Parties in the deal are the European Union, Canada, the People's Republic of China, Denmark (in respect of Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Iceland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States. Together, these parties represent some 75% of the global GDP.
Under the Agreement, the ten Parties concerned have agreed to ban commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean at least until scientists confirm that it can be done sustainably and until the Parties agree on mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “This historic agreement was only possible thanks to the strong commitment and leadership shown by all Parties. It shows what multilateralism can achieve, when there is a strong sense of common purpose. Protection of the Arctic was a significant gap in international ocean governance. Today, we have all committed to safeguarding this fragile marine ecosystem for future generations. I call upon all Parties to swiftly proceed to the ratification of this important agreement.”
The Arctic region is warming at almost three times 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. Meanwhile there is still a limited understanding of the marine ecosystems of the Arctic and, in particular, of determining whether fish stocks might exist in this area that could be harvested on a sustainable basis.
The agreement will be a first step towards 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.
The agreement is fully in line with a long-held position of the European Union that no commercial fisheries should begin in the Arctic high seas before a science-based and precautionary management regime is in place. The Agreement is a key deliverable under the EU’s Ocean Governance policy and under the EU’s Arctic policy, wherein sound stewardship of the high seas, a responsible approach towards utilizing Arctic marine resources and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples feature prominently.
The agreement will enter into force when all ten Parties have ratified the agreement.