North

'Good progress' on agreement on high seas fishing in Arctic Ocean

There is optimism that recent negotiations in Iqaluit between 10 nations on fishing in the Arctic Ocean will result in an agreement that may be ready for review by the end of September.

No decision on whether agreement will be legally binding

'Delegations made good progress in resolving differences of view on a number of the main issues under discussion,' stated David Balton, chair of the Arctic high seas fisheries process. (Submitted by Jeremy Mathis/NOAA)

There is optimism that recent negotiations in Iqaluit between 10 nations on fishing in the Arctic Ocean will result in an agreement that may be ready for review by the end of September.

Delegations from Canada, China, Denmark for the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the European Union, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Russia and the United States met in Nunavut from July 6 to 8 for the third round of talks on preventing unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas in the central Arctic Ocean.

David Balton, chair of the Arctic high seas fisheries process, noted optimism in the talks and the delegations' commitment to take interim measures to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas.

"Delegations made good progress in resolving differences of view on a number of the main issues under discussion," he said in a statement. 

Balton indicated that the discussions have the possibility of concluding successfully in the near future.

An updated text for the agreement will be available for review by July 15 and a new version of the text will be ready by September 30.

Binding or non-binding?

There are still some areas of disagreement between the delegations.

"Opinions differed whether to develop a new non-binding declaration or a binding international agreement," stated Balton.

The group did make headway when it comes to a joint program of scientific research and monitoring that will take into account Indigenous and local knowledge.

However, the scope of the program and how exploratory fishing may take place have not been decided.

A scientific workshop scheduled for Tromso, Norway, from September 26 to 28 is intended to shed some light on the question. 

The next meeting for the group to discuss the agreement will tentatively take place in Denmark in the fall.

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.