Canada ratifies landmark international agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the central Arctic Ocean

News release

May 29, 2019

Ottawa, ON — Climate change continues to have a major impact in the Arctic. Melting sea ice means that areas that were once inaccessible are opening up to potential commercial interest and activity. That is why today the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Sean Casey, announced that Canada has ratified the historic Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. This is the first international agreement of this magnitude to be reached before any commercial fishing has taken place in a high seas area.

The Agreement was signed by Canada and nine other Parties in October 2018. This legally binding agreement prohibits commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean for a period of at least 16 years after it enters into force, and commits the signatories to a joint program of scientific research and monitoring to improve understanding of the ecosystems in and surrounding the central Arctic Ocean to determine if fish stocks may one day be sustainably harvested in this area. The Agreement also provides for the participation and inclusion of Arctic Indigenous peoples and their communities, recognizing the critical value of their local knowledge in the conservation of the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic and its future is a priority for the Government of Canada. This agreement demonstrates Canadian leadership with its partners for responsible stewardship of the central Arctic Ocean and is part of Canada’s broad efforts to contribute to international oceans governance and to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU). IUU fishing is a global issue affecting fish populations and the health and sustainability of our oceans. Ensuring that a robust science and management regime is in place before fisheries can occur will help protect the ecosystem and the environment should any future fishing ‎occur in the region.

The Government of Canada continues to build on this momentum of international collaboration by hosting a meeting of signatories to the Agreement from May 29 to 30, 2019 in Ottawa. This preparatory meeting will focus on addressing outstanding issues  to ensure a smooth entry into force of the Agreement, including the development and planning for the Joint Program of Scientific Research and Monitoring under the Agreement.


“Canada is leading the way to protect our oceans and combat illegal fishing. That is why we were at the forefront of the negotiations for this historic agreement to protect the central Arctic Ocean. 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.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“I was happy to attend the first meeting of the signatories of this agreement in Ottawa. Continuing to work with our international partners ensures that we act in the interest of continued sustainable ocean stewardship first and foremost. This includes working with the Indigenous peoples of Canada’s North to draw on their traditional knowledge and to take into consideration the impacts on their traditional lifestyles.”

Sean Casey
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick facts

  • The Agreement covers an area about the size of Quebec and Ontario combined.

  • Throughout the negotiation process, Fisheries and Oceans Canada engaged with Inuit organizations, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, and with key stakeholders including Territorial governments, the fishing industry, and environmental groups to share information on the negotiating process and to seek their views and input.

  • In addition to Canada, nine other Parties have signed the Agreement: 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. To date, the Agreement has been ratified by Canada, the European Union, and the Russian Federation.

  • The Agreement will come into force once it is ratified by all ten parties. 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.

Associated links


Jocelyn Lubczuk
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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