Curtain raiser

3rd Session of the FSA


The third substantive session of the UN Conference on StraddlingFish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks begins today and willcontinue until August 26, 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 among 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 co-operation 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.

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 would 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.

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 withpapers submitted 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. A Like-Minded-States core-group consisting of Argentina,Canada, Chile, Iceland and New Zealand tabled a draft Convention onthe Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks andHighly Migratory Fish Stocks on the High Seas (A/CONF.164/L.11). Atthe conclusion of the session, the Chair tabled a draft negotiatingtext to serve as the basis for negotiation at the next session ofthe Conference.

The second session of the Conference met from 14-31 March 1994 atUN Headquarters in New York. The delegates continued debate leftunresolved at the end of the previous session and their review ofthe Chair's negotiating text (A/CONF.164/13*). This session of theConference began with general statements and then convened ininformal negotiations until the end of the second week wheninformal-informals were held to attempt to prepare a new "clean"version of the text. These closed sessions were held until themiddle of the third week. The Plenary resumed briefly in the middleof the second week when the Chair briefed the Conference onprogress made during closed sessions. On the final day of theConference, the Chair produced a new version of his negotiatingtext (A/CONF.164/13/Rev.1), while like-minded States tabled thetext of a new draft convention (A/CONF.164/L.11/Rev.1). The mostcontentious issues included the compatibility and coherence betweennational measures and those taken by regional and otherarrangements, the concept of biological unity of stocks, settlementof disputes, and matters of surveillance and enforcement.


On 16 November 1993, Guyana became the 60th State to ratify the UNConvention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Consequently, theConvention will come into force on 16 November 1994. While 64States have acceded to the Convention, Iceland is the onlydeveloped State to have ratified it, and many felt that Part XI ofUNCLOS, which deals with deep seabed mining, needed to bere-drafted. Negotiations were held and an "Agreement Relating tothe Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention onthe Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982" (the "Agreement") wasadopted by the resumed session of the General Assembly on July 29,1994. The Agreement in no way affects the provisions of UNCLOS thatdeal with the management of marine living resources, but majorindustrialized nations such as the US, Germany, Canada and Republicof Korea, as well as the EU, have either signed or announced theirintention to sign the Agreement. UNCLOS will therefore come intoforce and bind many more countries than it did prior to theAgreement.


SWEDISH PROPOSAL: Sweden's proposal to create anInter-Governmental Negotiating Committee (INC), A/CONF.164/L.39 of16 March 1994, received little attention during the intersessionalperiod. The proposal remains on the table for further, if any,consideration, during this session of the Conference. There areindications that a "middle ground" position may be secured duringthis session and thus go some way towards meeting the requirementsof the Swedish proposal, without creating a special INC.

ECUADOR PROPOSAL: Ecuador's working paper for a "DraftConvention on the Conservation and Management of Straddling FishStocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks on the High Seas",A/CONF.164/L.44 of 28 March 1994, tabled in Spanish and Englishduring the final day of the Plenary session in March, appears tohave received little consideration during the intersessionalperiod. The document, re-issued for technical reasons asA/CONF.164/L.44*, is now available in all languages. Look forfurther reference to this document by the west coast South AmericanStates during this session.

THE BUENOS AIRES MEETING: The Like-Minded core group,consisting of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Iceland, New Zealand,Norway and Peru, together with Sweden, Japan, Papua New Guinea, theEU, the South Pacific Forum, the Russian Federation and the UnitedStates, met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in June 1994. Thisintersessional meeting considered the Chair's revised negotiatingtext (A/CONF.164/13/Rev.1) as well as the major differences betweencoastal States and flag States on questions of compatibility anddispute settlement. Additionally, the Like-Minded core-group metseparately to evaluate how the draft might later be transformedinto convention language. Argentina's Council for InternationalRelations hosted a parallel international seminar on the Adoptionof an Effective Regime for the Conservation of Living Resources inthe Area Adjacent to the Exclusive Economic Zone. Legal expertsfrom Canada, Chile, Iceland, Norway, Peru, USA, the FAO, andnational and international institutions attended from 7-9 June 1994in Buenos Aires. Conference Chair Satya Nandan attended. The"Buenos Aires Declaration" was adopted on 9 June 1994 and supportsthe efforts of the international community for the establishment ofan effective regime for the conservation and management of theseresources.


In the intersessional period, NGO consultative activity hascontinued with detailed examination of the Chair's revisednegotiating text. The Second Conference on the Management of MarineProtected Areas held in Halifax during May issued "The HalifaxDeclaration", calling for the establishment of Marine ProtectedAreas for the Preservation of Critical Habitats and TransboundaryResources. Look for the promotion of marine protected areas duringconsideration of the Chair's revised negotiating text.

The Canadian Oceans Caucus hosted an NGO workshop from 10-12 Augustin Halifax. Other attendees included the International Collectivein Support of Fishworkers and southern-based NGOs. Look forcirculation of the workshop's declaration and NGO statements on theChair's revised negotiating text.

At the invitation of FAO's Dr. Krone, NGOs submitted comments onthe proposed International Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishingin April. NGOs will make further presentations to Dr. Krone duringa special meeting of this session on 22 August.


Paul Lapointe, recently appointed as Canada's special Ambassadorfor Fisheries, will lead the Canadian delegation at this session ofthe Conference. As a veteran of the Law of the Sea negotiations, hereplaces Randolph Gherson who retired this year.


Documents for this session include: A/CONF.164/L.32/Add.1 submittedby the Russian Federation that proposes a definition of the term"Adjacent area", and A/CONF.164/L.46 submitted by the RussianFederation detailing an expanded and revised list of the mainstraddling species.


PLENARY: The Conference will open at 10:30 am in ConferenceRoom 2, following a meeting of the Bureau. Conference Chair, SatyaNandan, is expected to present opening remarks, and reflect onintersessional activities. The Chair should move immediately to thefirst item of business, the adoption of the agenda for thissession. Nandan is expected to give an overview of the programme ofwork for the coming two weeks and may reflect on pros and cons ofthe various methods to follow during the meeting. Canada's Ministerfor Fisheries, Brian Tobin, and Norway's Minister of Fisheries, JanHenry P. Olsen, are expected to make key speeches. Otherdelegations expected to make general statements include the EU, theUK and the US.

NGO ACTIVITIES: A caucus group of NGOs consisting ofCanadian Oceans Caucus, Greenpeace, International Collective inSupport of Fishworkers, Natural Resources Defense Council, andWorld Wildlife Fund, with support from representatives of a numberof southern-based international fishworkers organizations, willhold a press briefing at 9:30 am on the 10th Floor of the UN ChurchCenter. The briefing will focus on the worsening global fisheriescrisis and proposed solutions to address overfishing practices.Look for documents recommending alternative language to the Chair'srevised negotiating text.

IN THE CORRIDORS: Some delegates are indicating that theBuenos Aires intersessional meeting in June narrowed the divergenceof views on substantive issues between the coastal States and thedistant water fishing States, with the United States nowrecognizing the need for a legally binding convention. A number ofthe South Pacific States are believed to share a similar view. FlagStates are believed to be increasingly cognizant of the concerns ofcoastal States. There is hope among delegates that a "middleground" position will be attainable during this session, enablingthe Chair to prepare a draft convention before the conclusion ofthe two-week session. Even if this were possible, some delegatespoint out that one further session will be necessary that could beheld in March 1995, with the possibility of a concluding session inthe summer of 1995.


National governments
Negotiating blocs
European Union
Non-state coalitions