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Opinion

WWF encouraged by Arctic fishing agreement

Next step is to persuade non-Arctic states to be part of any agreement governing the area, says conservation group

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Representatives of the five Arctic coastal states (Russia, Norway, United States, Denmark, and Canada) have agreed to pursue work on an agreement to manage fisheries in the part of the Arctic Ocean beyond national jurisdiction. No commercial fishing is taking place there now, as the area is still covered with ice for most of the year. It is also uncertain how productive the area might be for a fishery.

WWF is encouraged by the news, as it appears the states are headed toward a position outlined by WWF that there should be no fishing in the area until or unless it has been determined that it can sustain a commercial harvest. WWF also believes that a regional fisheries management system for the region should be put in place if it is decided that commercial fishing can be sustained.

For the states to be successful in regulating fishing in the area, they must persuade non-Arctic states to be part of any agreement governing the area, as it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Arctic coastal states involved. WWF is also encouraging the coastal states to take similar actions on fishing in Arctic waters that are under their jurisdiction. The US, acting on the advice of local fishing interests, has already voluntarily put in place a moratorium on fishing in previously ice-covered waters off Alaska until it has better scientific information on fish stocks there.