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The third substantive session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks begins today and will continue until August 26, 1994 at UN Headquarters in New York. This session is expected to continue preparations of an international agreement on the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

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 among 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 (UNCED). 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 UN 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 co-operation 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 would 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.

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 with papers submitted by interested delegations.

The major issues discussed at the first session 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. A Like-Minded-States core-group consisting of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Iceland and New Zealand tabled a draft Convention on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks on the High Seas (A/CONF.164/L.11). At the conclusion of the session, the Chair tabled a draft negotiating text to serve as the basis for negotiation at the next session of the Conference.

The second session of the Conference met from 14-31 March 1994 at UN Headquarters in New York. The delegates continued debate left unresolved at the end of the previous session and their review of the Chair's negotiating text (A/CONF.164/13*). This session of the Conference began with general statements and then convened in informal negotiations until the end of the second week when informal-informals were held to attempt to prepare a new "clean" version of the text. These closed sessions were held until the middle of the third week. The Plenary resumed briefly in the middle of the second week when the Chair briefed the Conference on progress made during closed sessions. On the final day of the Conference, the Chair produced a new version of his negotiating text (A/CONF.164/13/Rev.1), while like-minded States tabled the text of a new draft convention (A/CONF.164/L.11/Rev.1). The most contentious issues included the compatibility and coherence between national measures and those taken by regional and other arrangements, the concept of biological unity of stocks, settlement of disputes, and matters of surveillance and enforcement.


On 16 November 1993, Guyana became the 60th State to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Consequently, the Convention will come into force on 16 November 1994. While 64 States have acceded to the Convention, Iceland is the only developed State to have ratified it, and many felt that Part XI of UNCLOS, which deals with deep seabed mining, needed to be re-drafted. Negotiations were held and an "Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982" (the "Agreement") was adopted by the resumed session of the General Assembly on July 29, 1994. The Agreement in no way affects the provisions of UNCLOS that deal with the management of marine living resources, but major industrialized nations such as the US, Germany, Canada and Republic of Korea, as well as the EU, have either signed or announced their intention to sign the Agreement. UNCLOS will therefore come into force and bind many more countries than it did prior to the Agreement.

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