Daily report for 21 July 1993

1st Session of the FSA

Informal consultations continued on Wednesday in Conference Room6. Discussion first focussed on two sections of the Chair's paperon data requirements for the conservation and management ofstraddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks: vesseldata and information, and data exchange. Then the delegatesopened discussion on the precautionary approach to fisheriesmanagement.


The Chair's paper identified a series of data required by anyentity and serves as a guide to what states should be gatheringfor data analysis and for standardizing fleet composition andvessel fishing power:

1. vessel identification and type;

2. vessel specification, e.g. engine power, length, tonnage, holdcapacity, storage methods, etc;

3. navigation and position fixing aids;

4. communication equipment;

5. ownership, flag State, home port, etc;

6. construction details, vessel age, hull material, etc;

7. crew size and composition;

8. type of fishing gear, quantity and specification.

This section, however, did not receive unanimous acceptance. Themeasures that met with the greatest degree of consensus werethose most related to the catch, i.e., 1, 2, 5 and 8. The othermeasures were seen by some as irrelevant to the harvestingcapacity and many pointed out the fact that this data is to beused to facilitate conservation and management. Some nationsargued that the crew had little, if any, impact on the harvestingcapacity while others answered that it, in fact, could influencethe amount of catch. It was agreed that the crew had to beconsidered as a whole with the equipment aboard since some under-equipped vessels may be more labor-intensive and yet have lesserharvesting capacities. Navigation and position-fixing aids werealso discarded as more relevant to the application of the SOLASConvention than for the sake of data gathering.

A recurrent theme was the necessity to avoid the duplication ofdata already gathered. A few delegates pointed out that theirnational licensing systems gather more precise information. Someconcern was voiced with regard to vessels fishing without flagsor under flags of convenience and how they should be treated invessel data, since these ships are unlicensed. A proposal wasmade that advocated distinguishing between data required at alltimes and data required as soon as the vessel enters the fishingground. Support was shown for sending data to the regionalorganizations, since much of the information in this sectionappears on the licenses.


The Chair's text on data exchange focussed on the sharing of datacollected by flag States on all fishing operations within theEEZs of coastal States and high seas areas within a region forthe same stock. The regular and timely provision of fishery datashould be in accordance with the five diagrams on data flowarrangements provided. The paper also mentioned that at theglobal level and at the regional level where no regionalarrangement exists, the FAO is the appropriate body to collectand disseminate data.

Many delegates raised the issue of sovereignty and the obligationof coastal States to provide information. Data exchange is anobligation for all participants and should not prejudice coastalStates or high seas fishing States. The different nature ofinformation under and beyond national jurisdiction was mentioned.There was some concern that the data collected could be used toaccuse coastal States of having mismanaged their resources.Assurances were given that this information should not interferewith the sovereignty of coastal States and that the primaryconcern is collecting data that will help in conservation andmanagement. It was also mentioned that data should be exchangedon the basis of reciprocity.

Since UNCLOS Article 63.2 provides that there should beconsultations between coastal States and the distant water-fishing nations on areas adjacent to the EEZs, coastal Statesneed to get information on the high seas fisheries. Since thediscussion is on two different regimes, sharing of data should bedone by both flag States and coastal States. UNCLOS Articles 63.2and 64 provide for cooperation on the stocks throughout therange. Where there are no regional organizations, the flag Statewill establish a regional data bank, and relevant data should goto the regional organizations.

An amendment to the Chair's text was proposed. It read: "Withoutprejudice to its sovereign rights to manage and exploit thefisheries resources within its EEZ, a coastal State shouldcollect relevant data on fishing operation in its EEZ on specificstraddling stocks and highly migratory species, as the case maybe and as appropriate, and should share them with the relevantregional or subregional fisheries organization or arrangement."One delegate raised the question of how this would relate to theMediterranean Sea where there are no EEZs. It was suggested thatEEZ be replaced with the term "areas of national jurisdiction."Other amendments were suggested to this text, including replacingthe words "should" with either "be encouraged to" or "may".

There is also provision in the Chair's paper in the section ondata exchange for the regular and timely provision of fisherydata in accordance with data flow arrangements within the coastalState EEZs and for high seas fishing operations. Severaldelegates said they could not accept one of the data flowarrangements suggested by the Chair: Distant Water Fishing Fleets--> Coastal States National Fisheries Administrations -->Regional Fish Organization or Arrangement. Several delegatesmentioned an equal sharing of information between fishing Statesand coastal States.


The precautionary approach gave rise to some debate since it hasbeen seen by some as a call for such extreme measures asmoratoria. Experts, however, were quick to mention that moratoriaare only one of the possible measures that can be taken as aresult of the application of the precautionary approach. Theconcept itself has been seen in different lights, with somedelegations refering to the precautionary approach and others tothe precautionary principle. There was agreement, however, on theneed for more responsible fishing, as exemplified by the collpaseand overfishing of some stocks.

