Central Arctic Ocean fishing moratorium comes into effect

A 2008 file photo above the Arctic Circle in northern Canada. “This important agreement is about responsible ocean stewardship and is necessary to protect this rapidly changing area already impacted by climate change and the threat of illegal fishing,” said Bernadette Jordan, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, of the international agreement that came into force on June 25. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

An international agreement banning commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean came into effect June 25, three years after being signed by nine countries, including Canada, as well as the European Union. 

“This important agreement is about responsible ocean stewardship and is necessary to protect this rapidly changing area already impacted by climate change and the threat of illegal fishing,” Bernadette Jordan, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said in a news release on Friday.

“By working with other nations and drawing upon the traditional knowledge of the Arctic Indigenous Peoples, Canada is helping to protect the Arctic’s diverse and dynamic ecosystems for future generations.”

The International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean is  legally binding agreement will be in effect for 16 years, after which the parties, which besides Canada and the E.U., include China, Japan, Russia, Iceland, the United States, Norway, South Korea and Denmark, will be able to renew it for five year periods.

Environmental conditions currently preclude commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean, but ongoing Arctic warming means it could be possible in the future.

Map showing area covered by the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. (Government of Canada)

In 2012, more than 2,000 scientists from around the world signed an open letter calling for a moratorium on commercial fishing in the Arctic, saying researchers knew too little about the previously inaccessible area and the fish stocks that live there.

The goal of the agreement was to give scientists time to better understand the area, which measures approximately 2.8 million square kilometres, and for the parties to establish a joint program of scientific research and monitoring within two years that would then work on establishing whether fish stocks that may be in the area can be sustainably harvested. 

“This is the first multilateral agreement of its kind to take a legally binding, precautionary approach to protect an area from commercial fishing before such fishing has begun,” said the U.S. Department of State in a news release. 

Correction
A previous version of this story omitted the United States as one of the countries that signed the International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. This version has been corrected.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: New research chair at Laval University to help better understand permafrost changes in Arctic Quebec, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Oldest Arctic sea ice vanishes twice as fast as rest of region, study shows, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Thawing permafrost melts ground under homes and around Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Record breaking temperatures recorded in Arctic Russia, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Bering Sea ice at lowest extent in at least 5,500 years, study says, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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