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Oceans and fisheries
News announcement25 June 2021Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries2 min read

Arctic: Agreement to prevent unregulated fishing enters into force

Icebergs drift in calm seas off the Greenland coast © Imagebear / iStock
Icebergs drift in calm seas off the Greenland coast © Imagebear / iStock

On 25 June 2021, the Agreement to prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean enters into force. This is an important step towards ensuring that any future fishing in the central Arctic Ocean will be carried out sustainably. The EU is a party to the agreement together with nine countries: Canada, the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), Iceland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said:

The agreement’s entry into force today is a historic success. It protects the Arctic’s fragile marine ecosystems against unregulated fishing and fills an important gap in the international ocean governance framework. As a next step, we need to make sure that the Agreement is fully implemented. The EU will continue to play its part in the coming years to make this happen.

At present, no commercial fishing takes place in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean, an area that is roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea. No regional fisheries management organisation or arrangement exists for this whole area either. However, due to the impacts of climate change, it cannot be excluded that commercially interesting fish stocks may occur and lead to fishing activities in the central Arctic Ocean in the mid- and long-term.

To address this issue proactively, the EU and nine countries in 2018 signed this international agreement after two years of negotiations. The agreement applies a precautionary and science-based approach to fisheries by banning unregulated fishing activities in the central Arctic Ocean, while a joint scientific programme is set up to improve Parties’ understanding of the ecosystems and potential fisheries. Based on the information acquired, Parties may in the future decide to commence negotiations to establish one or more regional fisheries management organisations or arrangements. The agreement will initially be in force for a period of 16 years, until 2037. This period will be automatically extended for another five years, unless one of the Parties objects.

The agreement is a key deliverable under the EU’s International Ocean Governance agenda and the EU’s Arctic policy. The EU has therefore been a staunch supporter since the beginning and was the second signatory to ratify the agreement in 2019. The EU has so far also played a leadership role in advancing scientific cooperation and research under the agreement, including by hosting an important science meeting in 2020 and by taking part in two research expeditions to the central Arctic Ocean.


Publication date
25 June 2021
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries