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Arctic Circle and Fishing: U.S., Russia, Others Comment

Jul 16, 2015 06:39 PM EDT

In a move to prevent untethered commercial fishing in the central Arctic Circle, the five countries surrounding the area have agreed: It is time to take steps.

Canada, Denmark (regarding Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States met in Oslo this week to sign a declaration that the citizens of those countries will not fish in the international parts of the central Arctic Ocean-an area that is still mostly ice-covered and is larger than Alaska and Texas combined, a release said.

While the nations agree that ice in the area at this point prevents easy fishing, it's necessary to begin regulating now, keep an eye on things, and begin a joint program of research to better understand the area's ecosystems, the release noted.

The U.S. initiated the action, the release said, after our country's action in 2009 to prohibit commercial fishing in its Exclusive Economic Zone north of the Bering Strait until information regarding sound fisheries management is available.

"Climate change is affecting the migration patterns of fish stocks. Norway and the other coastal states to the central Arctic Ocean have a particular responsibility under the law of the sea to follow developments in the central Arctic Ocean closely. The decision of the coastal states to cooperate on research to better understand these developments, as set out in the declaration signed today, is important," commented Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, according to a release.

The coastal states also agreed, the release said, to try to persuade other countries to refrain from unregulated fishing in the central Arctic Ocean.

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