Nine major fishing countries and the European Union agreed on Thursday to temporarily prohibit commercial fishing in the fast-melting central Arctic Ocean. The agreement will be in effect for 16 years, or until a sustainable plan for fishing in the region is decided, The New York Times reported.

Five of the countries, with an Arctic coastline – the United States, Norway, Denmark, Canada and Russia – had already agreed to such a deal in 2015, but they needed support from some other countries that operate significant trawling fleets. After six meetings over two years, South Korea, China, Japan, Iceland and the EU agreed to sign the moratorium on Thursday.

The moratorium covers an area of about 2.8 million sq km. After it expires in 16 years, the deal can be renewed for five years.

Though commercial fishing in the Arctic has not begun yet, there were fears it might start any time as the once-frozen ocean now melts even more in the summers and because of the effects of global warming.

“This is one of the rare times when a group of governments actually solved a problem before it happened,” said David Balton, US ambassador for oceans and fisheries.

Scientists now have 16 years to study the marine ecology of the Arctic and understand the potential impact of fishing at high latitudes and how to mitigate it.