Summary report, 31 December 1993

1993 Year-end Update on FSA

Although the next session of the UN Conference on Straddling FishStocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks will not take place untilMarch 1994, there is much to report upon the conclusion of the 48thsession of the United Nations General Assembly. This specialyear-end issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin willreview relevant activities that have taken place since the firstsession of the Conference in July 1993, summarize the results ofthe General Assembly's consideration of the Conference, andhighlight upcoming events. This issue of the Earth NegotiationsBulletin is published as part of a series of year-end issuesintended to summarize the current state of play in the variousUNCED follow-up conferences and negotiations reported on by theBulletin in 1993.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONFERENCE

The problems related to high seas fisheries are not new to the UNsystem. Participants at the Third UN Conference on the Law of theSea were well aware of the issue. However, attempts to deal with itduring the course of the ten years of negotiations that concludedin 1982 were not successful. The negotiators decided to leave suchproblems to be resolved between States concerned with high seasfisheries in different regions. During the last decade, however,the pressure on high seas fisheries has grown rapidly, and theproblems have become more urgent. A number of events in the early1990s indicated that an international conference should be convenedto resolve the issues related to high seas fisheries. One forumwhere this was discussed was the Preparatory Committee for the UNConference on Environment and Development. After long and difficultnegotiations, participants at the Earth Summit in Rio agreed to"convene an intergovernmental conference under UN auspices with aview to promoting effective implementation of the provisions of theLaw of the Sea on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks."

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

The organizational session for the Conference was held at UNHeadquarters in New York from 19-23 April 1993. The participantsadopted the rules of procedure and agenda, appointed a CredentialsCommittee, and agreed on how its substantive work will be carriedout. Satya N. Nandan (Fiji) was elected Chair of the Conference.The Chair was asked to prepare a paper containing a list ofsubstantive subjects and issues as a guide for the Conference, anddelegations were requested to submit their proposals to theSecretariat.

The first session of the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks andHighly Migratory Fish Stocks met from 12-30 July 1993 at UNHeadquarters in New York. The Plenary addressed the major issuesbefore it, guided by the Chair's summary of the issues. The Plenaryheld formal sessions on each of the issues outlined and thenadjourned to allow informal consultations to continue.

At each of these informal meetings, Nandan presented the group witha working paper that summarized the issues raised in the Plenaryand papers submitted by interested delegations. The major issuesdiscussed were: the nature of conservation and management measuresto be established through cooperation; the mechanisms forinternational cooperation; regional fisheries managementorganizations or arrangements; flag State responsibilities;compliance and enforcement of high seas fisheries and managementmeasures; responsibilities of port States; non-parties to asubregional or regional agreement or arrangement; disputesettlement; compatibility and coherence between national andinternational conservation measures for the same stocks; specialrequirements of developing countries; review of the implementationof conservation and management measures; and minimum datarequirements for the conservation and management of these stocks.At the conclusion of the session, the Chair tabled a draftnegotiating text that will serve as the basis for negotiation atthe next session of the Conference.

INTERSESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

CHAIR'S ACTIVITIES

Since August, the Chair, Satya Nandan, has been holding informalconsultations with interested governments. The focus of theseconsultations has been to discuss the draft negotiating text thatwas circulated by Nandan at the end of the July session. Thus far,delegates have reached agreement on approximately 90 percent of thetext. Outstanding issues remain and the inter-sessional informalmeetings will likely resume in January. The issues on whichagreement has yet to be achieved include the precautionaryapproach, the concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), and thecomplementarity between the measures adopted for high seasfisheries and those applied within the EEZs.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION ACTIVITIES

The FAO technical input played a crucial role during the firstsession of the Conference. At the first session, the FAO wasrequested to produce two technical papers to assist the Conferencein its deliberations. The first paper is on the precautionaryapproach principle and the other on the concept of MaximumSustainable Yield (MSY) and alternative indicators of the state ofthe stocks. The precautionary approach principle had given rise tostrong disagreements during the first substantive session and it isexpected that a technical meeting on this subject will be convenedat the beginning of 1994 on this matter, possibly in Sweden.

FAO officials report that the work on the Code of Conduct onResponsible Fishing is said to be going very well but it is unclearwhen the work will be completed. The Code of Conduct on ResponsibleFishing is expected to be submitted to the FAO Committee onFisheries in 1995 and to the FAO Council for adoption in 1996.

NGO ACTIVITIES

NGOs have been examining the Chair's negotiating text and preparingamendments for alternative language as well as slight modificationsin the structure of the document. They are likely to developindividual positions on these issues and then attempt to come upwith some form of common position paper to be presented to the nextsession.

