As new agreement goes into effect, countries align to protect and study Arctic fisheries

An international agreement to protect the fisheries of the central Arctic region, signed in 2018, went into effect 25 June.

The agreement was signed by nine countries and the European Union. Signatories include Arctic countries – the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark, and Norway – and countries with fishing interests there, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Iceland.

Before fishing can begin in the 2.8 million-square-kilometer area covered by the agreement, a two-year joint research process will be undertaken by the signatory countries to better understand fish stocks, the potential impact of fishing, and the ecosystems in the protected area. The research will also include the engagement of indigenous communities and indigenous knowledge about the region and resources.

If stocks are determined to be healthy, a management regime –  including dispute resolution mechanisms – will be developed before commercial fishing can begin.

Climate change is influencing the need for international rules in the Arctic – fishing grounds are expanding, or in some cases accessible for the first time, as ice in the region recedes. This is also expanding opportunities for shipping and mining in the region, which can also impact the health of stocks in the region.

The International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean will be in place for 16 years and the goal would be to have international rules governing fishing in place by 2024.  

Photo courtesy of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada


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