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Oceans and fisheries

Arctic Ocean

The Arctic is strongly impacted by climate change and high on the EU’s and international agendas.

It is our joint responsibility to protect the fragile Arctic environment for future generations whilst promoting the sustainable development of the region.

It is also important to support and strengthen regional responses to maritime security challenges, ensuring that the Arctic remains a zone of low tension.

The EU pursues an Arctic policy addressing the many interrelated challenges in the region, a significant part of them derived from rapid climate change. Actual Arctic warming is unprecedented and its implications are severe. Arctic sea ice extent is declining at alarming rates. Moreover, Arctic surface air temperature has increased by more than double the global average over the last two decades, with the possibility that Arctic near-surface permafrost may disappear.


The EU’s Arctic policy was first defined in 2008, and the 2016 Joint Communication on an integrated European Union policy for the Arctic by the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy reflects its most recent update.It aims to enhance the EU's visibility and presence in the Arctic, in particular in the European Arctic, focusing on three main pillars

  • counteracting climate change and safeguarding the Arctic environment
  • unlocking the potential for sustainable development of the region with research, science and innovation being considered important assets and activities
  • enhancing international cooperation by deepening regional and multilateral cooperation

Engagement with Arctic stakeholders

The European Commission regularly organises high-level events on the Arctic, including the Arctic stakeholder forum and indigenous peoples’ dialogue. The EU also actively takes part in the work of the Arctic council and its working groups, it participates in major international Arctic events, and it regularly discusses areas of common concern in the Artic in its dialogues with international partners.

Agreement to prevent unregulated high seas fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean

The agreementwas signedin October 2018 by the EU and nine countries. The aim of this agreement is to prevent unregulated fishing in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean through the application of precautionary conservation and management measures as part of a long-term strategy to safeguard healthy marine ecosystems and to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of fish stocks. The successful implementation of the agreement is also an important contribution to the EU’s international ocean governance agenda.

Next steps

EU countries have invited the Commission and the High Representative to continue to implement the EU Arctic policy and to update it as set out in the 2016 Communication.

The data collected through a consultation in 2020 will help re-examine the role of the EU in Arctic affairs and the three priorities of the current joint communication.

Reflecting on the relevance of the EU Arctic policy is all the more important in light of today’s challenges and opportunities, as well as the EU’s ambitions under the European Green Deal.


Euronews Ocean: Protecting life in the Arctic seas. October 2019.

Euronews Ocean: Protecting life in the Arctic seas

Climate change is making Arctic waters more accessible to vessels, raising the controversial prospect of more industrial-scale fishing. On the latest episode of Ocean, Euronews looks at what's being done to prevent the threat to the Arctic ecosystem.


Euronews Ocean: Mapping the Arctic sea life. October 2019.

Euronews Ocean: Mapping the Arctic sea life

"If you start fishing, you can destroy the ecosystem, or the balance of the organisms." This MOSAiC expedition scientist is mapping the hidden Arctic sea life…

An integrated European Union Policy for the Arctic. April 2016.

An integrated European Union Policy for the Arctic

The European Union is stepping up its existing action and engagement in the Arctic region. Be it a frontier or a gateway to Europe, the Arctic is a region of vast importance not only to the 4 million people living there, but also to the European Union and to the rest of the world. The region has a significant impact on our oceans, ecosystems and biodiversity, and has huge potential for research, development, and for international cooperation.