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Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB)

Volume 07 Number 66 | Monday, 23 May 2016


The Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks

23-27 May 2016 | UN Headquarters, New York


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Visit our IISD/ENB Meeting Coverage from UN Headquarters, New York at: http://enb.iisd.org/oceans/review-fish-stocks/2016/

The Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFSA, or the Agreement) begins today at the UN Headquarters in New York, and will continue until 27 May 2016. The meeting will assess the effectiveness of the Agreement in securing the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, including review of the implementation of the recommendations adopted at the Review Conference in 2006 and 2010 and proposed means of further strengthening the substance and methods of implementation of the provisions of the Agreement.

The meeting is also expected to take up agenda items on: a presentation of the report of the 12th round of Informal Consultations of States Parties (ICSP) to the Agreement; consideration of the report of the status of the Assistance Fund; and consideration of a report of the UN Secretary-General.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UNFSA

The UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, called for by Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, was convened by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address problems related to the harvesting of these stocks on the high seas. Six substantive sessions were held from 1993 to 1995, resulting in the adoption of the UNFSA in August 1995. The UNFSA entered into force on 11 December 2001 and currently has 83 parties. The UNFSA aims to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, and includes general principles for their conservation and management and provisions on, inter alia: application of the precautionary approach; compatibility of conservation and management measures; cooperation for conservation and management; Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs); collection and provision of information and cooperation in scientific research; non-members of RFMOs; duties of, and compliance and enforcement by, flag states; international, subregional and regional cooperation in enforcement; procedures for boarding and inspection; measures taken by port states; special requirements and forms of cooperation with developing countries; and dispute settlement. The Agreement establishes a set of rights and obligations for states to conserve and manage the two types of fish stocks as well as associated and dependent species, and to protect the marine environment.

The UNGA established an associated Assistance Fund under Part VII of the Agreement (the Assistance Fund) in 2003 to assist developing states parties in UNFSA implementation. Following UNGA resolution 56/13, ICSPs have been held at UN Headquarters in New York to consider the regional, subregional and global implementation of the Agreement and prepare for the 2006 Review Conference and the 2010 and 2016 Resumed Review Conferences.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS 2002-2006 (ICSP 1-5): In its first five sessions, all held at UN Headquarters, from 2002-2006, the ICSP focused on various issues, including assistance for developing countries under Part VII (ICSP 1), the Assistance Fund and financial issues (ICSP 2), flag states and implementation at the regional level (ICSP 3), and preparation for the 2006 Review Conference (ICSP 4 and 5).

UNFSA REVIEW CONFERENCE: The Conference, which was mandated by Article 36 of the Agreement and by UNGA resolution 59/25, took place from 22-26 May 2006 at UN Headquarters in New York. Delegates assessed the adequacy of the Agreement’s provisions for securing the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, and proposed means to strengthen implementation of its provisions to better address any continuing problems in conservation and management.

The Review Conference concluded with recommendations to, inter alia: integrate ecosystem considerations in fisheries management; reduce urgently the world’s fishing capacity to levels commensurate with the sustainability of fish stocks; strengthening RFMOs’ mandates to implement modern approaches to fisheries; conduct RFMO performance reviews; develop a legally-binding instrument on minimum standards for port state measures and a comprehensive global register of fishing vessels; expand assistance to developing countries; and establish a continuing dialogue to address concerns raised by non-parties.

At the conclusion of the meeting, delegates decided to suspend rather than formally close the Review Conference, thus providing an opportunity for the Conference to resume at a later date. The UNGA subsequently decided in resolutions 63/112 and 64/72 that the Review Conference would resume in 2010.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS 2007-2010 (ICSP 6-9): Following the 2006 Review Conference, the ICSP convened four times. Its focus included: the performance of RFMOs and the monitoring, control and surveillance of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (ICSP 6); non-parties and a follow up to the Review Conference (ICSP 7); wider participation in the Agreement; and initial preparations for the Resumed Review Conference (ICSP 8). ICSP 9 took place from 16-17 March 2010. In accordance with UNGA resolution 64/72, delegates focused on preparing for the Resumed Review Conference. Participants discussed the Secretary-General’s report to the Resumed Review Conference (A/CONF.210/2010/1). They also considered the Resumed Review Conference’s organization of work, draft provisional agenda, Bureau and outputs. In addition, participants considered possible future actions and events after the Resumed Review Conference.

UNFSA RESUMED REVIEW CONFERENCE: The Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement took place from 24-28 May 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York. The Resumed Review Conference focused on three substantive issues: areas in which implementation of recommendations adopted at the Review Conference in 2006 are proceeding well overall; areas in which implementation of recommendations from the 2006 Review Conference are at an early stage or where there has been little progress; and means to further strengthen the substance and methods of implementation of the UNFSA.

The meeting agreed on an outcome document that recommends further actions in a range of areas. A key issue addressed was the conservation and management of fish stocks, including outcomes on sharks, the ecosystem approach, excess fishing capacity, and developing states’ abilities to develop their fisheries. The outcome also addresses mechanisms for international cooperation; monitoring, control and surveillance; compliance and enforcement; and developing countries and non-parties to the UNFSA. In addition, the document provides guidance on the future of the UNFSA process, establishing that the ICSPs would continue and also that the formal Review Conference could resume, although not until at least 2015.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS 2011-2015 (ICSP 10-12): Since the 2010 Resumed Review Conference, the ICSP has convened three times, all at UN Headquarters. ICSP 10, which took place from 7-8 April 2014, discussed issues for consideration during the Resumed Review Conference and called for the UN Secretary-General to prepare a report on sustainable fisheries to facilitate the work of the Resumed Review Conference. ICSP 11, which met from 16-17 March 2015, agreed on a draft provisional agenda and draft organization of work for the Resumed Review Conference. ICSP 11 also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the opening of the UNFSA for signature by holding a round-table discussion.

ICSP 12 convened from 22-23 March 2016. In accordance with UNGA resolution 70/75, ICSP 12 served primarily as a preparatory meeting for the Resumed Review Conference, adopting the provisional agenda and draft organization of work. Participants also suggested, inter alia: addressing new and emerging challenges, such as the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on the sustainability of fish stocks; and considering the issue of “shark finning” at the Resumed Review Conference, noting that there is not yet an agreed global definition. Delegates called for improving the quality of performance reviews, implementation of recommendations and coordination and cooperation among RFMOs, among other areas.

INTERSESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

UN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT: The Summit (25-27 September 2015, New York) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development), states committed to, inter alia: sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans by 2020; and effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, IUU fishing and destructive fishing practices, as well as implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics by 2020. SDG 14 also includes commitment to: conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information by 2020; increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology; and enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS.

70TH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: In its resolution 70/226, the UNGA decided to convene the High-level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 in Fiji from 5-9 June 2017, coinciding with World Oceans Day.

FIRST SESSION OF THE PREPARATORY COMMITTEE ON MARINE BIODIVERSITY BEYOND AREAS OF NATIONAL JURSIDICTION: The first session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) on the elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) met from 28 March-8 April 2016, in New York. The session addressed the scope of an international legally binding instrument and its relationship with other instruments; guiding approaches and principles; marine genetic resources, including questions on access and benefit-sharing; area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; and capacity building and marine technology transfer. The meeting agreed to a procedural roadmap outlining the structure of PrepCom 2, as well as on having a Chair’s summary of the meeting and an indicative list of issues circulated during the intersessional period, to facilitate preparations for PrepCom 2.