Scientists say it’s premature to allow industrial fisheries in the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean that may be accessible in the near future because of the melting ice pack. A lot more scientific study is needed to determine safe levels of fishing based on a better understanding of Arctic marine food webs and ecosystems, they say. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters)

Canada ratifies international moratorium on commercial fishing in the High Arctic


Canada has ratified an international accord that will protect nearly three million square kilometres of the Central Arctic Ocean from unregulated commercial fishing.

The agreement, which was signed in Ilulissat, Greenland last October, includes the so-called Arctic Five – Canada, Norway, Russia, Denmark (Greenland and the Faroe Islands), the United States – as well as the major fishing nations – Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China and the European Union.

Inuit from Canada, Greenland, the Russian region of Chukotka and Alaska represented by the Inuit Circumpolar Council are also part of the agreement.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson hailed the “historic agreement” and said Canada was at the forefront of international efforts to protect the Arctic.

“Canada is leading the way to protect our oceans and combat illegal fishing,” Wilkinson said Wednesday in a statement.

“We continue to work with Indigenous peoples, territorial governments, the fishing industry, environmental groups, and our international partners to ensure responsible ocean stewardship and to help protect the Arctic’s fragile ecosystems for future generations.”

First of its kind

The agreement has now been ratified by Canada, the European Union, which ratified it in March, and the Russian Federation, which was the first signatory to ratify the accord at end of January.

The accord will come into force once it is ratified by all ten signatories. It will be valid for at least 16 years after entry into force. After this period, it will be automatically extended for additional five-year periods, subject to agreement of the parties, officials said.

Environmental and conservation groups have hailed the accord as the first international agreement of such magnitude to be reached before any commercial fishing has taken place in a high seas area.

‘A made-in-the Arctic solution’

Canada’s ratification of the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean creates important momentum for ensuring that countries will gather scientific and Indigenous knowledge before allowing industrial fishing to start in these international waters, said Trevor Taylor, vice-president of conservation for Oceans North.

“This is a made-in-the Arctic solution that reflects common sense,” said Taylor. “Let’s find out more about this huge ocean area and how climate change is affecting it before allowing industrial fishing.”

Josh Laughren, executive director of Oceana Canada said they applaud Canada’s leadership in negotiating and ratifying the agreement

“We now have a chance to advance this global action with leadership within Canadian waters,” Laughren said.

“It is critical that Canada takes a science-based approach to managing all fisheries sustainably, including in the Arctic, to ensure they are abundant for generations to come.”

While the Central Arctic Ocean is still covered in ice for most of the year, an analysis of satellite ice data prepared by the environmental NGO Ocean Conservancy, reveals that between 2010 and 2017, the average minimum thickness of sea ice in this region was 60 per cent less than in the 1980s.

At the same time, the amount of open water each September between 2010 and 2017 has increased to an average of 22 per cent as compared to only one percent in the 1980s.

An area the size of the Mediterranean Sea

(Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts)

The agreement applies to the international waters of the Arctic Ocean at least 200 nautical miles away from the shores of the Arctic coastal states, which amounts to 2.8 million square kilometres of ocean, about the size of the Mediterranean Sea.

There is no commercial fishery in this region at this moment. However, the agreement commits the signatories to a joint program of scientific research and monitoring to improve understanding of the region’s ecosystems to determine if fish stocks may one day be sustainably harvested in this area.

The development and planning for the joint program of scientific research and monitoring in the Central Arctic Ocean will be one of the main topics discussed at a two-day meeting of signatories to the agreement in Ottawa that kicked off Wednesday.

Another key issue of discussion is how to ensure participation of Indigenous Arctic peoples in the work of the agreement and how to incorporate Indigenous knowledge along with the science that emerges.

Pushing other countries to join the moratorium

While the accord has ten signatories for now, the next step of the process would be to invite other nations to formally join the agreement, Canadian officials say.

Countries that are part of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement have already undertaken not to undermine separate regional agreements, such as the one for the Central Arctic Ocean, officials say.

As for the others, the ten signatories to the Central Arctic Ocean fishing moratorium have also agreed to use their capabilities to monitor the area and to make sure that nobody undercuts the agreement, Canadian officials say.

Categories: Environment, International
Tags: , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *