Daily report for 14 March 1994
2nd Session of the FSA
The first meeting of the second substantive session of the UnitedNations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly MigratoryFish Stocks opened yesterday at UN Headquarters in New York. TheConference is expected to make progress towards an internationalagreement on the conservation and management of fish stocks ininternational waters. Negotiations will center on the draft textprepared by the Chair of the Conference, Satya Nandan, at theconclusion of the first substantive session held during July 1993.
Nandan opened the first Plenary Session by highlighting thehardships that will need to be overcome if a durable solution tothe current fisheries crises is to be attained. He insisted thatany solution will need to fall within the framework of UNCLOS,especially in view of its entry into force at the end of the year.He informed delegates of the developments that occurred since theend of the previous session. An FAO Agreement to Promote Compliancewith International Conservation and Management Measures by FishingVessels on the High Seas was adopted that will enter into forceupon the receipt by FAO of the twenty-fifth instrument ofacceptance. The work of the FAO on an International Code of Conducton Responsible Fishing has commenced and ad hocconsultations were held on the role of regional fisheries agenciesin relation to high seas fisheries statistics.
PROGRAMME OF WORK: Nandan said that delegates will have achance to deliver general statements on the text and the Conferencewill then convene in informal sessions during the first week toconsider the text section by section. In the second week, theConference will concentrate on the key outstanding issues with aview to resolving them. If sufficient progress has been made, arevised text, issued by the end of the second week, will then beconsidered during the remaining days of the last week. Twoopen-ended technical working groups will also be heldsimultaneously with the Plenary dealing with the application ofprecautionary approaches and reference points to fisheriesmanagement. At the beginning of the second week, the question ofthe form of the final document will need to be addressed.
Hans Corell, the new counsel for the UN Office of Legal Affairs,said that UNCLOS provides the right framework in which to assessthe problems and consider the means to address them. He alsoinsisted that the interests of both the coastal States and thedistant water fishing States have to be taken into consideration.
The European Union stated that there is no alternative tocooperation. He stressed the role of regional fisheriesorganizations and said that the multilateral approach isirreplaceable in carrying out the conservation of straddling fishstocks and highly migratory fish stocks.
Peru said that States cannot simply formulate recommendations atthe Conference. The mandate is to adopt binding and efficientmeasures for conservation and management on the high seas.
Canada's statement was made by Fisheries and Oceans Minister, BrianTobin, who said that Canada will not allow flag of conveniencefishing vessels to profit from the conservation measures currentlyin place. He said that while the Law of the Sea provides a goodfoundation for fisheries management practices, it now needs to bebuilt upon by agreeing on a high seas fisheries conventionrecognizing precautionary approaches, binding and compulsorydispute settlement mechanisms, compliance of internationally agreedconservation measures and the special interests of the coastalStates.
Korea said the Conference should be fully consistent with UNCLOSand that cooperation should take place within regional frameworksrecognizing the biological unity of fish stocks. Korea preferred anon-binding instrument.
Argentina stated that the uncontrolled situation of high seasfishing had a direct impact on straddling stocks. Conservation andmanagement practices can be started before a binding instrument isachieved.
Japan argued that the present process should not include any newconcepts or rights that go beyond the provisions of UNCLOS.Measures taken within the coastal State's jurisdiction should notbe applicable to States fishing on the high seas until aninternational agreement is concluded and fishing and coastal Statesshould participate on an equal footing. A cautious approach shouldbe taken by the regional organizations but this should not lead tomoratoria in the absence of scientific evidence. The distinctionbetween straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocksshould also be recognized and enforcement on the high seas shouldbe left to the flag States.
China explained that a degree of compatibility needs to bemaintained between measures taken within EEZs and on the adjacenthigh seas, that enforcement on the high seas by States other thanthe flag State should be limited to boarding and inspection andthat the outcome of the Conference should not be legally binding inorder to avoid some difficult legal issues.
The United States strongly supported the ecosystem approach tomaintain associated species, the precautionary approach inconservation and management issues, emphasized the need forregional and subregional cooperation, and recognized the need forassistance to help meet the needs of developing countries. Areas inthe text needing additional work include looking at straddling fishstocks and highly migratory fish stocks throughout the whole rangeof distribution, recognizing biological and legal distinctionsbetween the stocks as in UNCLOS, and giving more balance to thesection in the draft on compatibility and coherence.
Samoa, speaking on behalf of the Forum Fisheries Agency, said thatthe Conference should address flag State responsibility. The textshould emphasize the special requirements of developing countriesand Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Ecuador objected to any attempt to open the Law of the SeaConvention. The Conference aims are limited and clear-cut with aneed for coherent management on the high seas.
The Russian Federation said the basic text should define thespecific features of highly migratory fish stocks and straddlingfish stocks.
FAO said that they have prepared two papers for the Conference andhad convened a working group from 25 countries to consider theInternational Code of Conduct on Responsible Fishing for cirulationat the Conference.
A representative of Greenpeace said that measures should be takenregardless of whether the fishing impacts occur on the high seas orin EEZs, and that a precautionary approach should be the strongfoundation of the measures taken. The social dimension of fisheriesalso needs to be taken into consideration. A legally bindingdocument should be the outcome of this process.
The matter of compatibility and coherence gave rise to dissent andwas seen by some as the question of the balance between sovereignrights of the coastal States and the freedom to fish on the highseas. It was agreed that coastal States and distant fishing Stateshave a duty to cooperate to achieve effective management. Theextent of this cooperation was unclear and led to a lengthy debateon whether references in the text to "on the high seas" should bedeleted. Distant water fishing States wanted this provision takenout because biological unity of the stock is a fact while coastalStates saw this proposal as an attempt to renege on their sovereignrights within their own EEZs. It was also seen as a"re-interpretation of UNCLOS". In any event, it was agreed thatsome of the terms would need to be defined with greater care.
References to the concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) weredeemed inappropriate by some who suggested its replacement with theconcept of Optimal Sustainable Yield (OSY). FAO was suggested as apossible institution where no regional organization has been setup.
It was mentioned that the text could be re-organized along thelines of document L.11/Rev.1, with stronger prescriptive measuresand a number of minimum standards that would need to be respectedin all circumstances. Some distant water fishing States argued thatthese would be limited because the measures would need to beadapted to the particularities of each fishery.
A delegate warned against granting too many special rights todeveloping countries and recommended measures to indicate thatspecial access requires sustainable fishing. The provisions on thecollection of data proved controversial. A delegate pointed to theFAO document as reflecting the willingness of the regionalorganizations to receive appropriate data, but does not express thewillingness of fishing States to provide this information.
IN THE CORRIDORS:
Talk in the corridors centered on how different the presentnegotiations are in comparison to other post-UNCED meetings onenvironment and development matters. Many aspects of this sessionpoint to a lack of connectedness with advances made during theUNCED process, especially in the relationship between NGOs andgovernment delegates, and in particular with precedents establishedover the last several years regarding NGO attendance at informalsessions and provisions for NGO interventions. Some participantsfeel that this situation has occurred since governments have sentrepresentatives familiar with the legal aspects of the problem andnot those familiar with environment and development issues.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY AT THE CONFERENCE
INFORMAL PLENARY: Discussions should continue throughout theday as governments move section by section through the Chair'snegotiating draft. Work will begin on paragraph 5, thePrecautionary Approach. Look for specific comments on mechanismsfor international cooperation, regional fisheries managementorganizations or arrangements, duties of the flag States andcompliance and enforcement by flag States.
IN THE CORRIDORS: Look for talk in the corridors on Sweden'snew Conference Room Paper. This paper includes elements for apossible draft instrument on Conservation and Management ofStraddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks Compatiblewith Sustainable Development. Notable elements of this draft textinclude: regional cooperation on fisheries; the CSD as the properforum for follow-up to Agenda 21 provisions on marine livingresources; and convening every four years of a Conference ofFisheries Ministers to prepare for regular CSD reviews.
NGO ACTIVITIES: NGOs will have an information- sharingsession each morning at 9:00 am in Conference Room E. TheInternational Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) andGreenpeace International will host a press briefing in ConferenceRoom E at 2:15 pm.