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EU and its Arctic partners agree to prevent unregulated fishing in the Arctic Ocean

JRC fisheries experts will continue to support the process to enable sustainable fisheries in the Arctic in the future JRC fisheries experts will continue to support the process to enable sustainable fisheries in the Arctic in the future
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Dec 07 2017

The European Union and nine nations have reached an international agreement to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the Arctic high seas.

The JRC has provided continuous support to the process through scientific expertise on the management of sustainable fisheries.  

The Arctic region is warming at almost twice the global average rate, causing a change in the size and distribution of fish stocks. As a result, the Arctic high seas potentially become more attractive for commercial fisheries in the medium to long term.

However, until present, most of the Arctic high seas were not covered by any international conservation and management regime.

"We are venturing into a vastly unknown territory and nobody quite knows what fishing resources will be available in the Arctic Ocean in the future. However, there is consensus among the participating countries that scientific cooperation is key to ensuring that potential new fish stocks are protected from overfishing and that there are proper fisheries management plans in place early on", said Jann Martinsohn, Deputy Head of Unit and responsible for Fisheries & Aquaculture at the JRC.

The JRC fisheries experts were nominated by the EU to be part of a scientific expert group on fish stocks in the Central Arctic Ocean (FisCAO), in which all participating countries had scientific representatives.

The JRC has been providing scientific support to the negotiations through knowledge and expertise on sustainable fisheries management.

On 30 November, the European Union and nine nations engaged in Arctic matters (Canada, the People's Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark in respect of Greenland and the Faroes, Iceland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States) reached an international agreement at the fifth and final round of negotiations to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the Arctic high seas.

The agreement envisions the creation of one or more regional fisheries management organisations or arrangements for the Central Arctic Ocean, to ensure that any future fishing is carried out sustainably.

JRC fisheries experts will continue to support the endeavour of enabling sustainable fisheries in the region in the future through scientific knowledge on fisheries assessment, modelling approaches and the evaluation of management strategies.

"The Agreement will establish a Joint Program of Scientific Research and Monitoring to improve the understanding of the ecosystems in this area and, in particular, to determine whether fish stocks might exist in this area that could be harvested on a sustainable basis. We will also look at assessment methods to establish which ones are most suitable for this region", explains Ernesto Jardim, senior fisheries expert at the JRC.

Commercial fishing has never been known to occur in this area, nor is it likely to occur in the near future.  However, given the changing conditions of the Arctic Ocean, the governments in question developed this Agreement in accordance with the precautionary approach to fisheries management.

The European Union has a long-standing position that no commercial fisheries should begin in the Arctic high seas before a science-based and precautionary management regime is in place.

Sound stewardship of the high seas has a prominent place in the EU's Arctic policy and Ocean Governance policy, which promote a responsible approach towards utilizing Arctic marine resources while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.