An international attempt to regulate potential Arctic fisheries

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A legally-binding agreement has been reached by nine interested countries and the European Union

On October 3, 2018, representatives of Canada, Russia, along with seven other states and the European Union gathered in Ilulissat, Greenland, to sign an agreement to prevent unregulated high seas fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean.

A non-legally binding Oslo Declaration about a voluntary abstention from fishing in the high Arctic adopted by Canada, Russia, Denmark (for Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Norway and the United States on July 16, 2015, initiated further negotiations between these five nations and four more countries, including China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Iceland, and the European Union, which have stated their interest in potential Arctic fisheries. Their agreement in principle was reached in November 2017 and followed by the above-mentioned signing ceremony. According to Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the existing international accord protects more than 2.5 million square kilometres of the Arctic waters from commercial fishing for at least 16 years while scientists of the involved countries conduct a joint research on the marine life and ecosystem in the Central Arctic Ocean. After the initial term, it will automatically be extended every five years as necessary. The Canadian Minister also stresses the historic pre-emptive side of this document, pointing out that “the first time an international agreement of this magnitude has been reached before any commercial fishing has taken place in a high seas area.” A climate change leading to the melting of Arctic sea ice became a driving force for such measures.

As reported by the Russian Federal Agency of Fisheries, Russia managed to uphold a number of significant aspects, while negotiating on the text of the agreement. In particular, a special role is devoted to the Arctic states; decision-making is based on consensus; a mechanism of entry into force and withdrawal of the accord is defined; etc. “It is important to note that all the represented states admitted the impossibility of reaching an agreement on the Arctic without Russia,” writes the press-service of the Russian Agency.

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