Preserving the Arctic ecosystem requires International collaboration

by Thomas Jensen
EM4 19 FISH Arctic Forum 1

The 5th International Arctic Forum was arranged in St. Petersburg, Russia on April 9-10, 2019. Titled Arctic: Territory of Dialogue, it brought together some 3 600 participants including top political figures, scientists, businesspeople, and NGOs. The forum comprised 33 sessions arranged into three broad themes: coastal territories, the open ocean, and sustainable development. Ekaterina Tribilustova from EUROFISH International Organisation moderated a session on promising areas in the Arctic fishing industry under the theme, sustainable development.

The Arctic is one of the most unique and primeval ecosystems in the world, and its exploration can be compared with investigation of the space system. Research and development of the Arctic is extremely difficult due to the inaccessibility of the region, the extremely harsh climate and the complexity of the work. Nevertheless, fisheries traditionally remain one of the main activities in the economy of the Arctic region. Present conditions demand the preservation of fisheries and a more reasonable, economic approach to the processing of fish products and transition to high value-added products. The conservation of the biodiversity of the Arctic seas, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are essential to protect the fragile ecosystem of the region. The advance of aquaculture in the Arctic region requires a separate assessment. Important issues and objectives include development of marine terminals for the integrated servicing of fishing fleet vessels, enhancement of port infrastructure, the ability to deliver fishery products from the Far East along the Northern Sea Route, application of modern technologies for new fishing vessels and the construction of new processing plants in the northern territories.

The session Key Aspects of Promising Areas of the Arctic Fishing Industry brought together top officials from the Arctic and observer countries, including Vasily Sokolov, Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries of the Russian Federation, Roy Angelvik, State Secretary for the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries of the Kingdom of Norway, Kristjan Thor Juliusson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture of the Republic of Iceland, Scott Highleyman, Vice President, Conservation Policy and Programs, Ocean Conservancy, Igor Orlov, Governor of Arkhangelsk Region,  Kjell Ingebrigtsen, Chairman of the Board, Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, and Liu Xinzhong, Deputy Head, Bureau of Fisheries and Fisheries Fishery Law Enforcement, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

Climate change introduces threats but also opportunities in the Arctic

Vasily Sokolov, Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries, presented an overview of the main objectives and strategies of the Russian Federation in its Arctic fisheries policy. The national annual catch in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation accounts for 250-260 000 tonnes, where nearly all the volume is caught in the Barents Sea (99.85%), and the remainder is caught in the White Sea (1%) and the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation (0.15%). Additional catch volume has been estimated at 100-150 000 tonnes. The Arctic region occupies a very important place in the fisheries industry of our country. The area of ​​our northern seas is comparable or exceeds the size of individual states, so we are very attentive to the processes occurring in the region, he said. According to Mr Sokolov, there have been serious changes in the Central Arctic over the past decades, including a noticeable increase in the average annual temperature and melting of the ice cover. These developments, however, open up for new opportunities. For example, the relocation of a whole range of species above the 70th to 75th parallels north has been intensifying, enabling fishermen to target cod and shrimp. Another interesting example is the rapid growth of invader crab populations, Kamchatka crab and snow crab, in the Barents Sea. Currently, their numbers allow commercial fishing, which brings revenues to companies and the state.

An important aim in the Russian Federation is minimising fish waste. In order to achieve this, waste-free production is a requirement for new vessels which are built in Russia. Disposal of biological waste is also one of the most difficult problems that requires more attention and research. Mr Solokov also mentioned several measures for the development of fisheries including monitoring and research; construction of ice-class fishing and research vessels; infrastructure development on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, including ports, transport, processing facilities, and storage sites; creation of a system of state support for low-profit industries; artificial reproduction of the most valuable species; development of new technologies for fish processing, and  development of ecological and fishing tourism.

 EM4 19 FISH Arctic Forum 2International cooperation in the Arctic region has a long history

The Arctic has become a territory of strong international cooperation over the past two decades. Mr. Sokolov noted the latest achievement of international cooperation in the Arctic was the Agreement on the prevention of unregulated fishing in the high seas area of ​​the Central part of the Arctic Ocean. The agreement was concluded on October 3, 2018 between Russia, the USA, Canada, Denmark (for the Faroe Islands and Greenland), Canada, Norway, Iceland, Japan, China, the Republic of Korea and the European Union. The objective of the agreement is to create an international legal framework for the regulation of fisheries in the area.


