More than a dozen seafood industry giants, including McDonald's and British grocery retailer Tesco, have joined forces to protect a large swath of the Arctic from increased fishing.
The voluntary agreement, signed Wednesday, commits the companies not to expand cod fishing into a previously ice-covered portion of the Northern Barents Sea.
Environmental organization Greenpeace, which brokered the agreement, said in an announcement that it "marks the first time the seafood industry has voluntarily imposed limitations to industrial fishing in the Arctic."
"We are witnessing a truly important moment when global brands in the fishing industry start to say 'no' to Arctic destruction and agree to prevent fishing fleets from expanding their search for cod into sensitive and previously ice-covered areas in a region twice the size of France," Greenpeace campaigner Frida Bengtsson wrote in a blog post.
The "precautionary measure," which takes effect immediately, halts bottom trawling -- a fishing practice that involves dragging nets along the ocean floor -- around the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, where regular fishing has not occurred before.
It also means that participating companies — some of the world’s largest seafood processors and retailers — will not buy fish caught even farther north, a practice that's increasing.
A years-long Greenpeace investigation found "large numbers of fishing vessels from companies with a global reach have been advancing into areas previously covered by ice."
"Sea ice loss in the northern Barents Sea is turning it into a new hunting ground for industrial fishing," Greenpeace said in a report. "Fishing brings with it the threats of habitat degradation and bycatch, potentially wiping out marine life and putting this whole fragile ecosystem at risk."
McDonald's said it's strengthening its commitment to sustainable fishing.
“Specifically, because we require our fish suppliers to follow sustainable fishing practices, we will not serve fish caught in the areas of the Barents and Norwegian seas defined by this agreement," Keith Kenny, vice president of sustainability at McDonald’s, told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. "This commitment, which is effective immediately, will continue until there is robust and independent scientific research that demonstrates fishing activities in the area will not cause serious harm to the marine environment."
Wednesday's agreement is a big step, but more could certainly be done. In 2016 alone, for example, Norway has licensed 189 trawler fishing outfits, half of them Russian, to harvest nearly a million tons of cod (or 859,000 tonnes) from the Barents Sea, according to Greenpeace's report.
To put that in perspective, one of McDonald's main U.S. providers delivers delivers 12,500 tons (about 11,000 tonnes) of fish to the fast food chain each year.
Here's a full list of the companies that signed the agreement.