October 3, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario – As Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I am proud to announce that today in Ilulissat, Greenland, Canada along with 8 other States and the European Union have taken a pivotal step towards oceans management and conservation by signing the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean.
Canada believes in a collaborative and precautionary approach when it comes to protecting our oceans – especially in fragile areas like the central Arctic Ocean.
Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States, China, Iceland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the European Union and Denmark in respect of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, have signed this important, legally binding agreement. It prohibits commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years after entry into force. The Agreement covers an area about the size of Quebec and Ontario put together.
This historic effort marks the first time an international agreement of this magnitude has been reached before any commercial fishing has taken place in a high seas area. Not only does it give the Parties time to develop a greater understanding of this marine ecosystem and the species there, it will also inform possible conservation and management measures that might be needed in the future.
To this end, Canada and the other Parties have also committed to a program of joint scientific research and monitoring to gain a better knowledge of Arctic Ocean ecosystems and the potential for sustainable fisheries in the future.
International interest in the Arctic continues to grow as climate change and the melting sea ice opens up vast areas of this once frozen landscape. The shrinking ice cover is affecting the traditional lifestyles of the Indigenous peoples of Canada’s North, a fact emphasized by Inuit Circumpolar Council during the negotiation of this Agreement. Indigenous peoples will continue to play an integral role in the implementation of this Agreement and their traditional knowledge will be an important source of information moving forward. Territorial governments, the fishing industry, and environmental groups will also be involved.
The Agreement is part of Canada’s overall effort to contribute to international oceans governance and to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which is a global issue affecting fish populations and the health and sustainability of our oceans. Ensuring that a science and management regime is in place before fisheries can occur is good for the ecosystem and the environment, and it will also ensure a sustainable, economic future should any future fishery occur.
This is a proud moment for our country. Canada, once again, has demonstrated that it can work with its international partners on sustainable ocean stewardship and to ensure the protection of the Arctic’s fragile ecosystems.
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard