Historic agreement reached to protect the Arctic

December 1, 2017

Washington, DC An international agreement to protect the Central Arctic Ocean against all commercial fishing was reached in Washington DC last night. The United States, Canada, Norway, Russia, The Kingdom of Denmark, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China and the European Union signed a 16 year moratorium on commercial fishing in international waters covering an area of 2.8 million square kilometers, roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea.

Jon Burgwald, political advisor, Greenpeace Nordic, said:

“This is a historic win for Arctic protection and a day for celebration. Thanks to the millions of voices from all around the world who supported the Save the Arctic campaign, this unique area at the top of the world will be safe from destructive fisheries. We applaud the countries behind this agreement and expect them to make use of the next 16 years to agree on permanent protection for the Central Arctic Ocean – from commercial fisheries as well as from other extractive industries”.

The legally binding agreement will automatically be extended every five years, unless a country objects or a science-based fisheries management plan is put in place. It is vital that all countries involved now ratify the agreement and commit to long term protection for the vulnerable ocean on top of the world.

The Central Arctic Ocean has experienced increased pressure from the fishing industry, as its protective shield of sea ice is melting due to climate change. Forty percent of this historically ice-covered area has experienced ice-free summers in recent years.

“Whilst giant steps have now been taken to protect the Central Arctic Ocean, it is important that these countries also take a progressive role in the United Nations negotiations on high seas protection. The UN process has the potential to safeguard all oceans in the high seas, and these countries must step up their game and support a global and ambitious agreement,“ Jon Burgwald said.

Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar added:

“As industrial fisheries have depleted fish populations all over the world, fleets have expanded into areas that were once only visited by polar explorers and Pacific islanders. With melting sea ice opening up new areas to fishing for the first time, this agreement to prevent fishing fleets from rushing into the Central Arctic before we have even a basic understanding of the ecosystem couldn’t come at a better time.

“The US State Department team has worked hard on this agreement for several years. This treaty, while hopefully only the first step toward  permanent protections for the Arctic, is a powerful example of global cooperation to protect our oceans.”

The Arctic announcement comes as protection comes into force today in the Antarctic for a new marine sanctuary for the Ross Sea, covering 579,153 square miles. Today, on World Antarctica Day, Greenpeace also announced an ambitious three-month expedition to the Antarctic between January and March 2018. The crew aboard Greenpeace’s iconic ice-class vessel the Arctic Sunrise will undertake groundbreaking scientific research and document the area’s unique wildlife to bolster the case for the creation of a huge new Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, which would be the largest protected area on Earth.

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Contacts:

Jon Burgwald, political advisor, Greenpeace Nordic, +45 40 81 88 98, jburgwal@greenpeace.org

Christina Koll, communications officer, Greenpeace Nordic, +45 28209021, ckoll@greenpeace.org

Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Communications and Outreach Manager, 301-675-8766, perry.wheeler@greenpeace.org

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