Recognizing the need to protect this sensitive ecosystem and better understand the rapidly changing environment, The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2010 began to support an international fisheries agreement that would close the Central Arctic Ocean to commercial fishing unless and until scientific knowledge and management measures can ensure a sustainable fishery.
This goal was achieved in November 2018 with the signing of the International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean by nine governments: the five Arctic border nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union. The agreement will prohibit commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years, and the signatories plan to use that time to study the changing Arctic ecosystem and its marine life and determine whether any fishing could be ecologically sustainable. They further committed to collaboratively support scientific research and integrate Indigenous knowledge to improve the international community’s understanding of the open ocean that is emerging from millennia encased in ice. This effort will inform precautionary management measures to ensure that any authorized fisheries are sustainable from the start.
In May 2019, delegations from all the signatories met in Ottawa, Ontario, to begin implementing the agreement and pledged to form a provisional scientific group to coordinate the work of experts and further develop the joint program of research. The program will incorporate Indigenous knowledge, collect and map baseline information of the Central Arctic food web to better understand the ecosystem before it can be further affected by human activities.