The high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) has not yet been the subject of a broad regional fisheries agreement. As shown on the map below (copyright), only the southern tip of the OAC enters the area covered by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAC) convention. The other relevant regional fisheries organizations (ORPs) and the Agreements (ORGP) do not have a geographic or material mandate for comprehensive fisheries regulation within the OAC. On the other hand, the OAC is subject to the overall legal regime applicable to deep-sea fishing. The A5 acknowledged this in its 2008 Ilulissat statement by expressing its support for the existing global framework, provided by “the law of the sea, a solid foundation for good governance by the five coastal states.” The main global instruments, explicitly mentioned in the preamble to CAOFA, are the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 1995 United Nations Convention on Fisheries Resources (UNFSA) and the 1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. In accordance with the Sunset clause of Article 13, paragraph 1, caofa, the CAOFA (and therefore the “moratorium”) remains in force for 16 years. Subsequently, it is automatically renewed for a period of five years, unless one (!) of the parties objects (Article 13, paragraph 2, of the CAOFA). Similarly, the CAOFA will only come into force once all A5-5 parts have become contracting (Article 11, paragraph 1). This compromise solution (unlike a permanent ban) is reminiscent of the Ross Sea Marine Reserve, established by CCAMLR in Antarctic waters, which came into force last year and also has a Sunset clause (35 years subject to renewal or consensus). However, the interim measures adopted under the OAC are part of a “progressive process” that could lead to the creation of one or more future ORPs/ASs within the OAC.
This is not unheard of and has been used, for example, in the framework of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Organization (ORGA). But before the next step, scientific uncertainty about fish stocks in the CAD must be reduced – a goal for which a strong joint scientific research and monitoring programme (JPSRM) is being put in place (Article 4). If the parties believe, based on data from JPSRM and other sources, that “the distribution, migration and frequency of fish in the area of the agreement would allow for sustainable commercial fishing”, they may open negotiations for a new ORGP/A [Article 5, paragraph 1, paragraph c) (i) ]. This decision, like all key decisions taken under the CAOFA, must be taken by mutual agreement (Article 6, paragraph 2). Thus, only one party can block the trigger mechanism (just as a single party can block the adoption of other conservation measures), which is an expression of a careful balance of competing interests involved in the CAOFA negotiations. It should be noted, however, that potential disputes over the interpretation or application of CAOFA may be invoked under a binding settlement under Part VIII of UNFSA, even if a party, such as China, is not a party to UNFSA (Article 7). This agreement is an important part of the global fisheries management framework. It sets precautions before fishing begins in the area.