In a press release, delegates from nine nations including the US, Japan, China and the European Union announced they have signed a historic agreement to prevent commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years.
“This is the first multilateral agreement of its kind to take a legally binding, precautionary approach to protect an area from commercial fishing before that fishing has begun.”
The agreement will protect the 1.8 million square mile stretch of ocean that from further human-caused stressors as the region has already seen significant changes due to climate change.
After being covered by ice for thousands of years, warming global temperatures has opened up the areas to allow for shops to enter the areas for the majority of the year. Due to the area not being accessible and fish stocks being plentiful, many countries immediately sought to fish the areas as fish stocks worldwide have seen a significant decline.
Realizing the urgency of enacting preemptive regulations, the five nations whose territories border the central Arctic Ocean – Canada, the US, Russia, Denmark and Norway began the process of negotiations that led to this week’s signing more than five years ago.
The new agreement just singed is comprised of two commitments. The first is a 16-year ban of unregulated fishing in the designated zone with the possibility of 5-year expansions afterwards. The second is to establish and operate the Joint Program of Scientific Research and Monitoring so that all groups can learn more about the region and better determine how to protect it.
David Balton, a former US ambassador for oceans and fisheries and the leader of the negotiations, explained to the Pew Charitable Trusts that the agreement embodies two commitments. The first is the 16-year bar of unregulated fishing in the designated zone, with the possibility of 5-year extensions. The second is to establish and operate the Joint Program of Scientific Research and Monitoring so that all groups can learn more about the region and determine how and when a sustainable fishery could be initiated.
Enforcing the ban will not start until several details have been worked out and that timeline has not yet been set.