In a spot of good news for the fish of the Arctic Ocean, the world’s major fishing nations have agreed to halt commercial fishing in the Arctic.

Global warming means much of the once-frozen Arctic has begun to melt. This, unfortunately, makes its waters more accessible to fleets of fishing boats. But in a spot of good news for Arctic wildlife, the world’s major fishing nations, including China, have agreed to a moratorium on commercial fishing in Arctic waters before a fishery was even established.

This area of the planet is warming at almost twice the average global rate. This, in turn, causes changes in both the size and distribution of fish stocks.

“No commercial fishing will take place in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean while we gain a better understanding of the area’s ecosystems,” said the Canadian Fisheries Minister, Dominic Leblanc in a statement.

Canada, the European Union, China, Denmark — for Greenland and the Faroe Islands — Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Russia and the United States agreed to the moratorium. The nations also agreed that before any fishing takes place, they will establish “appropriate conservation and management measures.”

To that end, the parties committed to conducting joint scientific research and monitoring. Studies will attempt an understanding of the Arctic’s complex ecosystem and whether it can support commercial fisheries in the future.

“It will fill an important gap in the international ocean governance framework and will safeguard fragile marine ecosystems for future generations,” said Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. He went on to call the agreement “historic.”

In principle, all 10 nations must still ratify the agreement. But Greenpeace offered praise nonetheless, saying the moratorium is expected to last for at least the next 16 years. It will cover an area of one million square miles (2.8 million square kilometers).
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