Curtain raiser

5th Session of the FSA

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONFERENCE

The problems associated with high seas fisheries management are not new to the UNsystem. Participants at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)were well aware of the issue; however, attempts to deal with it during the course ofthe ten years of negotiations that concluded in 1982 were not successful. Thenegotiators decided to leave such problems to be resolved between States concernedwith high seas fisheries at the regional and subregional level. During recent years thepressures on high seas fisheries brought about by systematic and sustained over-fishingpractices have grown considerably. The problem of global over-fishing has become aninternational responsibility requiring urgent resolve.

A number of events in the early 1990s indicated that an international conferenceshould be convened to resolve issues related to high seas fisheries. One forum wherethis was discussed was the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on theEnvironment and Development (UNCED). After long and difficult negotiations,participants at the Earth Summit in Rio agreed to 'convene an intergovernmentalconference under UN auspices with a view to promoting effective implementation ofthe provisions of the Law of the Sea on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks'.

The resolution establishing the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and HighlyMigratory Fish Stocks (47/192) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 22December 1992. The resolution states that the Conference, drawing on scientific andtechnical studies by FAO, should: identify and assess existing problems related to theconservation and management of straddling fish stocks (SFS) and highly migratoryfish stocks (HMFS); consider means of improving fisheries cooperation among States;and formulate appropriate recommendations. The resolution also stipulated that theConference should complete its work 'as early as possible'.

ORGANIZATIONAL SESSION

The organizational session for the Conference was held at UN Headquarters in NewYork from 19-23 April 1993. The participants adopted the rules of procedure andagenda, appointed a Credentials Committee, and agreed on how its substantive workwould be carried out. Satya N. Nandan (Fiji) was elected Chair of the Conference.Nandan was asked to prepare a paper containing a list of substantive subjects andissues as a guide for the Conference, and delegations were requested to submit theirproposals to the Secretariat.

FIRST SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

The first substantive session of the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and HighlyMigratory Fish Stocks met from 12-30 July 1993 at UN Headquarters in New York.The Plenary addressed the major issues before it, guided by the Chair's summary. ThePlenary held formal sessions on each of the issues outlined and then adjourned toallow informal consultations to continue. At each of these informal meetings, Nandanpresented the group with a working paper that summarized the issues raised in thePlenary and in papers submitted by interested delegations.

The major issues discussed at the first session were: the nature of conservation andmanagement measures to be established through cooperation; the mechanisms forinternational cooperation; regional fisheries management organizations orarrangements; flag State responsibilities; compliance and enforcement of high seasfisheries management measures; responsibilities of port States; non-parties to asubregional or regional agreement or arrangement; dispute settlement; compatibilityand coherence between national and international conservation measures for the samestocks; special requirements of developing countries; review of the implementation ofconservation and management measures; and minimum data requirements for theconservation and management of these stocks. At the conclusion of the session, theChair tabled a draft negotiating text (A/CONF.164/13) that served as the basis fornegotiation at the second substantive session of the Conference.

SECOND SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

The second substantive session of the Conference met from 14-31 March 1994 at UNHeadquarters in New York. The delegates continued debate left unresolved at the endof the previous session and their review of the Chair's negotiating text(A/CONF.164/13*).

The first day of the Conference consisted of general statements and the Conferencethen convened in informals until the end of the second week when informal-informalswere held in an attempt to prepare a new 'clean' version of the text. These sessions,which were closed to NGOs, were held until the middle of the third week. As a result,five out of fourteen days of negotiation were carried out behind closed doors. On thefinal day of the Conference, the Chair produced his Revised Negotiating Text (RNT)in document A/CONF.164/13/Rev.1.

THIRD SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

The third substantive session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks andHighly Migratory Fish Stocks was held at UN Headquarters in New York from 15-26August 1994. During the first week delegates reviewed the Chair's RNT. Generalcomments were delivered in the Plenary and consultations were carried out ininformal-informals. During the second week, the Chair issued a Draft Agreement forthe Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law ofthe Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management ofStraddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (the 'Draft Agreement'),based on the comments that delegates had made on the RNT. Informal consultationson the most difficult issues were then carried out between the Chair and interesteddelegations. Delegates reacted to the text and the last version of the Draft Agreementwas issued in document A/CONF.164/22 before the Conference adjourned.

