Fishing ban needs support beyond central Arctic

Posted on 16 July 2015

Arctic Council observer countries should be the first to join in a commercial fishing moratorium in the Central Arctic.
GLAND, Switzerland – Arctic Council observer countries should be the first to join in a commercial fishing moratorium in the central Arctic says conservation organization WWF.
The five Arctic states that ring the central Arctic – Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, the United States – agreed today to a moratorium on commercial fishing. The moratorium will stop any fishing fleets based in those countries from exploiting the central Arctic, which is beyond the national jurisdiction of any state. But it does not apply to any other states, some of which have aggressive industrial fishing fleets prowling the high seas.
“The next step for this agreement is for states such as China, Spain, Japan, the UK and South Korea to sign on also,” says Alexander Shestakov of WWF’s Global Arctic Programme. “These Arctic Council observer states say they support the integrity of the Arctic environment – this is a good opportunity for them to prove it.”
WWF believes that the Arctic countries should also apply precautionary measures to commercial fishing within their own national waters that were not previously commercially exploited. This is a step that has already been taken by the United States, and by Canada in the Beaufort Sea.
We also urge the Arctic states to continue to ensure engagement with the people of the north, particularly Indigenous peoples who have an interest in the potential for commercial fisheries.
The areas formerly covered by ice in the Arctic are largely unexploited, and also unknown in terms of what fish are there now. They are also in a dynamic situation due to climate change, with fish such as cod that are sensitive to temperature changes increasingly moving northward.
The moratorium agreed to by Arctic states is set to remain until enough knowledge exists of central Arctic fish stocks to allow sustainable harvest, and there is a mechanism in place to control any fishing.
Fishing boat in sea ice north of Svalbard, Norway.
© Tom Arnbom / WWF-Canon