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The resumed sixth session of the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was convened on 4 December 1995 at UN Headquarters in New York for the signing the Final Act of the Conference and the opening for signature of the Conference's outcome: the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10th December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.The following summarizes highlights of the signing ceremony.

In his opening statement, Conference Chair Amb. Satya Nandan (Fiji), noted several reasons for which delegates were justifiably pleased with the Agreement adopted on 4 August 1995: it was detailed, precise, and provided a blueprint for fisheries conservation and management with a view to sustainable use; it responded to environmental concerns expressed at the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development; it established an ecosystem approach based on the best available scientific data and a precautionary approach; it contained clear provisions on conservation and management measures and procedures for the compulsory settlement of fisheries disputes; it emphasized the pivotal role of regional and subregional organizations and arrangements; and, it was firmly based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He stated that developments since the adoption of the Agreement revealed the importance of the achievement and that the Agreement's principles apply to all fisheries, particularly the environmental provisions. He noted that the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, adopted by the FAO, incorporates the Agreement's conservation and management principles. The Agreement has also been used in recent bilateral negotiations on fisheries management. He said nations could now foresee the time when no area of the world's seas and oceans will lack an effective fisheries management system. He stated that several delegations could not sign today for technical and other reasons, but their delay should not be construed as a lack of support. He noted the impressive number of signatories, which represented all regions of the world and the different interests in fisheries.

Hans Corell, United Nations Legal Counsel, on behalf of Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, expressed elation that States were united in their determination to build on the foundation of the UN Charter by signing a treaty that should better preserve living marine resources for future generations. The signing also demonstrates a commitment to the progressive development and codification of international law, as well as the maintenance of international security and the peaceful economic development of all nations. He noted the irony that those who choose to dwell on areas where the UN has yet to achieve its full potential may overlook major achievements such as today's signing. UNCLOS has brought stability to an area often rife with disputes and places a binding obligation on all Parties to cooperate in conserving the living resources of the high seas. The Agreement will have an impact upon the livelihood of many, as well as on a main source of nutrition for a great portion of the world. He also stressed that the Agreement touches the cornerstones of international stability: prevention of conflict, development of international law, and economic development and cooperation among all States.

UNITED STATES: Amb. Madeline K. Albright stated that the US, as both a coastal State and a high seas fishing State, was keenly aware of the need for a balanced approach in the Agreement. She said the Agreement strikes a reasonable balance between conservation and fishing concerns, establishes new and effective rules for management and conservation and provides for States to resolve their disputes through compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedures. The Agreement is particularly noteworthy because it directly contributes to a broader global effort to promote international cooperation, reduce conflict and achieve more effectively the sustainable use of living marine resources. She urged those States unable to sign today to do so as soon as possible, and stated that the status of the world's fish stocks demands that implementation begin immediately.

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska emphasized the Agreement's adoption of the principle that non-flag States can enforce regional fishery agreements against the vessels of both Parties and non-Parties to regional agreements if a flag State will not control its vessels. He highlighted the requirements to minimize waste and bycatch and prevent overfishing. He will also work within the US Senate to obtain ratification.

EUROPEAN COMMUNITY: Angel Vinas said the European Community and its Member States had actively participated in the Conference, but at present could not sign the Agreement because the required internal procedures have not yet been completed. Once these procedures have been concluded, their continued participation and engagement in this important process will be assured. He said this active participation is based on their firm commitment in favor of responsible fishing and international cooperation in the management and conservation of living marine resources.

ECUADOR: Luis Valencia Rodriguez said Ecuador had participated actively in the development of UNCLOS, but had not acceded to it, for reasons previously stated. He emphasized that Ecuador was not bound by the Agreement and would not enforce it provisionally, but would continue an internal review process of analysis of the matter.

PERU: Fernando Guillen affirmed Peru's view that the oceans must be managed by all States in conformity with international legal instruments.

The Agreement was signed by the following 26 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Marshall Islands, Morocco, New Zealand, Niue, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Samoa, Senegal, Tonga, Ukraine, the UK (on behalf of ten territories) and the US.

The Final Act was signed by the following 45 countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, European Community, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Marshall Islands, Morocco, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Samoa, Senegal, Spain, Tonga, Ukraine, the UK, the US and Uruguay.

The Agreement will remain open for signature for one year —until 4 December 1996.

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