Daily report for 15 July 1993

1st Session of the FSA

CHAIR'S SUMMARY OF THE GENERAL DEBATE

The Chair, Satya Nandan, opened the meeting by summarizing the three previous days of general debate. He said that the discussionsatisfied the first substantive item in the mandate of this Conference, as stated in resolution 47/192: "Identify and assessexisting problems related to the conservation and management ofhighly migratory and straddling fish stocks." Nandan highlighted anumber of issues where there appears to be convergence, including:

  • Commitment to seeking long-term solutions.
  • Effective conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks over their range.
  • Effective management can only be achieved through cooperation among States.
  • The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea must be the legal framework within which conservation and management measures are developed.
  • Adoption of a code of conduct for responsible fishing.
  • Data and scientific information are essential for conservation and management measures. In the absence of such data, the precautionary approach principle should be applied, where appropriate.
  • Principles of resources sustainability are an essential component of conservation and management.
  • Agreement on compliance and enforcement is needed.
  • Effective conservation and management must be reinforced by appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms.
  • Conservation and management regimes of these stocks should not be undermined by non-parties.
  • Technical cooperation should be provided to developing countries to enhance their capabilities in fisheries conservation and management.

METHOD OF WORK

Nandan explained that the next task of the Conference is to addressthe second and third components of the mandate: means of improvingfisheries cooperation among States and formulation of appropriaterecommendations. To do this, he proposed that the Conferenceexamine the issues listed in A/CONF.164/10. The delegates shouldtake Item I (conservation and management measures) first, followedby II and III together, since they are related to regionalarrangements. Items IV and V are both related to control andsurveillance. Then Item VI (non-parties), VII (settlement ofdisputes) and VIII (compatibility between national andinternational conservation measures) will be addressedsequentially. Following the discussion, the Chair will put togethera basic text.

Tunisia suggested that the Chair prepare a text at the end of thediscussion of each item so it could be dealt with in an informalgroup, while the discussion continues in Plenary. This would allowgreater transparency and involve all delegations. The Chairresponded that there are only facilities for one meeting at a timeso that a separate parallel meeting cannot be organized. He saidthat he will try his hand at a text and will welcome volunteers tomeet with him in one of the smaller rooms to see if the text isbalanced. In response to a question from Indonesia, he said that hedid not know if three weeks would be enough, as this will depend onthe acceptability of the text.

Peru commented that the mandate of the Conference does not precludethe possibility of an international legally binding agreement. Inthe absence of a legally binding agreement the coastal States havethe right to regulate stocks in the high seas adjacent to theirEEZ, either unilaterally or regionally, and adopt appropriatemeasures in order to avoid depletion. The Chair responded that itis inappropriate to discuss the outcome at this time; delegatesshould concentrate on substantive issues.

CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT MEASURES

Japan said that conservation and management measures should applythroughout the range of the species concerned. Thus managementshould be consistent in both the EEZs and the high seas. Yet thesovereignty of the coastal State within its EEZ should not bequestioned. For conservation and management, a common standard ofdata not only from the high seas but also from coastal States isneeded.

The US said that conservation regimes should employ a multispecies,ecosystem approach and should recognize the principle of conservingresources at levels no less than that which will produce thelong-term maximum sustainable yield, rather than short termprofits. The precautionary approach should be used in managingthese stocks.

The Philippines said that the legal or moral instruments and theoperational and scientific modalities must be considered with greatcare. The concept of optimum utilization of fish stocks needs to bemore clearly defined. China said that conservation and managementmeasures must be observed inside and outside of the EEZs. Cuba saidthese measures should be compatible with legal standards.

Poland added that conservation and management must be geared towardthe prevention of overexploitation and to the preservation offisheries. Sweden said that no fish stock only occurs beyond theEEZs and that many occur within and outside the EEZs. These must bemanaged in a coordinated way on both sides. Management measuresmust differ between geographic areas. Norway stated thatconservation and management, particularly in relation to TotalAllowable Catch (TAC), should be based on the best availablescientific data supplied by an internationally recognizedscientific body. Scientifically-based conservation and managementensures sustainability and responsibility regarding fisheries.

The Russian Federation said that the general universal measuresreferred to in Item I of A/CONF.164/10 are the foundation on whichregional and subregional cooperation should be built, with a viewtowards conservation and management of fish stocks. The EC saidthat States have an obligation to conserve living marine resourceson both sides of the EEZ. WWF mentioned that to meet theconservation mandate, limited access, restricted seasons or areas,limiting gear types and promoting environmental impact assessmentsshould be considered.

PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

The EC said that the precautionary principle comes directly out ofPrinciple 15 of the Rio Declaration, which applies to chemicals,and that it cannot be translated automatically to fisheriesmanagement. FAO document A/CONF.164/INF.2 states what the principlemeans in the fishing field. There can be no autonomous transferfrom the Rio Declaration to fisheries. New Zealand responded thatit previously expressed its reservation on the limits ofapplication of the precautionary principle, as adopted by the FAO.It is not the responsibility of the FAO's technical consultationsto make the authoritative interpretation of the precautionaryprinciple.