At the last session of the Conference, a group of 100 like-mindedNGOs, led by Greenpeace, presented a statement to the delegates.This statement, "A Call for Global Fisheries Reform," has formedthe basis for NGO lobbying efforts. It calls for reforms in threefundamental areas:

  • To ensure conservation and an ecologically sound approach to fishing on the high seas, and adoption of comparable measures in zones of national jurisdiction;
  • To protect and preserve marine and coastal habitats and other ecologically sensitive areas; and
  • To support and strengthen artisanal, indigenous, women, traditional and small-scale fishworkers, and coastal communities that rely substantially on fishing for food and livelihoods, and ensure their effective representation in national, regional and global fora.

UNCLOS UPDATE

On 16 November 1993, Guyana became the 60th State to ratify the UNLaw of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). Consequently, the Conventionwill come into force on 16 November 1994. In the meantime,consultations are still underway on Part XI of the Conventiondealing with mining of deep sea-bed minerals. The parties concernedare working on the so-called "boat paper". This document has beenprepared by representatives of several developed and developingcountries as a contribution to the process of consultationsrelating to the outstanding issues in Part XI of UNCLOS. Itattempts to bridge the differences between the pioneer States whohave invested heavily in deep sea mining technology and the ThirdWorld representatives who want to preserve the deep sea-bed'sstatus as the Common Heritage of Mankind. It is expected that anagreement will be reached in 1994 and a draft resolution could bepresented for adoption at the 49th session of the General Assembly.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY HIGHLIGHTS

The Second Committee of the 48th session of the UN General Assemblyconsidered the implementation of the decisions and recommendationsof the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) andother environmental matters on Friday, 19 November, Tuesday, 23November and Wednesday, 24 November 1993. The Committee had beforeit the report of the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks andHighly Migratory Fish Stocks (A/48/479), which contains a summaryof the progress made to date and a copy of the Chair's negotiatingtext. During the three days of debate, most delegates agreed thatthere was a need to hold two additional sessions of the Conferenceon Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.

Argentina

reiterated their belief that the Conference onStraddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks should be consistentwith the Law of the Sea Convention.

Belgium

on behalf of the European Union, said that thesolution to the problems involving straddling and highly migratoryfish stocks must be based on cooperation and the rights of allStates within and outside their exclusive economic zones.Estonia called on all States to reach a political agreementon the establishment of appropriate conservation measures.

Ecuador

noted the positive results obtained during the firstsession of the Conference and hopes that the positive atmospherewill be maintained in future sessions and that the Conference willclearly establish the rights and obligations of States. Theexistence of universal norms will strengthen the action of regionaland subregional organizations on these issues.

Tunisia

on behalf of the Maghreb States, supported aregional approach, including the strengthening of regional andsubregional agencies and the need for new and additional financialresources. The final document must take into account all regionalspecificities.

The Republic of Korea

said that the issue should beconsidered within the framework of the Law of the Sea Convention.Truly effective conservation measures can be achieved throughregional or sub-regional organizations based upon cooperation fromall participants of both coastal and distant fishing countries.Korea hopes the Conference completes its work before the 49thsession of the General Assembly and discharges its mandate offormulating appropriate recommendations, apart from legally-bindinginstruments.

Canada

supported a legally-binding regime that sets outconservation and management measures for conservation of fishstocks, surveillance and control of fishing practices, anenforcement regime and a model for compulsory, binding disputesettlement. Brazil also expects the establishment of alegally binding instrument to prevent the depletion of straddlingand highly migratory fish stocks. Papua New Guinea saidthere is need for fisheries reform and ecologically soundconservation within EEZs and on the high seas. Options for alegally and politically binding outcome of the fisheries Conferenceinclude a global treaty, a protocol to UNCLOS, and/or regulationsor norms of conduct implementing UNCLOS once it enters into force.What is needed is political will to accept, implement and be boundby agreements in the high seas regime.

Trinidad and Tobago

on behalf of the 12 member States ofthe Caribbean Community, said that notwithstanding the broadprovisions for cooperation in the Convention on the Law of the Sea,high seas fishing has become one of the most pressing marineenvironmental issues on the international agenda as excessivefishing on a global scale threatens the sustainability of manyfisheries. Caricom was encouraged by the progress made during thefirst substantive session of the Conference, including agreement towork within the framework of the Law of the Sea Convention, toharmonize management regimes inside and outside areas of nationaljurisdiction, and to embrace the emerging regional and sub-regionalapproaches to cooperation in the management of marine resources.There can be no effective global network to preserve fisheriesresources without the full participation of developing countries,however, a substantial enhancement of the capacity of manydeveloping countries is required to achieve this goal. Caricomsupports the convening of two additional sessions of the Conferencein 1994 and urged that appropriate steps be taken to encourage allfishing States and coastal States to participate in the Conference.

