The topic of Zahner's Ph.D. thesis was the CAOF Agreement. 

The thesis can be accessed here:


The 2018 Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean (CAOF Agreement) is an international agreement of a special kind. On the one hand, it regulates fisheries that are not yet taking place. On the other hand, it relates to one of the most remote places in the world, the central part of the Arctic Ocean. This part is subject to far-reaching changes caused in particular by climate change, which in turn enable new economic activities such as fishing.

In order to understand the context of these new opportunities, it is first necessary to create awareness for the local environment, creatures and habitat, and the far-reaching effects that climate change has in the Arctic. As the Arctic represents a potential new source for fisheries, various stakeholders with different interests are involved. These sometimes conflicting interests had to be coordinated during the multi-year drafting process and must also be coordinated now when implementing the agreement – particularly with regard to the central question of when and under what circumstances commercial fishing should be allowed. Moreover, the Arctic, or more precisely the part of the Arctic high seas to which the agreement applies, was of course not a legal vacuum before the agreement was concluded. Nevertheless, the existing regulations were inconsistent for the protection of fish stocks and the environment, showing the need for the CAOF Agreement. The newly created regulations of the agreement are based on existing law, in particular international maritime law, and substantiate it for the contracting parties. In addition, as a measure of fisheries management, the agreement is subject to certain international standards, including principles of international environmental law, such as the concept of sustainability including the precautionary principle and the duty to cooperate, but also the reliance on scientific research. The agreement implements these in a largely satisfactory manner. Furthermore, the agreement offers the possibility of gradually allowing commercial fishing under certain conditions until fishing on a larger scale is possible. Despite the uniqueness of the agreement, it does however not create a new international standard, but can point the way for further fisheries agreements.

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