Academic journal article Australian International Law Journal

Non-Legally Binding International Fisheries Instruments and Measures to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

Academic journal article Australian International Law Journal

Non-Legally Binding International Fisheries Instruments and Measures to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

Article excerpt

Abstract

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is considered as a major threat to the world fish stocks. The battle against IUU fishing activities has recently become a high priority in the international fisheries management agenda. The international community, through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has developed non-binding instruments to support the implementation of the multilateral fisheries-related agreements. This article is concerned with two instruments, namely the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing (IPOA-IUU). The article will discuss the role of these non-binding international fisheries instruments in building on the frameworks under the 1982 Law of the Seas Convention (LOSC), the FAO Compliance Agreement, and the United Nations (UN) Fish Stocks Agreement to combat IUU fishing at the global and national level. The article focuses on the role of these two non-binding instruments and examines the significance of the instruments for the legally binding instruments. Finally, some conclusions are offered.

Introduction

In recent years, the international community has been faced with increased illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, (1) which occurs in all capture areas. The increasing problem of unregulated fishing on the high seas, including the practice of re-flagging vessels or registering in countries which operate open registers are contributory factors to the depletion of marine resources. IUU fishing has threatened target fish stocks, undermined conservation and management measures of the national fisheries management authorities and the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO).

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), approximately 47 per cent of the major fish stocks in the world are now fully exploited, 18 per cent are overexploited, and 10 per cent are significantly depleted. (2) There is no denying that the world's fisheries are experiencing a catastrophic crisis. (3) In an effort to address the problem, in addition to the legally binding instruments developed at the global level to combat IUU fishing outlined and analysed briefly later, the international community, through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has also developed non-binding instruments to support the implementation of the multilateral fisheries-related agreements. (4)

Non-binding instruments, often referred to as 'soft law,' provide policy guidance for States to support national efforts to combat IUU fishing. Examples of such policy guidance include the intention of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which was drafted to cover much more than high seas fishing. The non-legally binding character of the Code has also enabled it to set out many more norms and principles than those which are regulated in a legally binding international agreement such as the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. (5) Adopted by a formal resolution of the FAO Conference, the Code of Conduct could also be considered as something which a juridical body could demonstrate as evidence of the possible development of new norms and principles in the area of international fisheries laws. (6)

Specifically, it should be noted that the IPOA-IUU has been formulated within the framework of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, in which a number of provisions also describe the relationship between the IPOA-IUU and other relevant international instruments. The IPOA-IUU is to be interpreted and applied in a manner consistent with the LOSC, (7) the FAO Compliance Agreement and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. (8) Therefore it is of some interest to see the way that the IPOA-IUU has given effect to the basic provisions the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Suffice it to note that the Code of Conduct and the IPOA-IUU, both of which are underpinned by the 1982 LOSC and post Law of the Sea legally binding instruments, will constitute the basis for future directions in the area of fisheries. …

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