Magazine article UN Chronicle

Growing Fleets, Dwindling Stocks: UN Conference Debates High Seas Fishing

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Growing Fleets, Dwindling Stocks: UN Conference Debates High Seas Fishing

Article excerpt

The high seas-property of everyone and no-one-have traditionally been an area of free-for-all exploitation, with many fish species now either depleted or over-fished.

That problem was the subject of the first UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (New York, 12-30 July), which was mandated by the 1992 UN conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

The Conference succeeded in satisfying the first component of its mandate, which is to identify and assess existing problems, Conference Chairman Satya N. Nandan of Fiji said. Its remaining tasks are to consider means of improving fisheries cooperation among States and to formulate appropriate recommendations.

The Conference will meet twice more in 1994 14 March-1 April and 15-26 August) with a view to completing its work before the forty-ninth General Assembly session convenes. Delegations differ as to whether the Conference should ultimately produce a new multilateral fishing convention or a non-binding set of guidelines.

The Conference uses as a basis for its work the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has provisions on conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources of the high seas.

With the advent of the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) permitted under the Law of the Sea Convention, the pressure on fish stocks in the high seas has grown. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), inadequate management and over-fishing are now major high-seas problems.

Over-fishing on the high seas not only affects such fish as many tuna species which prefer the open ocean, but also in the case of stocks that usually remain in coastal waters and only occasionally swim outside the EEZs. Examples of these so-called "straddling stocks" include Atlantic cod and Alaskan pollack.

Unsustainable use

Chairman Nandan, in outlining the main concern of the Conference, said that the global capacity of fishing fleets had grown over the last two decades to twice that of total marine fish catches, resulting in nonsustainable resource use.

"No region of the world is immune to the impact of uncontrolled fishing and its inevitable results", he said.

Building on discussions and proposals by delegations, he produced a negotiating text (A/CON.F164/13) which contains formulations of actions and measures to be taken by States. …

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