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Oceans and fisheries
News announcement13 February 2020Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

The EU joins forces with nine countries for future science-based management of the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean

The EU organised and hosted a three-day meeting for scientists from the 10 signatories to the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The meeting took place from 11 to 13 February 2020 at the EU Joint Research Centre in Ispra (Italy).

The agreement will ban unregulated fisheries in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean for 16 years. During this period, a scientific research and monitoring programme will be put in place. At the meeting, scientists discussed concrete ways to implement this programme.

Around 40 scientists participated in the first meeting of the Provisional Scientific Coordinating Group (PSCG) established under the agreement. Participants informed on existing national and international programmes that improve the understanding of the ecosystems of the Central Arctic Ocean. They looked in particular at ways and methods to determine fish species that exist in the area now or could appear in the future, and which could be fished sustainably. Specific tasks of this group include designing the scientific programme to collect new data on the different components of the ecosystem, and identifying processes and mechanisms to incorporate indigenous and local knowledge in the scientific process.

Participants made progress on exploring and identifying different scientific methods and approaches beyond the standard methodologies for fishery studies, such as surveys at sea using echo sounders or trawling or a combination of both. Some of these methods are not currently feasible in the environment of the Arctic. Scientists also exchanged ideas on how to best access the harsh research area, which include oceanographic ice-breaker expeditions as well as deployment of buoys.

The EU has taken a leadership role in the scientific commitments under the new agreement. It is one of the first signatories to contribute to the scientific programme with new research. EU funding through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) enables a consortium of European researchers to collect data on ecosystems in the Central Arctic Ocean. The research group is currently taking part in the year-long MOSAiC expedition on board the German ice-breaker Polarstern. Later this year, it is likely to be part of the SAS-expedition with the Swedish ice-breaker Oden.


When exploitation of newly accessible natural resources precedes scientific research and effective management measures, they are prone to overexploitation, especially internationally shared fish stocks in High Seas. Therefore, a precautionary approach through scientific research has been agreed for the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO), before any possible consideration of exploitation of fishery resources, as part of a long-term strategy to safeguard healthy marine ecosystems and to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of fish stocks. In October 2018, the EU and nine countries with potential interests of sustainable fisheries in the CAO signed the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The 10 signatories have agreed to :

  • prevent unregulated fishing in the CAO,
  • abstain from engaging in commercial fishing for the next 16 years,
  • and to put “science first” by installing a Joint Program of Scientific Research and Monitoring (JPSRM).

The agreement has not yet entered into force, but the parties have agreed to start working on its implementation already, in particular the Joint Programme of Scientific Research and Monitoring (JPSRM), by installing the Provisional Scientific Coordinating Group (PSCG) that had its first meeting in Ispra. So far, the EU, Denmark (acting on behalf of Greenland and the Faroe Islands), the Russian Federation, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the United States have ratified the agreement. It will enter into force when the other three remaining signatories (China, Iceland and Norway) ratify the agreement.

More information

EU policy on the Arctic Sea-basin

Euronews documentary on protecting life in the Arctic


Publication date
13 February 2020
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries