Curtain raiser

2nd Session of the FSA

The second substantive session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks begins today and willcontinue until 31 March, 1994 at UN Headquarters in New York. Thissession is expected to continue preparations of an internationalagreement on the conservation and management of straddling fishstocks and highly migratory fish stocks.


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 (UNCED). After long anddifficult negotiations, participants at the Earth Summit in Rioagreed to "convene an intergovernmental conference under UNauspices with a view to promoting effective implementation of theprovisions of the Law of the Sea on straddling and highly migratoryfish stocks."

The resolution establishing the Conference on Straddling FishStocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (47/192) was adopted by theUN General 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, later this year.

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 ofthese informal meetings, Nandan presented the group with a workingpaper that summarized the issues raised in the Plenary and paperssubmitted by interested delegations.

The major issues discussed at the first session were: the nature ofconservation and management measures to be established throughcooperation; the mechanisms for international cooperation; regionalfisheries management organizations or arrangements; flag Stateresponsibilities; compliance and enforcement of high seas fisheriesand management measures; responsibilities of port States;non-parties to a subregional or regional agreement or arrangement;dispute settlement; compatibility and coherence between nationaland international conservation measures for the same stocks;special requirements of developing countries; review of theimplementation of conservation and management measures; and minimumdata requirements for the conservation and management of thesestocks. At the conclusion of the session, the Chair tabled a draftnegotiating text that will serve as the basis for negotiation atthis session of the Conference.


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 reviewedthe report of the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and HighlyMigratory Fish Stocks (A/48/479), which contains a summary of theprogress made to date and a copy of the Chair's negotiating text.Jean-Pierre Levy, Director of the Office for Ocean Affairs and theLaw of the Sea, presented the report on the two sessions of theConference. He noted that the results of the Conference should fitwithin the context of the Law of the Sea. He summarized the workduring the Conference's substantive session.

In the debate that followed, Argentina, among others, reiteratedthe belief that the Conference should be consistent with the Law ofthe Sea Convention. Ecuador, Tunisia, and the Republic of Korea allspoke on aspects of regional considerations. Canada supported alegally-binding regime that sets out conservation and managementmeasures for conservation of fish stocks, surveillance and controlof fishing practices, an enforcement regime and compulsory bindingdispute mechanisms. Papua New Guinea said there is a need forfisheries reform and ecologically sound conservation within EEZsand on the high seas. Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of Caricom,along with China, said that there can be no effective globalnetwork to preserve fisheries resources without the fullparticipation of developing countries. Cape Verde 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.


Following the request of the first substantive session the FAO hasproduced two information papers: A/CONF.164/INF/8, "ThePrecautionary Approach with Reference to Straddling Fish Stocks andHighly Migratory Fish Stocks", and A/CONF.164/INF/9, "ReferencePoints for Fisheries Management: Their Potential Application toStraddling and Highly Migratory Resources".

The Precautionary Approach information paper will be consideredover a three-day period in the first week of the session. The paperoutlines the need for recognition of a precautionary approach tofisheries management as well as an interpretation of a possibleframework to establish a precautionary principle.

The Reference Points for Fisheries Management information paperwill be considered over a three-day period during the third week ofthe session.


In the intersessional period, NGO consultative activity hascontinued with detailed examination of the Chair's negotiatingtext. Individual positions have developed, and the structuredoutline of these are likely to be promoted in separate pressconferences during the first two days of the substantive session.


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. The Conference onStraddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks is widely perceived asconsistent with UNCLOS and would benefit greatly from its entryinto force. At present, only one developed State has ratified theLaw of the Sea Convention and negotiations are ongoing to make itmore acceptable to others. Negotiations on the so-called "boatpaper" are being carried out under the supervision of the UNSecretary-General in an attempt to bridge differences between thepioneer States who have invested heavily in deep sea-bed miningtechnology and developing country representatives who want topreserve the deep sea-bed's status as the Common Heritage of Mankind. It is expected that an agreement will be reached in 1994 and a draft resolution could be presented for adoption at the 49thsession of the UN General Assembly.


Documents for this session include: A/CONF.164/INF/8 of 26 January 1994, "The Precautionary approach to fisheries with reference tostraddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks";A/CONF.164/INF/9 of 26 January 1994, "Reference points forfisheries management: their potential application to straddling andhighly migratory resources"; A/CONF.164/INF/10 of 27 January 1994, "Ad Hoc consultation on the role of regionalagencies in relation to high seas fishery statistics"; and A/CONF.164/L.38 of 2 March 1994 "Conceptual approach to theconservation of straddling fish stocks by improving theirmanagement", submitted by the delegation of the Russian Federation.


PLENARY: The Conference will open at 10:00 am. ConferenceChair, Satya Nandan, is expected to present opening remarks,followed by a statement from the new legal counsel for the UNOffice of Legal Affairs, Hans Corell. The Chair should moveimmediately to the first item of business, the adoption of theagenda for this session. Nandan is expected to give an overview ofthe programme of work for the coming three weeks. The Conferencewill then turn to consideration of the FAO papers. It is possiblethat Brian Tobin, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada willmake a key speech today.

NGO ACTIVITIES: A caucus group of North American NGOs willdeliver a press briefing on the 12th floor of the Church Center at10:00 am. Greenpeace and the International Collective ofFishworkers will give their formal press briefing on Tuesday, at avenue to be announced. Look for documents to be circulated inresponse to the Chair's negotiating text, possibly in the form ofan alternative negotiating document. A series of NGO papers shouldalso be available on the principal technical issues of this sessionto include the MSY concept, the Precautionary Approach andPrecautionary Principle. At the conclusion of the first substantivesession, NGOs failed to reach consensus around the core points ofthe Chair's negotiating text. Look for NGOs over the next severaldays to maintain roundtable activities towards reaching a moreconcerted approach.

IN THE CORRIDORS: The Convention for the Conservation ofAntarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) could well play animportant role in this session of the Conference. It is seen bymany as the first international instrument to recognize theimportance of an ecosystems approach. On the one hand, some NGOsdraw upon CCAMLR as an approach that should be replicated in thecurrent process. On the other hand, at the last Conference of Parties, some States expressed their willingness to see CCAMLRparticipate in the Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory FishStocks Conference as a regional organization. Look for some Statesthat are party to CCAMLR to reflect this view in the upcomingdebates.


Non-state coalitions