11/30/2017 12:47 EST | Updated 11/30/2017 13:21 EST

Canada, other nations sign High Arctic commercial fishing ban for 16 years

A deal has been reached to prevent commercial fishing in the High Arctic for at least the next 16 years.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic Leblanc is confirming Canada is one the countries that have signed on to the agreement in principle reached today in Washington, D.C.

Those countries include the five nations with Arctic coastlines as well as China, Japan, South Korea, the European Union and Iceland.

Observers say the countries have committed to an extensive science program before allowing any commercial fishing in the High Arctic.

The decision will stand for 16 years and be renewed every five years after that.

It affects about 2.8 million square kilometres of increasingly open ocean, an area about the size of the Mediterranean Sea.

The deal was reached after about two years of negotiations.