Daily report for 15 March 1994

2nd Session of the FSA

The informal session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocksand Highly Migratory Fish Stocks resumed on Tuesday morning. It wassuggested that consideration of the precautionary approach tofisheries management, as detailed under Section I, paragraph 5 bedelayed until after the convening of the working group, scheduledfor 16-18 March. The informal session then proceeded to examineSection II of the Chair's negotiating text.


Once again the question of the consistency of conservation measurestaken on the high seas and within the EEZs pitched distant waterfishing States against coastal States. It was suggested that eitherthe reference to the "high seas" be deleted or a provision be addedreferring to the measures taken "within the EEZ of the coastalStates". Some coastal States expressed their displeasure at hearinga point discussed on Monday being raised again. It was also notedthat UNCED provisions refer expressly to high seas fisheries. Adelegate reminded the Conference that UNCLOS and its provisions onEEZs are not to be renegotiated, but agreement facilitated on moreeffective and practical implementation arrangements. It is alreadyaccepted that coastal States and distant water fishing Statesshould cooperate, but what needs to be established is the level ofcooperation.

The debate then moved on to a thorough examination of Section II onregional and sub-regional organizations. A delegate stated that theproblem is that the mandate of this Conference is to look at howcooperation has been carried out in practice, but it is unclear howthis has been done.

Section II does not illustrate how successful the regionalorganizations have been over the past 12 years or what conservationand management problems have arisen. It was argued that the keyparagraph is paragraph 7 on cooperation, but it was unclear whetherits application would be on the high seas or in the EEZs. Adelegate asked whether the area referred to is taken in the contextof data gathering or applicability of conservation measures.

Reference to States acting in good faith was seen by some assuperfluous, while others argued for its retention. This paragraphshould include a provision on the special interests of coastalStates.

In paragraph 12, it was felt that reference should be made to thoseStates that do not cooperate and to the extent of any cooperation,as opposed to simple participation in the regional fishingagreements.

On paragraph 13 and the accession of new entrants, one delegatestated that incentives might need to be given to ensure that newentrants join the regional agreements, and this might be to thedetriment of those that already belong to the regionalorganizations. Some of the provisions proposed in the documentL.11/Rev.1 were suggested as being more acceptable alternativelanguage. One delegate said that Section II is a good basis fornegotiation, but more emphasis should be given to measures taken atthe global level and complimented Greenpeace in their initiatives.

It was suggested that paragraph 13(d) needed some furtherreflection, and the reference to historical fishing patterns shouldbe replaced by "the fishing practices of the non-party". Paragraph13(e) was seen by many as too vague, and appropriate alternativelanguages were suggested.

With reference to paragraph 14, alternative stronger language wassuggested that would place more obligation on States to enter intoagreements or arrangements. This would then reflect the moreassertive action that needs to be taken.

The debate drifted once more to the scope of application of theConference, and one delegate suggested that the issue be addressedhead-on and that a specific paragraph be devoted to the matter. Therepresentative of a coastal State said that distant water fishingStates wanted to delete references to the high seas because theirown coastal waters are not under threat, but that they would feeland react very differently if their own sovereign rights werethreatened. A delegate reflected on the absence of uniformreference to the need for cooperative scientific research on thehigh seas and how, while scientific knowledge was desirable, it wasoften not attainable by developing coastal States because of heavyfinancial costs. He reserved the right to tender, under thissection, a specific paragraph on this matter in a future session.

On paragraph 15, one distant water fishing State suggestedsub-paragraphs (a) and (b) could perhaps be combined or,alternatively, (b) separated out from close proximity to (a). Onedelegate suggested that the title of Section II might be bettercalled "Principles for International Cooperation".


The Chair opened the afternoon informal session with anannouncement that the programme of work will be changed and thatthe working groups will be scheduled as informal meetings of thePlenary. This agreement was acceptable to all delegates and theChair then called for comments on Section III that deals with theactual measures to be taken by the regional fisheries managementorganizations or arrangements.

With reference to paragraph 18(d) on the collection of statisticaldata, a delegate said that measures should apply both on the highseas and within EEZs. Since some still have reservations on Annex1, it was felt that the reference to it at this point wasinappropriate. The representative of a developing State highlightedthe fact that failures to fulfill the required commitments are notaddressed. The different capabilities of developing States shouldalso be taken into consideration. One representative argued thatStates can undertake to do their best, but there is no absoluteguarantee in the field. It was also suggested that scientificcommittees be set up to help in that matter. The text should alsoexplain whether the measures apply to straddling stocks, highlymigratory stocks, or both.

There was heated debate on whether new entrants should be"deterred" or "discouraged" from undermining the effectiveness ofthe measures, as mentioned in paragraph 18(i). The provision onquotas and limitations on fishing efforts in paragraph 18(a) shouldbe qualified with the phrase "as appropriate". A delegate insistedthat the word "timely" should be added to the provision on thesettlement of disputes, since this has been a problem in already-existing organizations. The question of whether theseprocedures should be binding is still in dispute.

