In a bid to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean, five nations which surround the ocean including Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark in respect of Greenland, the Kingdom of Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America have signed a declaration banning any commercial fishing activity in the high seas portion.
The declaration was signed on July 16 in Oslo and according to it, until there is one or more international mechanisms are in place to manage any such fishing in accordance with recognized international standards.
The declaration acknowledged that owing to the declaration, no commercial fishing is likely to occur in this area of the Arctic Ocean in near future. The nations further acknowledged that this particular measure was required owing to the dramatic reduction of Arctic sea ice and other environmental changes in the Arctic that called for a precautionary approach to prevent unregulated fishing in the area.
None of the nations which are part of the declaration will allow for commercial fishing until there are mechanism in place that will govern such operations. Further they also intend to establish a joint program of scientific research with the aim of improving understanding of the ecosystems of this area.
The declaration further acknowledges that other states may have interests in preventing unregulated high seas fisheries in this area, and suggests the initiation of a broader process to develop measures consistent with the declaration that would include commitments by all interested states.
The declaration builds on U.S. action in 2009 to prohibit commercial fishing in its Exclusive Economic Zone north of the Bering Strait until better scientific information to support sound fisheries management is available.
The United States initiated this five-state process consistent with congressional direction under Public Law 110-243, which calls for the United States to take steps with other Arctic nations to negotiate an agreement for managing fish stocks in the Arctic Ocean, as well as the Implementation Plan for the 2013 National Strategy for the Arctic Region, which commits the United States to prevent unregulated high seas fisheries in the Arctic.