Japan agreed with the EC. In response to New Zealand's comment, hesaid that not all delegations have to agree with the content of theFAO report, but it is a good document that can be the basis forefficient and specific discussion. Fishery management andconservation should always be carried out in a cautious manner,partly because of the absence of sufficient data. The problem withthe use of the precautionary principle is that it may at times beequated with the notion of banning fishing unless the user candemonstrate that fishing has no adverse impact on the stock. It isdifficult, if not impossible, to prove a negative.

Chile said the Conference should not attribute greater or lesservalue to some FAO documents. They are very valuable but are not theauthority for the elaboration of the precautionary principle on thehigh seas. The US said that straddling stocks should be managed ina precautionary manner, recognizing that this does not require amoratorium. Allowable catch levels should be established based onthe best scientific information available and take into accountuncertainties concerning the size and production of the resource.The Philippines said that precautionary measures should be lookedat with prudence and caution. China thought that this interim typeof measure should not be too simplistic, leading to a moratorium onfishing.

Poland associated itself with the Philippines, saying that theConference should take a precautionary approach to theprecautionary principle. The Republic of Korea associated itselfwith both the EC and Japan that the application of theprecautionary approach to fisheries was inappropriate. He quotedfrom three FAO papers to show that FAO took a consistent positionin providing a negative picture of the application of theprecautionary principle to fisheries.

Sweden felt that the precautionary principle has been used inhandling environmental issues such as biodiversity and that inrelation to fisheries, this principle has to be further elaborated.Australia said that there is no doubt that the precautionaryprinciple, as set out in the Rio Declaration, has relevance in allfields of natural resource management. Australia felt that it wasimportant for scientific assessment to take uncertainty intoaccount. Norway's opinion was that the principle should begenerally applied, and that it is important when the scientificbasis for management is poor. Papua New Guinea agreed withAustralia and New Zealand and said that the principle was discussedin detail at UNCED. Adoption of the principle here should take intoaccount uncertainties of factors such as climate and economy.Consideration of the principle in the FAO documents was inadequate.

Iceland agreed with New Zealand that the principle is applicablethroughout the entire range of human activity. There is a generalobligation to apply precaution, but the lack of full certainty isnot a reason to postpone such measures. Canada said that depletionof stocks are the accidents that point to the need for trafficlights, even in the absence of compelling statistics. The RussianFederation felt that the principle is important, but differentStates will have different interpretations. Indonesia expressedsympathy for the principle and Trinidad and Tobago saw theprinciple as an important management tool.

Greenpeace said that the principle should be applied in all casesof uncertainty, and that its use does not necessarily lead to theapplication of moratoria. The Alaska Marine Conservation Councilsaid that the precautionary approach is linked to long-termsustainable fishing for human consumption and for small-scale andindustrial activity to protect the base of oceanic activity.Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration lacks scope to give developingnations the ability to incorporate the principle in regimes.

SPECIAL RIGHTS OF COASTAL STATES

Papua New Guinea said that special rights should be granted tocoastal States on a regional basis only. Canada said that theChair's paper does not deal with the special rights of coastalStates and we should ask for no more than the application ofmodalities that will ensure that stocks management is compatible onboth sides of the EEZ limit.

Norway associated itself with the inclusion of coastal States'interests. They were not included in the 1982 Convention but werein the 1958 Convention. In both conventions, there was reference todistant fishing "rights" but not "special rights". The differenceis that coastal States also have duties that are not mentioned inthe 1958 Convention.

Chile mentioned the complicated history of special rights in theLaw of the Sea negotiations and warned against a selective readingof the Convention. India and Sierra Leone supported the rights ofcoastal States. Korea said it is impossible to infer special rightsfor coastal States from the Convention. Article 89 says that noState can subject the high seas to its sovereignty.

TOTAL ALLOWABLE CATCH (TAC)

Japan said straddling and highly migratory fish stocks aredifferent and the same rules should not apply to their management.Species should be dealt with separately, with separate guidelines.Peru said measures established for the conservation of theseregulated species should be directed to optimize MaximumSustainable Yield (MSY) in accordance with the relevant economicfactors. These measures should include the establishment of TACs byspecies, geographical area, season and fishing vessels, and use ofprocedures to reduce accidental bycatch of other species. The ECsaid that TACs have been applied for 15 years with good results. Itis not an ideal system but it can be elaborated. Using TACs is anelement of output regulation and it can be ameliorated by acting onthe input, i.e., limiting the fishing effort through fleetrestriction, the number of vessels and the time during which theycan operate.

Japan said that all regional bodies set TACs throughout a speciesrange if it is known. It is quite reasonable and appropriate tothink of TACs as applicable to the whole range. Some highlymigratory fish stocks are known to migrate through the EEZs ofdozens of coastal States. If each State establishes its own TAC onaccount of its sovereign rights, it is likely that no TAC will beset up on the high seas.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: The Conference will continue consideration ofA/CONF.164/10, "A guide to the issues before the conferenceprepared by the Chairman." Debate today will move to the next twoissues on Nandan's list, which relate to regional arrangements,"The mechanisms for cooperation" and "Responsibilities of regionalfisheries organizations or arrangements." The two questions posedby the Chair are: How should the mechanism for cooperation inrespect of the two stocks be established? and What should be theresponsibilities of regional organizations or other regionalarrangements concerning the two types of fish stocks? In responseto yesterday's request by the Chair, look for governments tocomment in greater detail on the gathering of scientific data andinformation, particularly in relation to stock assessments.

Participants

Negotiating blocs
African Union

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