Landmark international agreement enters into force–legally prohibiting unregulated commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean
June 25, 2021
Ottawa, ON - With climate change causing Arctic ice to melt at an alarming pace, the central Arctic Ocean is now opening up to increased international interest, including the potential for commercial fishing and shipping activity.
To help protect the Arctic’s fragile ecosystems, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced that the historic Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean has come into effect.
As of today, under the Agreement, no commercial fishing can take place in the central Arctic Ocean until parties have a greater scientific understanding of the area and its ecosystem and measures are in place to regulate commercial fisheries.
Signed by 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 in 2018, this legally binding agreement is the first international agreement of this magnitude to be reached before commercial fishing takes place in a high seas area.
The participation and inclusion of Arctic Indigenous Peoples and Northern communities, and the traditional knowledge they can contribute, is written into the Agreement particularly in developing the Agreement’s scientific research and monitoring program. Their knowledge, in conjunction with scientific research, will be important in determining effective conservation and management measures for the area.
The Arctic and its future is a priority for the Government of Canada and for Arctic Indigenous Peoples. This Agreement shows leadership from Canada and its partners for responsible stewardship of the central Arctic Ocean. This will also help with global efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which is a serious risk to our global oceans and economy.
“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. 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 Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“As the Arctic continues to change, our government will be there to ensure its vital ecosystems are protected. This agreement reflects the value of traditional knowledge that Arctic Indigenous Peoples and Northern communities contribute.”
The Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs
The Agreement covers roughly 2.8 million km2, an area about the size of Quebec and Ontario combined.
Throughout the negotiation process, 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.
The Agreement will be valid for an initial period of 16 years. After this period, it will be extended for additional five-year periods, subject to agreement of the Parties.
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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