An international agreement signed in Greenland this month is putting a 16-year ban on commercial fishing across an expanse of the Arctic Ocean that is about the size of the Mediterranean Sea. The ban aims to protect an area of the ocean—and its fragile ecosystem—that is melting due to rising temperatures, creating potential for fishing exploration in an area that was previously covered in ice. “There has been a lot of work in the last decade to try to strengthen various regimes of governance and to improve international cooperation about the Arctic,” David Balton, former United States ambassador for oceans and fisheries, told The Pew Charitable Trusts. Although no fishing had taken place in the area, large ships were reportedly beginning to explore fishing opportunities. The countries that signed the agreement include the US, Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China, and the European Union, which also pledged to begin a joint program for scientific monitoring of the area.

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