China

said that countries concerned should participate on anequal footing and negotiate in good faith within the framework ofGeneral Assembly resolution 47/192 and the Law of the SeaConvention. The outcome should take into account the special needsof developing countries, encouraging them to take part in fishingactivities on high seas without any discrimination.

Cape Verde

noted the positive developments in the Conferenceon Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and called for atimely response on the issues of mechanisms for internationalcooperation, flag State responsibility, port State enforcement andcompatibility and coherence between national and internationalconservation measures for the same stocks.

During the month of November, the Chair of the Conference, SatyaNandan, conducted a series of informal consultation aimed atpreparing the draft resolution on the Conference on Straddling FishStocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks to be adopted by theGeneral Assembly. The draft resolution, as contained inA/C.2/48/L.44 was introduced by Nandan on 29 November. He commentedthat the dates for the two sessions of the Conference were arrivedat with great difficulty. Before the resolution was adopted by theSecond Committee on 10 December, however, there was further debateon the dates for the next session. The basic problem is that allthe proposed dates overlapped with the dates of other UNCEDfollow-up conferences.

In its preambular paragraphs, the resolution reaffirms the GeneralAssembly resolution 47/192 concerning the convening of theConference and its mandate. It notes that the Conference held twosessions in 1993 and notes with appreciation the contributions madeto the Conference by the FAO. It further notes the decision of theConference regarding the meetings required in order to complete itswork, and expresses the desirability of the widest possibleparticipation in the Conference, to ensure its success.

In the operative part of the resolution, the General Assembly takesnote of the progress made; reaffirms that the Conference shouldcomplete its work before the 49th session of the General Assembly;approves the convening of two further sessions during 1994, from14-31 March and 15-26 August, in New York; and requests theSecretary-General to provide the required services for the twosessions. Recognizing that the widest possible participation in theConference is important to ensure its success, the resolution alsorequested governments and regional economic integrationorganizations to contribute to the voluntary fund for the purposeof assisting developing countries to participate fully andeffectively in the Conference. The resolution also requests theSecretary-General to circulate to delegations, as early aspossible, the information papers being prepared by the FAO.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN 1994

The secondsubstantive session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocksand Highly Migratory Fish Stocks will take place from 14-31 Marchin New York. This session is expected to focus primarily on thenegotiating text prepared by the Chair of the Conference at theconclusion of the first substantive session in July 1993. Thestructure of the negotiating text is as follows:

  • I. The nature of conservation and management measures to be established through cooperation
  • II. Mechanisms for international cooperation
  • III. Regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements
  • IV. Duties of the flag State
  • V. Compliance and enforcement of high seas fisheries conservation and management measures
  • A. Compliance and enforcement by flag States
  • B. Regional arrangements for compliance and enforcement
  • VI. Port States
  • VII. Non-parties to subregional or regional organizations or arrangements
  • VIII. Dispute settlement
  • IX. Compatibility and coherence between national and international conservation measures for the same stock
  • X. Special requirements of developing countries
  • XI. Review of the implementation of conservation and management measures
  • Annex 1: Minimum data requirements for the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks
  • Annex 2: Arbitration

SECOND SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE -- 14-31 MARCH:

The secondsubstantive session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocksand Highly Migratory Fish Stocks will take place from 14-31 Marchin New York. This session is expected to focus primarily on thenegotiating text prepared by the Chair of the Conference at theconclusion of the first substantive session in July 1993. Thestructure of the negotiating text is as follows:

  • I. The nature of conservation and management measures to be established through cooperation
  • II. Mechanisms for international cooperation
  • III. Regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements
  • IV. Duties of the flag State
  • V. Compliance and enforcement of high seas fisheries conservation and management measures
  • A. Compliance and enforcement by flag States
  • B. Regional arrangements for compliance and enforcement
  • VI. Port States
  • VII. Non-parties to subregional or regional organizations or arrangements
  • VIII. Dispute settlement
  • IX. Compatibility and coherence between national and international conservation measures for the same stock
  • X. Special requirements of developing countries
  • XI. Review of the implementation of conservation and management measures
  • Annex 1: Minimum data requirements for the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks
  • Annex 2: Arbitration

FINAL SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE -- 15-26 AUGUST:

The finalsession of the Conference will be held in New York from 15-26August. At this session participants are expected to adopt a finalagreement, as the General Assembly mandate is due to expire inSeptember 1994.

Participants

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