Paragraph 19 on semi-enclosed and enclosed seas refers to therelevant provisions of UNCLOS and a delegate expressed his concernsince UNCLOS has not yet come into force. Another State answeredthat the deletion here would be impossible or would need to becarried out everywhere in the text. It was also argued that coastalStates should establish total allowable catches (TAC). A referencewas made to the alternative draft in L.11/Rev.1.

Paragraph 21 calls for the participation of intergovernmental andnon-governmental organizations, and some felt that theirparticipation should be left to the discretion of the regionalorganizations themselves. Minimum standards could be set up for theacceptance of these organizations. Another delegate was of the viewthat these provisions should be strengthened, and that the word"should" be replaced with "shall".

A delegate denounced strongly the attempts by distant water fishingStates to undermine the content of the text. He reminded thedelegates that the situation is dramatic and that it can not beallowed to continue. NGO representatives highlighted the plight oftraditional fishers and called for their special interests to betaken into consideration. They also insisted that an ecosystemsapproach needs to be respected.


One of the smaller conference rooms was the venue late Mondaynight, for a meeting of the Like-Minded States Grouping who supportthe "core group" consisting of Canada, Iceland, New Zealand,Argentina and Chile. Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,Brian Tobin, addressed the meeting. This was the first meeting ofthe Like-Minded members since the conclusion of the firstsubstantive session in July 1993 and 17 Like-Minded membersattended. This is in contrast to a membership that peaked withover 60 supporting States late last year. The make-up of the coregroup of individual delegations has changed since last year.Ambassador Gudmundur Eiriksson of Iceland has been replaced at thissession of the Conference by Counsellor Kristinn Arnason. Canada'sdelegation is headed by Bob Applebaum, Head of the Department ofFisheries and Oceans, following the recent resignation ofAmbassador Randolph Gherson. The membership of the Like-Minded coregroup has now increased to seven with Norway and Peru acceding.Leading the Peruvian delegation is Ambassador AlfonsoArias-Schreiber, a veteran of Law of the Sea negotiations.


There was little reaction yesterday to the soon- to-be-releasedSwedish Conference Room Paper. Some delegates quietly confidedthat this Conference has as its heart the legal framework of theLaw of the Sea and, consequently, issues of environment anddevelopment should not receive the attention that the Swedishdelegation seeks by promoting direct reference to the Commission onSustainable Development. Some delegates doubted that the CSD wouldhave either the time or the expertise to deal with the high seasfishing portfolio. This, however, could be seen as being incontradiction with Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 that calls specificallyfor the convening of this Conference.

An alternative approach, suggested by the US at a recent meeting ofthe Pacific Rim countries in Beijing, is currently receivinginformal attention. Under this approach, a five-point plan wouldseek to adopt a set of guidelines and recommendations; the UNGeneral Assembly would adopt a Declaration; all fisheriesorganizations (regional and subregional) would be required toreview treaties and operational practices, amending them inconformity with the guidelines and principles; an annual reportwould be delivered to the General Assembly; and a special review offisheries organizations scheduled for 1997. The Declaration wouldbe non-binding and thus falling substantially short of what manycoastal States are now striving for.


INFORMAL-INFORMAL SESSION: As a result of consultations withdelegates, the Chair has now modified the Programme of Work. Manydeveloping States had expressed the concern that they would not beable to attend the parallel working group on the precautionaryapproach. The Chair suggested that the matter be examined inConference Room 2 in "Informal-Informals" to ensure the widestparticipation on this important point. A representative of the FAOis expected to give introductory remarks after which delegates willthen comment on the FAO document (A/CONF.164/INF/8).Informal-informals will be convened every morning through Friday.Depending on the results of these informals, a meeting of expertsmay be convened that will then report to the Conference. Some ofthe recommendations of the experts may later be incorporated in thefinal document.

The FAO document states that "the Precautionary Approach propoundscaution in all aspects of fishery activities: in applied fisheryresearch, and in management and development. It can be easilytranslated into a 'tool box' of precautionary measures among whichappropriate ones can be selected for different situations". This'tool box' would be consistent with the internationally-agreedprinciples of sustainable development and those of responsiblefishing practices.

INFORMAL PLENARY: An informal session of Plenary will resumethis afternoon to continue consideration of the Chair's negotiatingtext. It is expected that the Conference will discuss Section IV onduties of the flag State and possibly matters of compliance andenforcement on the high seas.

NGO ACTIVITIES: NGOs are expected to continue their effortsto promote a strengthening of the precautionary approach principleas outlined in the text. Greenpeace, the IUCN and WWF (supported bythe National Audubon Society and the Alaskan Marine ConservationCouncil) have submitted comprehensive papers on the subject andheld a briefing session for delegates last night. NGOs hope thatthese papers will build upon and strengthen the FAO document.


Non-state coalitions