Canada, the United States, Russia and other Arctic nations signed an agreement on Thursday to bar their fishing fleets from fast-thawing seas around the North Pole, an agreement delayed more than a year by tensions over Ukraine.
The accord, also signed in Oslo by the ambassadors of Norway and Denmark, is a response to climate change, which is melting sea ice in the central Arctic Ocean, an area the size of the Mediterranean.
The central Arctic probably has no commercial fish stocks now, experts say, but melting sea ice may draw fish such as cod farther north. Forty percent of the area was briefly open water when summer sea ice shrank to a record low in 2012.
The deal “will prevent a problem from arising ahead of time,” David Balton, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and fisheries, told Reuters. “Very little is known about this area of the ocean.”