Canada and Arctic coastal countries are to hold talks with non-Arctic nations Monday about imposing a fishing moratorium in seas at the top of the world until more is known about them.

The talks in Washington, D.C., are the first step in extending a ban already agreed to last July by Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark and Russia. "Canada has committed to work co-operatively with Arctic Ocean coastal states on fisheries science research in the Arctic area, and to work to prevent commercial fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean until appropriate fisheries management measures are put in place to conserve stocks and their ecosystem," said a statement from Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The ban covers waters in the central Arctic Ocean that are beyond the territorial limits of any country. No commercial fishing exists there now, but the possibility exists as climate change opens those seas.

In recent years, 40 per cent of the central Arctic Ocean has been ice-free in the summer.

The talks are to bring China, Korea, Japan, Iceland and the European Union to the table.

"Those non-Arctic countries include the largest modern fishing nations," said Scott Highleyman, a representative of the environmental arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts and a member of the U.S. delegation. "Their fishing fleets have the capacity to roam all over the world, including this part of the Arctic.

"To me, this is one of those little pivot points."

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