The Conference is mandated to find solutions to effect improved conservation and management of fish stocks. Central to the replenishment of global fish stocks and their sustainable utilization for future generations is the mandatory application of the precautionary approach.
Delegates have noted that scientists and technicians were prevented by political posturing from agreeing on a comprehensive set of practical and workable guidelines for the application of a precautionary approach to fisheries management at the Working Group sessions last year. Some said that it was not surprising to hear old Chilean arguments seeking dilution of the Chair's valuable text. Arguments about technical abilities to implement the precautionary approach were abundant. Yet, two main opponents of the Chair's text, it was noted, enjoy third and fourth positions in the world marine catch principal producers ranking order.
It is unclear to some observers whether this political posturing is an attempt to settle old Working Group scores, or if it represents an agenda of the extreme Like-Minded coastal States to pursue creeping jurisdiction upon the high seas. The majority of Chile's artisanal, inshore and offshore fish workers and dock workers, under a Conapach, Congemar and Greenpeace Pacifico Sur document, have endorsed, in full, Article 6 and the mandatory application by States, of Annex 2.
NGOs and delegates perceive that Canada, who has done much to focus international attention on the plight of the world's fisheries, appears to be riding on the backs of the developing countries, by changing tact over the mandatory application of the precautionary approach. Canadian Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin said one of the Conference goals must be the implementation of the precautionary approach. The question floating in the corridors was, "Has Canada diluted its support in favor of maintenance of the Like-Minded and the extreme coastal State partners, or is the precautionary approach still on track?" NGOs and delegates await confirmation that the latter is the case, but they also seem disappointed with the Chilean position.
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