McDonald's and Tesco join a number of other food industry companies in a voluntary agreement to protect marine life in the Arctic, an environmentalist group announced on May 25.
For the first time ever, an industry has stood up and committed to safeguard the Arctic, where the ice melt is causing concerns over a rush on unexploited regions, Greenpeace International said.
Aside from the American fast food business and the British grocery retailer, companies such as Birds Eye, Iglo, Sainsbury's, and Marks & Spencer have signed a deal not to increase cod fishing into a formerly ice-covered portion of the Northern Barents Sea.
The two major fishing companies in the region — Russia's Karat and Norway's Fiskebåt — have also signed up for the agreement, along with Britain's Young's Seafood and Denmark's Espersen.
Greenpeace marine environmentalist Frida Bengtsson says in the absence of legal protection over the icy waters of the Norwegian Sea and the Northern Barents Sea, the agreement is an unprecedented step from the food industry.
The measure, which immediately takes effect, halts the practice of bottom trawling in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The practice often involves dragging nets along the ocean floor.
Companies are required to conduct seabed mapping in order to determine the fragility of an area before it is approved for fishing.
Participating companies will also be banned from buying fish that are caught even farther north. Fishing companies that expanded in the Arctic waters will not be able to sell their cods to seafood brand and retailers.
Exploitation In The Arctic
The agreement follows a March 2016 report by Greenpeace, which investigated cod fishing activities in the Northern Barents Sea.
Researchers discovered that over the last three years, more than 100 Norwegian and Russian fishermen used trawl gear to exploit areas in the sea that were previously untouched.
The report said fishing in these areas brings the threats of habitat bycatch and degradation, increasing the risk of the marine life being wiped out and placing the fragile ecosystem at risk.
"We have been concerned for a number of years and campaigned for Arctic protection," said Daniela Montalto, a campaigner from Greenpeace.
Montalto said many suppliers and retailers have been proactive with the agreement, but some have decided not to sign.
Meanwhile, full details of the new agreement have been published (PDF) on the Greenpeace website.
Photo: Derek Keats | Flickr