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Canada  

High Arctic fishing ban

An international deal has been reached to prevent commercial fishing in the High Arctic for at least the next 16 years.

"Canada has reached an historic agreement in principle today in Washington, D.C., to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean," Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a statement Thursday.

"It's the first time an international agreement of this magnitude has been reached before any commercial fishing takes place on a region of the high seas."

The countries that have signed on include the five nations with Arctic coastlines, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, the European Union and Iceland. Inuit from three countries, including Canada, were also represented at the table.

"It's heartening to see Arctic and non-Arctic countries come together on conservation measures for the future of the Arctic Ocean," said Herb Nakimayak of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada.

"The agreement explicitly calls out the importance of considering Indigenous people's knowledge and the importance of our role in the Arctic."

The decision will stand for 16 years and be renewed every five years after that.

It affects Arctic seas that are at least 200 kilometres away from the shores of any coastal states. That amounts to 2.8 million square kilometres of ocean, about the size of the Mediterranean Sea.

Those seas were once frozen year-round. But as climate change continues to reshape the Arctic, about 40 per cent of those waters were open last summer.

Although no commercial fishing exists there now, climate change is affecting where fish live and more of them are shifting north. Scientists and fishers have wondered what those previously inaccessible waters now hold.



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