Magazine article UN Chronicle

Fisheries Conference Agrees on Conservation Measures

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Fisheries Conference Agrees on Conservation Measures

Article excerpt

Wide consensus had been reached on many aspects of a draft agreement to conserve and manage ocean resources, Fiji's Satya N. Nandan, Chairman of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, declared at the end of its fifth session (New York, 27 March-19 April).

The Conference conducted an article-by-article review of the 48-article draft agreement. based on negotiations that began in July 1993.

The main unresolved issue was that of the enforcement measures to be used on the high seas, Mr. Nandan stated. Historically, intervention on the high seas had been reserved for flag States alone. Often, flag States were unable or unwilling to take enforcement measures against their own vessels, he said.

Therefore, he continued, the international community must devise ways to strengthen enforcement mechanisms for high seas resources. The Conference was attempting to develop international law to create a global right to board and inspect vessels on the high seas in support of conservation and management measures.

While the flag State would retain the primary enforcement responsibility, other States should be in a position to ensure that conservation and management of resources in their regions were not undermined, the Chairman said.

Conference debate on enforcement measures was underscored by an ongoing dispute between Canada and Spain regarding halibut fishing in the Grand Banks region, just outside of Canada's 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Conference was mandated in 1992 by the Genera] Assembly to find solutions and improve cooperation among States on problems related to the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.

In agreeing on certain principles, details for the "precautionary approach" to fisheries management and exploitation had been developed, under which caution would be exercised in determining catch levels when reliable scientific data were not available.

"This Conference must deliver an outcome which provides for better conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks as a whole, based on compatible measures taken in areas within national jurisdiction and those on the high seas, the use of the precautionary approach, including the use of reference points, and requirements relating to data collection", Mr. …

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