Magazine article UN Chronicle

Global Treaty on Fisheries Signed by 31 Countries

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Global Treaty on Fisheries Signed by 31 Countries

Article excerpt

The first global treaty to regulate high seas fishing was opened for signature at a special ceremony held at Headquarters on 4 December 1995, concluding the work of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The treaty, officially known as the "Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks", had been adopted by the Conference on 4 August after nearly three years of negotiations.

The Agreement, signed by 25 States on the date it was opened for signature, attempts to implement effectively the obligation already embodied in the Convention on the Law of the Sea for States to conserve and sustainably manage high seas fisheries. To that end, parties to the Agreement are under an obligation to adopt measures to safeguard the long-term sustainability of fish stocks and to ensure that such measures are based on the best scientific evidence available and are designed to maintain or restore stocks at levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

Coastal States and States fishing on the high seas are obligated to pursue cooperation either directly or through regional organizations to ensure the effective conservation and management of fish stocks. Further, the Agreement imposes obligations on States whose flag fishing vessels fly, to ensure that measures agreed to are enforced. It also obliges port States where such vessels call to promote the effectiveness of such measures.

The treaty includes ground-breaking provisions to ensure compatibility between conservation and management measures adopted in zones under national jurisdiction and those adopted in adjacent high seas fishing areas. It also introduces the "precautionary approach" to fisheries management both within and outside the areas of national jurisdiction, by which States are obligated to act cautiously when there is doubt about the viability of stocks.

As of 31 January 1996, the Agreement had been signed by 31 States. It will remain open for signature until 3 December 1996, and will enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the thirtieth instrument of ratification or accession.

The Fish Stocks Conference was convened by the General Assembly in accordance with the recommendation of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, which had called for an intergovernmental meeting to identify and assess existing problems relating to the conservation and management of high seas fisheries. …

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