This map shows the 2.8-million-square-kilometre area in the central Arctic Ocean that lies beyond the exclusive economic zone of the five Arctic coastal states: Canada, Russia, Norway, the U.S. (Alaska) and Denmark (Greenland.)
By Magdalena A K Muir, Climate Editor
The five Arctic coastal countries (Canada, Russia, United States, Denmark and Norway) have signed a moratorium on commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean. Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway reached an interim agreement in February 2014 to work toward protecting Arctic waters beyond the 200-kilometre territorial limit of their respective shores, which is an area of ocean the size of the Mediterranean Sea.
The agreement calls for a moratorium on commercial fishing in international waters that lie beyond the five Arctic coastal states 200-mile (320-kilometre) exclusive economic zones pending further research on fish stocks and the development of a sustainable management regime. Inuit traditional knowledge will be used in assessing the fish stocks and developing the management regime. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference was represented in discussions that led to this moratorium, providing Inuit perspectives to the five Arctic countries
The agreement will block ships from the five coastal states from dropping their nets in the Central Arctic Ocean until the completion of a full scientific assessment of the fish stocks and how they can be sustainably harvested. While the Arctic countries cannot stop boats from China, Japan, South Korea and the European Union from entering the region, it is hoped that this agreement can set an example, pending a binding international agreement.
Inuit peoples from Canada, Greenland and US have been uniformly supportive:
- Okalik Eegeesiak, Inuit Circumpolar Conference Chair stated, ICC supports such a precautionary approach and we encourage other nations to follow this lead and sign the agreement.
- The reduction in multi year ice and longer ice free time in high Arctic waters as a result of climate change have mad this region more accessible to foreign ships and potential environmental damage. We are not saying we oppose commercial fishing but rather we must take a precautionary approach, listen to the Inuit and do the appropriate studies, stated Jimmy Stotts, President, ICC (Alaska).
- Healthy and abundant fish stocks are essential to the cultural, nutritional and economic well-being and way of life of the Inuit villages and peoples who live along river drainages and coasts; and the Inuit welcome this announcement and have a great deal of traditional knowledge about these stocks to share, stated Duane Smith, President of ICC (Canada).
Officials from Canada, the U.S., Denmark, representing Greenland, Norway and Russia met in Nuuk, Greenland, Feb. 24-26, 2015 to discuss the fishing implications of an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean. Delegates, pictured above, agreed that more scientific research needs to be conducted on the Arctic Ocean ecosystem.