipe for a 'resource war'. The most obvious reason -that fish is clearly not as important a commodity as oil or gas, and will become even less important in the years ahead as the general public becomes increasingly accustomed to food shortages - hardly needs to be mentioned. But it is also because the fishing lobby, in almost every country, is simply not strong enough to cause serious political trouble and is likely to become much less important in the future.

The Norwegian government has always lobbied hard on behalf of its fishing industry for the simple reason that it has traditionally sustained the local economy of its remote northern provinces. But as the example of Hammerfest illustrates perfectly, climate change has also opened up some of these areas to oil and gas exploration, as well as to other industries, and in doing so provided new job opportunities that have considerably relieved some of this domestic political pressure. Russian fishermen could also find new openings in places like Novaya Zemlya. Hitherto always an area of high security that is accessible only to the armed forces, in time this might become a centre for commerce and business, not least to develop the offshore Shtokman gasfield.34

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