Norway is the only country in the Arctic region that has a common land border with Russia, and Russia and Norway have signed a series of bilateral agreements over the years, for example, on cooperation in the field of nuclear safety or joint management of marine resources in the Barents Sea. Mr. Roy Angelvik, State Secretary of the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Fisheries of the Kingdom of Norway, shared his views on the importance of Norwegian-Russian cooperation in marine resource management. He highlighted that successful joint Russian-Norwegian regulation of common fisheries stocks in the Barents Sea should be a model to follow for effective management of fisheries resources. For many years, Russia and Norway have been working in constructive and good-neighbourly cooperation on the basis of solid and stable principles that are already six decades old. The basis for such sustainable, environmentally friendly management of marine resources is joint research. For example, in the Barents Sea, the most successful projects for the management of fish resources are being implemented, a lot has been done to combat illegal fishing, as a result, fish stocks are not just not-depleted, but are increasing. This example of regional cooperation can be successfully applied on a global scale, said Mr. Angelvik. He also noted that international cooperation is the best strategy for studying and interacting in the Arctic, and joint research gives
scientists new information, facilitating new decision-making. With Russia, we go hand in hand as partners, and our examples of regional cooperation, where we always learn something new, can be transferred to the global arena, strengthening the system of marine resources throughout the world, Mr Angelvik concluded.

Representing the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, Kjell Ingebrigtsen indicated that Russian-Norwegian cooperation in the Barents Sea is the best fish resource management organisation in the world. We can all agree with the indisputable success of the joint Russian-Norwegian commission, we are the world champions in the results of this activity, he said. He also noted the importance of not stopping at what had been achieved and continuing cooperation in this direction, as strong and successful work in itself is not an automatic guarantee of a cloudless future.

EM4 19 FISH Arctic Forum 3Conservation of biodiversity of the Arctic seas

The key focus of the Russian Federation and the international community has been on the conservation of the biodiversity of the Arctic seas and the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture. Without close cooperation, it is impossible to solve the problems related to climate change and the growing anthropogenic impact on the ecosystem.

Scott Highleyman from the Ocean Conservancy noted the important role of the Russian Federation in the preparation of the agreement on the prevention of unregulated fishing in the high seas of the central part of the Arctic Ocean in order to preserve the biodiversity of the Arctic seas and sustainable fisheries. Moreover, the implementation and the results of the work of the Arctic Forum and the Conference of Scientific Experts of the Parties to this agreement which will stimulate research on the Arctic region, are extremely important. When it comes to the Arctic region, the media loves to talk about conflicts, but as far as this agreement is concerned, it is an excellent example of the opposite. It is an example of well-coordinated cooperation between the Arctic countries. I also want to remind you that the United States and Russia have a long-term history of fruitful cooperation, Mr Highleyman added. Liu Xinzhong, the representative of the People’s Republic of China, which is an observer in the Arctic region, identified the key elements of China’s policy in the Arctic. As a partner in the Arctic region, the country follows a policy of sustainable fishing, taking careful consideration of the fragile and vulnerable system of the region. China is also involved in advising on the sustainable management of marine resources to improve the level of research on marine resource management. Other participants of the round table discussed topical issues from their national perspectives as well as global scope.  Mr. Igor Orlov, Governor of Arkhangelsk Region, presented practical cases of development of infrastructure and prospects for distribution of fish products by the Northern Sea route. Mr. Joji Morishita, Professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, discussed scientific cooperation on the prevention of unregulated fishing in the high seas of the Central part of the Arctic Ocean in order to preserve the biodiversity of the Arctic seas and sustainable fisheries.

International political and scientific efforts can help preserve the Arctic ecosystem

The key conclusions of the thematic session included the importance of preserving a unique ecosystem and biodiversity in the Arctic region based on international cooperation and the need to develop and maintain a responsible and scientific approach to the use of fish resources. The challenges facing the Arctic including negative anthropogenic impacts, global warming, the melting of the ice cover, as well as the reduction of the biological diversity of the oceans could be met if international collaborative scientific research underpins all activities in the area and countries adopt a responsible attitude towards this fragile ecosystem. According to the Federal Agency for Fisheries of Russia, all cooperating countries in the Arctic region have a common responsibility for the conservation and rational exploitation of fish stocks. Progress depends on our joint actions. We have taken concrete efforts in this direction, including countering illegal fishing, preserving ecosystems, fishing sustainably, and undertaking scientific research. The agreement on the Central Arctic gives us the opportunity to take further practical steps, as no individual nation can exploit this region alone, concluded Mr Sokolov.

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