Arctic Ocean - International

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

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ international Arctic Ocean project is working with officials from Arctic coastal states, scientists, the fishing industry, and indigenous peoples to expand support for an accord that would protect the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) 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 toward this agreement.

2007

August

Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) introduces S.J.Res. 17, which declares that “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.” 

September

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

2008

June

U.S. President George W. Bush signs S.J.Res. 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.

2009

January

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.

August

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.

October

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.

December

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.

2010

June

Five Arctic coastal countries—Canada, Russia, Greenland/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 United States and Russia that is increasingly ice-free each summer.

2011

January

The European Parliament adopts a resolution establishing European Union (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.

June

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.

August

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.

Denmark (on behalf of itself, 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.

2012

April

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 be established in consultation with Northerners.

May

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

July

At the 2012 North Pacific Arctic Conference held in Honolulu 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.

September

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 that adequate science and policies are in place before commercial fishing begins in the CAO. Senior officials agree to convene a meeting as soon as possible.

December

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

2013

March

President Putin’s special envoy on Arctic cooperation, Artur 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.

April

Delegates from the five Arctic coastal states review a draft agreement at an Arctic fisheries meeting hosted by the United States. Norway agrees to convene a science workshop in October 2013, and Denmark plans to hold 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.

May

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.

October

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.

December

The Russian International Affairs Council recommends that the president of the Russian Federation support 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.”

2014

January

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

February

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.

March

After the Greenland meeting, Arctic coastal countries issue a chairman’s statement and joint news release that reflect a consensus on the need to adopt new international measures to prevent commercial fishing in the CAO before adequate science and management are in place. They pledge to issue a ministerial declaration in 2014 as well as to convene a meeting of interested Arctic and non-Arctic states to discuss the new measures.

2015

January

Fifty experts from Canada, Greenland/Denmark, the United States, Russia, Iceland, and China attend an Arctic fisheries workshop at Tongji University in Shanghai to discuss an international fisheries accord for the CAO.

July

Five Arctic coastal countries meet in Oslo to sign an Arctic Fisheries Declaration that bans commercial fishing by their nations’ vessels in the international waters of the CAO.

December

Officials from Arctic coastal countries and Iceland meet in Washington with representatives of non-Arctic fishing entities—China, Japan, South Korea, and the EU—for the first time to discuss an international fisheries accord for the CAO.

2016

March

Academics and scientists from South Korea, China, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the United States meet for a two-day roundtable at the Korean Polar Research Institute in Incheon, South Korea, to discuss how to foster more research on fish stocks in the CAO. 

April

Officials from 10 Arctic and non-Arctic countries convene for a second meeting in Washington to discuss the international fisheries accord for the CAO.

July

Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, hosts the third meeting of officials from Arctic and non-Arctic countries to continue negotiations for a CAO fisheries accord. 

November

A fourth negotiating session between Arctic and non-Arctic countries takes place in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark. A chairman’s statement indicates that significant progress has been made on the accord.

2017

March

Officials from 10 Arctic and non-Arctic countries nearly reach agreement on an international fisheries accord for the CAO at a meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. A chairman’s statement says that outstanding issues could be resolved within two months or might require a final meeting.

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