Landmark fishing ban protects Arctic high seas

Last week, the European Union, Canada, China, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea and the US signed a historic international agreement banning unregulated commercial fishing in the Arctic high seas. Together, they represent some 75 per cent of the global GDP.

Under the agreement, the ten parties have agreed to ban commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean. The ban will remain in place until scientists can confirm how fishing can be done sustainability.

“This historic agreement … shows what multilateralism can achieve when there is a strong sense of common purpose,” said Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. “Today, we have all committed to safeguarding this fragile marine ecosystem for future generations.”

According to the EU, the Arctic region is warming at almost three times the global average rate, causing a change in the size and distribution of fish stocks. As a result, the Arctic high seas may become more attractive for commercial fisheries, but the waters were not covered by an international conservation and management scheme. The new agreement changes this.

The fishing ban was welcomed by indigenous groups and conservation organizations.

“Fisheries are a renewable resource, but only if we take care of those fisheries and we understand how to manage them properly,” Verner Wilson, a member of the Curyung tribe in Alaska and senior oceans campaigner with Friends of the Earth, told Canada’s CBC news.

“Moving towards more understanding and having a precautionary approach to development is a win-win, not just for our generation but for … future generations.”

According to Steve Ganey from Pew Charitable Trusts, the agreement turns the Central Arctic Ocean into the world’s largest marine area where commercial fishing is proactively placed off-limits in the interest of precaution. “By using science-based measures to guide decision-making, the agreement will go a long way toward conserving this unique environment.”

Image credit: William Bossen via Unsplash


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