The concept of precautionary principle/approach clearly needs tobe defined with more care. Some States would like to seePrinciple 15 of the Rio Declaration translated automatically tothe field of fisheries, but others point to the FAO reports thatclearly indicate that some adaptation has to be made before theprinciple is applied to fisheries. This has led to an amount oftheoretical discussion on the respective relevances of Agenda 21and the Law of the Sea with respect to fisheries.

The application of the principle also gives rise to someuncertainty, since in order to gain credibility it has to beapplied both with consistency and throughout the range ofmigratory and straddling species. The principle has been seen asa means of limiting the natural law that has led to overfishingand replacing it with a more human law. In particular, it hasbeen envisioned as a way to limit the entry into newly-discoveredfishing grounds. In the absence of such measures, the effortcarried out is likely to exceed the harvesting capacity of thestock and lead to overfishing.

The principle only reached unanimity when it was considered as ageneral guiding concept, but the views diverged as to the extentto which it should be applied. While some delegations interpretedit as a justification for taking conservative measures such asTotal Allowable Catch (TACs) below the Maximum Sustainable Yield(MSY), others insisted that the result may be the absence ofTACs. In particular, one delegate highlighted the fact thatfishing ought to be seen as an economic activity and that, inthis respect, economic and social dimensions have to be kept inmind.

A delegate held the view that the precautionary approach shouldalways be applied but with even greater care in case ofscientific uncertainty. There was, however, disagreement as tothe definition of the best scientific information available.Representatives did agree that the application of theprecautionary approach/principle needs to evolve over time withthe availability of new scientific information.

A number of documents were circulated that identified differentpositions on the issue. The Chair's draft document referredspecifically to Principle 15 of the Rio declaration and thus metsome opposition. The US position, as stated in documentA/CONF.164/L.15, states that the precautionary approach should beused to maintain the stocks at a productive level and preservefuture use options, but does not necessarily require amoratorium. Canada circulated a document in which itdistinguished the application of the principle to straddling andhighly migratory fish stocks. It also emphasized the need toadopt a precautionary approach in the case of newly discoveredstocks, where the risk of excessive entry is the greatest. TheNGOs expressed their concern that all management measures takeexplicit account of the full range of uncertainties inherent infisheries science and management. In the case of newly discoveredstocks, they called on extremely conservative catch and effortlevels to be established until sufficient data is known.


An EC paper on suggested guidelines for States in theconservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highlymigratory fish stocks and on international cooperation for suchregimes circulated in the corridors yesterday. The first part ofthe paper addresses conservation and management. It recommendsthat States should commit to: responsible fishing in order not tojeopardize the integrity of the marine ecosystems, and rationaland sustainable utilization of these resources. Conservationmeasures should be designed to maintain or restore populations ofharvested species at levels that can produce the maximumsustainable yield.

Conservation measures should not discriminate against the fishersof any State. Conservation measures should be: concerned with thewhole stock as a biological unit in its entire area ofdistribution; designed so as to take due regard to the rights ofother States; consistent within the areas of nationaljurisdiction and those applicable beyond; and based on the bestscientific advice available, taking into account the levels ofacceptable uncertainty. The effects of natural and human-inducedenvironmental changes should also be taken into account. Researchshould be impartial and transparent, with a multi-speciesapproach, and data collection should be harmonized with a view toimproving the collection and the timely dissemination of accurateand complete statistical data relating to catches includingbycatches. Precautionary management does not automaticallyrequire moratoria or any other unnecessarily restrictive measure.

Part II outlines guidelines for international cooperation. AllStates should cooperate with each other in conservation andmanagement of the stocks. International fisheries organizationsshall be open, on a non-discriminatory basis, to all Statesinterested in exploitation of the stocks. Only States thatcooperate in the decision-making of regional or subregionalfisheries organizations should have access to regulated fishstocks in specified areas. States that are not party to anexisting organization should be invited to join, and States thatdo not join an organiztion are not discharged from the obligationto cooperate in the conservation and management of the stocks.States should try to achieve consistency between conservation andmanagement measures applicable within the areas of nationaljurisdiction and those applicable beyond those areas. Adequateassistance, including scientific and technological cooperation,should be provided to developing countries to enable them tofulfill their obligations relating to the conservation andmanagement of the fish stocks concerned.


Informal meetings will continue today. The first item on theagenda is expected to be dispute settlement. It is likely thatNandan will distribute a new paper on this subject to guidediscussion.

During yesterday's session, Nandan explained how he would like toproceed. The following subjects still need to be discussed ingreater detail: dispute settlement, port State responsibilities,aspects of monitoring, control, and surveillance (includingcompliance and enforcement), and compatibility betweenconservation measures in EEZs and on the high seas. As this lastissue (Item VIII in A/CONF.164/10) has not yet been discussed inPlenary, it is likely that Plenary will reconvene on Friday toaddress it.

If possible, Nandan would like to provide a text at the end ofthis three-week session. This way delegates can take it back totheir capitals and, thus, be able to move forward faster at thenext meeting. Look for further discussion in the corridors and inthe conference room on the Chair's proposed work plan today asdelegates grapple with its implications, especially the need foradditional sessions.


National governments
Negotiating blocs
African Union
Non-state coalitions