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Strengthening U.S.-Russia Cooperation on Fisheries

April 30, 2013

The United States and the Russian Federation have a long history of working together on fisheries issues. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Mutual Fisheries Relations (signed on May 21, 1988), which set the stage for conservation, management and optimal utilization of shared fisheries resources between both nations.  But many things have changed in the last 25 years. International fisheries resources are increasingly being sought after, and in some cases over-exploited, due to increased demand for seafood products and illegal fishing activities. At the same time, changing climate and ocean conditions, including in the Arctic Ocean, will present real challenges in the near future for international fisheries conservation and management.

To help address these and other important issues of common interest, NOAA and the Federal Agency for Fisheries of the Russian Federation signed yesterday a Joint Statement on Enhanced Fisheries Cooperation. The Joint Statement reaffirms the May 1988 Agreement while also identifying three major areas of future cooperation: 1) combating global Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing; 2) collaborating on science and management of Arctic Ocean living marine resources ; and 3) advancing conservation efforts in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. NOAA and the Russian Fisheries Agency have an excellent history of science cooperation. NOAA hopes that the joint statement will further strengthen the foundation of that cooperation. 

Picture Caption (above): Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan (right), Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator for NOAA and Mr. Andrey Krainiy (Left), Head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries of the Russian Federation, shaking hands after signing the Joint Statement on Enhanced Fisheries Cooperation

Joint Statement Focus Areas 

Strengthening enforcement is one if the best tools to combat IUU fishing. Since 2008, the United States and Russia have been negotiating a fisheries law enforcement agreement that will enhance the ability of both governments to address problems related to IUU fishing, both at sea and throughout the product supply chain. The agreement will allow both governments to share critical information and coordinate among the full range of government agencies that can take actions in support of fisheries law enforcement.  The United States and Russia hope to sign the agreement later this year.

The Joint Statement also focuses on the Arctic Ocean; a region that is warming faster on average than the rest of the planet. As climate change continues to impact this region, increasingly larger portions of the Arctic will become ice free in the summer, allowing countries to exploit fisheries resources in areas previously inaccessible. To this end, the United States is committed to working with Russia and other Arctic nations to develop an international mechanism to sustainably manage future Arctic resources. Emphasis will also be placed on research aimed at increasing our understanding of the Arctic ecosystem and fisheries to inform appropriate fisheries management and conservation efforts.

Lastly, the Joint Statement highlights the need for cooperation in the Southern Ocean through the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR). The United States is committed to working with Russia and other CCAMLR member nations to advance a joint U.S-New Zealand proposal to list a portion of the Antarctic Ross Sea as an international Marine Protected Area (MPA). The Ross Sea is one of the most pristine natural regions in the world with tremendous conservation and scientific value. If adopted at this year’s CCAMLR meeting in July, the Ross Sea MPA would be the largest international marine protected area in the world.