Arctic Ocean - International


Timeline: Toward a Fisheries Agreement for the International Waters of the Central Arctic Ocean

The International Arctic Ocean project is working with officials from Arctic coastal states, scientists, the fishing industry and indigenous peoples to achieve expanded support for an accord that will protect the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean and its marine resources by:

  • Prohibiting commercial fisheries until the parties agree otherwise.
  • Fostering an international scientific research program to establish a baseline of information about fish and other living marine resources.
  • Developing conservation and management measures to ensure that commercial fishing will begin only if it is sustainable.
  • Establishing robust monitoring and enforcement to gauge the success of the agreement.

Here’s a timeline citing progress towards this agreement:



The U.S. Senate introduces Senate Joint Resolution 17 declaring, “the United States should initiate international discussions and take necessary steps with other Arctic nations to negotiate an agreement or agreements for managing migratory, trans-boundary, and straddling fish stocks in the Arctic Ocean.”


Arctic sea ice plummets to the lowest levels since satellite measurements began in 1979. Nearly 40 percent of the high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean, or CAO, are ice free.



U.S. President George W. Bush signs S.J.R. 17 into law (P.L. 110-243), directing the secretary of state to initiate international discussions with other Arctic nations to negotiate an agreement for managing migratory and straddling fish stocks in the international waters of the CAO.




Norway’s Marine Resources Act creates fines and penalties for Norwegian citizens committing crimes involving marine living resources in jurisdictions of other countries. Norway already bans fishing vessels flying its flag from participating in unregulated fisheries on the high seas, the only Arctic country to do so.


The United States adopts an Arctic Fishery Management Plan that closes its waters north of Alaska to commercial fishing, unless and until scientific research indicates such activities are sustainable.


The first International Arctic Fisheries Symposium in Alaska draws 180 delegates from eight nations to discuss Arctic fisheries management including the need to prevent unregulated fishing from starting in the CAO.


The Foreign Affairs Council of the Council of the European Union issues a statement calling for a temporary ban on new fisheries in the international waters of the CAO until commercial fishing can be regulated.




Five Arctic coastal countries—Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway, and the United Sates— meet in Oslo, Norway, to discuss an international agreement to regulate commercial fishing in the CAO.

The Chinese icebreaker research vessel, Xue Long, conducts research in the high seas of the CAO over the Chukchi Plateau, a region of shallow water between the U.S. and Russia that is increasingly ice free each summer.




The European Parliament adopts a resolution establishing EU policy for the High North, or Arctic, that calls for management rules, enforcement capability and robust science to be in place before commercial fisheries are allowed in the CAO.


The Korea Maritime Institute publishes "The Arctic Fisheries Regime and Its Implications to Korea" concluding that the feasibility of Arctic fishing is rapidly growing; Arctic fisheries can become one of the main pillars of global fisheries; and cooperation with China and Japan is essential.

Scientific experts from the five Arctic coastal states meet in Alaska to discuss how to better understand the fisheries resources of the international waters of the CAO.


The New York Times publishes an op-ed by a Canadian Arctic expert that explicitly calls for a new international fisheries agreement in the Arctic.

The Kingdom of Denmark (on behalf of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands) revises its Arctic policy 2011–20 to include a call for fisheries regulation before commercial fishing starts in the CAO.




More than 2,000 scientists from 67 countries publish an open letter calling for a precautionary international fisheries agreement for the CAO that prevents the onset of unregulated fishing.

Canada issues a statement saying any commercial fisheries in the CAO must be based on international rules and sound science and established in consultation with Northerners.


The United States circulates the initial draft of an international fisheries agreement for the CAO.


At the 2012 North Pacific Arctic Conference held in Honolulu, HI, and hosted by the Korea Maritime Institute and the East-West Center, the Chinese representative emphasizes the need for an international arctic fisheries agreement due to limited understanding of polar marine living resources. The Korean representative pledges to seek more concrete cooperation with the Arctic states.


Breaking the 2007 record, Arctic sea ice reaches the lowest minimum extent ever recorded and 40 percent of the international waters of the CAO are classified as ice free.

Arctic experts from Russia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom attend a Moscow meeting hosted by the Russian International Affairs Council, which recommends that the five Arctic coastal states ensure adequate science and policy are in place before commercial fishing begins in the CAO. Senior officials agree that they should convene a meeting as soon as possible.


The Russian Expert Council on the Arctic and Antarctic, on behalf of the Russian Council of Federation, issues a recommendation advising President Putin that Arctic countries should cooperate to form a new international fisheries agreement preventing unregulated commercial fishing in the CAO.




President Putin’s special envoy on Arctic cooperation, Arthur Chilingarov, chairs a high-level meeting to discuss three reports from Arctic experts recommending that the Russian Federation lead development of an international Arctic fisheries agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the CAO.


Delegates from the five Arctic coastal states review a draft agreement at an Arctic fisheries meeting hosted by the United States. Norway agrees to host a science workshop in October 2013, and Denmark agrees to host the next policy meeting, rescheduled for February 2014.

The New York Times publishes an editorial, “Reaching an Arctic Accord,” that strongly supports a new international fisheries agreement.


The Japan Institute of International Affairs outlines recommendations for "Arctic Governance and Japan's Diplomatic Strategy" that includes expanding both its own Arctic interests and “common interests” through multinational frameworks.


Scientists from the five Arctic coastal states meet in Tromsǿ, Norway, to discuss scientific research associated with regulating commercial fisheries in international waters of the CAO.


The Russian International Affairs Council recommends that the President of the Russian Federation supports an international fisheries agreement in the CAO, stating that the draft text discussed “fully meets the interest of the Russian Federation and that of other Arctic coastal states and will provide a new impetus to their cooperation including conducting research in the Central Arctic Ocean.”




Sea ice extent in the Arctic for December 2013 was the fourth-lowest level for that month in the 36-year record of satellite data.


Denmark hosts a meeting of the five Arctic coastal states in Nuuk, Greenland, to discuss the policy issues associated with an agreement deferring commercial fisheries in the CAO.


After the Greenland meeting, Arctic coastal countries issue Chairman’s Statement and joint press release that reflect a consensus on the need to adopt new international measures to prevent commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean before adequate science and management are in place. They pledged to issue a Ministerial Declaration in 2014 as well as convene a meeting of interested Arctic and non-Arctic states to discuss the new measures.

Media Contact

Ruth Teichroeb

Officer, Communications