The European Union and four other nations which have commercial interests in the Arctic, such as China and Japan, have joined Canada and the four other countries with land stretching into the northern sea in a moratorium which will avoid fishing throughout the surface of the world until science says it could be managed sustainably.
The agreement reached between the 10 authorities in Washington on Thursday caps years of negotiations to protect 2.8 million square kilometres of the Arctic which are anticipated to become available to fishers as climate change causes the sea ice to melt.
The deal will stop commercial fishing in the area for 16 years. It is going to automatically be revived in 2033, and then every five years after that, unless one of those nations objects or fishing quotas and rules governing commercial fisheries are put in place.
“It is heartening to see Arctic and non-Arctic states come together on conservation measures for the future of the Arctic Ocean,” said Herb Nakimayak, vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, who had been a member of the Canadian delegation.
“The agreement explicitly calls out the value of considering Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and the importance of our role in the Arctic,” Mr. Nakimayak stated. “Joining together like this makes for a stronger arrangement and inspires country-states co-ordination and co-operation, which I hope will benefit our Arctic coastal communities.”
Five countries — Canada, the USA, Denmark, Norway and Russia — agreed in 2015 to not drop their nets from the Arctic Ocean before a complete scientific assessment was conducted of the fish stocks and the ways they are harvested without damaging the environment or threatening fish populations.
But that arrangement would have done nothing to prevent ships from China, Japan, South Korea and Iceland from entering the region. Thursday’s deal ensures those nations will also abide by the moratorium.
It covers what is called the “Arctic doughnut hole” — the massive expanse of unregulated international waters around the North Pole. There’s absolutely no commercial fishing in the area yet, but it’s predicted to become feasible in coming years as the ice pack melts. In recent summers, 40 percent of the area is now open water.
Dominic LeBlanc, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said late Thursday afternoon that the moratorium marks “the first time an international agreement of this size was reached prior to any commercial fishing occurs on a region of the high seas.”
America has experienced a similar fishing ban in place covering the northern coast of Alaska because 2009.
In 2012, a group of 2,000 scientists from 67 countries, including 551 scientists in Canada, called for the moratorium on Arctic fishing until more research could be performed and the constraints on a sustainable catch could be set. The actual concern, even at the moment, was that countries like China, which has been looking for a more active part in the Arctic area, would send its own fleets into the Arctic.
Two decades later, Canada followed the U.S. guide and enforced its own moratorium in cooperation with the Inuit of the Western Arctic. Since that time, there’s been a co-ordinated global effort to persuade all the possible Arctic players to agree to maintain their fishing fleets from the area.
“This precautionary actions recognizes the speed of change in the Arctic because of climate change in addition to the convention of Arctic co-operation across international boundaries,” stated Scott Highleyman, vice-president of conservation policy and programs in Ocean Conservancy who was part of the U.S. delegation negotiating the agreement.
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail