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Although the next session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks will not take place until March 1994, there is much to report upon the conclusion of the 48th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This special year-end issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin will review relevant activities that have taken place since the first session of the Conference in July 1993, summarize the results of the General Assembly's consideration of the Conference, and highlight upcoming events. This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin is published as part of a series of year-end issues intended to summarize the current state of play in the various UNCED follow-up conferences and negotiations reported on by the Bulletin in 1993.


The problems related to high seas fisheries are not new to the UN system. Participants at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea were well aware of the issue. However, attempts to deal with it during the course of the ten years of negotiations that concluded in 1982 were not successful. The negotiators decided to leave such problems to be resolved between States concerned with high seas fisheries in different regions. During the last decade, however, the pressure on high seas fisheries has grown rapidly, and the problems have become more urgent. A number of events in the early 1990s indicated that an international conference should be convened to resolve the issues related to high seas fisheries. One forum where this was discussed was the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on Environment and Development. After long and difficult negotiations, participants at the Earth Summit in Rio agreed to "convene an intergovernmental conference under UN auspices with a view to promoting effective implementation of the provisions of the Law of the Sea on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks."

The resolution establishing the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (47/192) was adopted by the General Assembly on 22 December 1992. The resolution states that the Conference, drawing on scientific and technical studies by FAO, should: identify and assess existing problems related to the conservation and management of highly migratory and straddling fish stocks; consider means of improving fisheries cooperation among States; and formulate appropriate recommendations. The resolution also stipulated that the Conference should complete its work "as early as possible" in advance of the 49th session of the UN General Assembly.

The organizational session for the Conference was held at UN Headquarters in New York from 19-23 April 1993. The participants adopted the rules of procedure and agenda, appointed a Credentials Committee, and agreed on how its substantive work will be carried out. Satya N. Nandan (Fiji) was elected Chair of the Conference. The Chair was asked to prepare a paper containing a list of substantive subjects and issues as a guide for the Conference, and delegations were requested to submit their proposals to the Secretariat.

The first session of the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks met from 12-30 July 1993 at UN Headquarters in New York. The Plenary addressed the major issues before it, guided by the Chair's summary of the issues. The Plenary held formal sessions on each of the issues outlined and then adjourned to allow informal consultations to continue.

At each of these informal meetings, Nandan presented the group with a working paper that summarized the issues raised in the Plenary and papers submitted by interested delegations. The major issues discussed were: the nature of conservation and management measures to be established through cooperation; the mechanisms for international cooperation; regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements; flag State responsibilities; compliance and enforcement of high seas fisheries and management measures; responsibilities of port States; non-parties to a subregional or regional agreement or arrangement; dispute settlement; compatibility and coherence between national and international conservation measures for the same stocks; special requirements of developing countries; review of the implementation of conservation and management measures; and minimum data requirements for the conservation and management of these stocks. At the conclusion of the session, the Chair tabled a draft negotiating text that will serve as the basis for negotiation at the next session of the Conference.


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