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 may 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.
The agreement, reached in Washington DC at the fifth and final round of negotiations, will be a first step towards the creation of regional fisheries management organisations for the Central Arctic Ocean, to ensure that any future fishing is carried out sustainably.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “The commitment and leadership shown by all parties have made it possible to reach this historic agreement. It will fill an important gap in the international ocean governance framework and will safeguard fragile marine ecosystems for future generations.”
The agreement is fully in line with the European Union’s long-standing position - emphasised recently at the EU-hosted Our Ocean Conference in Malta on 5-6 October - 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, as regards a responsible approach towards utilizing Arctic marine resources, while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.
The agreement will enter into force when all ten Parties have signed and subsequently ratified the agreement.