FOURTH SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

The fourth substantive session of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks andHighly Migratory Fish Stocks was held at UN Headquarters in New York from 27March until 12 April 1995. General statements were delivered in the Plenary followedby informal Plenary negotiations on the Chair's Draft Agreement A/CONF.164/22.Two contentious articles, Article 14 dealing with high seas enclaves and Article 20dealing with compliance and enforcement, were considered in informal consultationsbut considerable disagreement on changes to the text remained. The Chair circulated arevised text of his Draft Agreement contained in two conference room papers(A/CONF.164/CRP.6 and A/CONF.164/CRP.6/Add.1) to a reconvened Plenary duringthe second week of negotiations, but delegates were reluctant to enter into anynegotiation on the Chair's revised text. At the beginning of the third week acomposite and speedy review of the Chair's revised text was thwarted by somedelegates' lengthy interventions. Further discussion in Plenary was canceled andadditionally the Chair suspended all other informal consultations. Plenary reconvenedon the final morning when delegates collected the Chair's Revised Draft Agreementcontained in document A/CONF.164/22/Rev.1, which was available in all languages.The Revised Draft Agreement consists of 12 Parts containing 48 Articles and 2Annexes. General statements were made on the Revised Draft Agreement immediatelyprior to the closure of the fourth substantive session.

THE INTERSESSIONAL PERIOD

A handful of 'selected' coastal State and DWFN delegates met in Washington inJune 1995. Among those in attendance were Argentina, Canada, the EU, Japan, Koreaand New Zealand. The meeting considered problems arising from the Chair's RevisedDraft Agreement text on Article 21 that deals with regional agreements andarrangements for compliance and enforcement.

WASHINGTON DC MEETING

A handful of 'selected' coastal State and DWFN delegates met in Washington inJune 1995. Among those in attendance were Argentina, Canada, the EU, Japan, Koreaand New Zealand. The meeting considered problems arising from the Chair's RevisedDraft Agreement text on Article 21 that deals with regional agreements andarrangements for compliance and enforcement.

NEW YORK MEETING

Three days of 'pre-session' consultations were held at UN Headquarters in New Yorkfrom 19-21 July. The meeting was attended by approximately 20 delegations withrepresentations from the core-group of like-minded coastal States that now includesIndonesia. Delegations representing the DWFN caucus included China, the EU, Japanand Korea. The South Pacific Forum Fishery Agency was represented. Other coastalState delegations included Australia, Mauritania and Senegal. This pre-sessionalactivity focused on the circulation of 'non-paper' prepared by the US delegation onArticle 21 dealing with compliance and enforcement. Two alternative texts werepresented by the EU and Japan. At the invitation of the Chair, GreenpeaceInternational, on behalf of a number of NGOs, made a statement. No other NGOparticipation was permitted. NGOs were denied access as observers.

NGO ACTIVITIES

There were no NGO round tables or seminars specifically dealing with theConference.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

The Conference will open at 10:30 am in Conference Room 2. Conference Chair,Satya Nandan, is expected to present opening remarks, and reflect on intersessionalactivities. The Chair should then move to the first item of business, the adoption of theagenda for this session. Nandan is expected to give an overview of the programme ofwork for the coming two weeks. Canada's Minister of Fisheries, the Hon. BrianTobin, and J. Almeida Serra of the European Union are expected to make keyspeeches. Other delegations expected to make general statements include Australia,Japan, Poland, Russia and the US.

PLENARY

The Conference will open at 10:30 am in Conference Room 2. Conference Chair,Satya Nandan, is expected to present opening remarks, and reflect on intersessionalactivities. The Chair should then move to the first item of business, the adoption of theagenda for this session. Nandan is expected to give an overview of the programme ofwork for the coming two weeks. Canada's Minister of Fisheries, the Hon. BrianTobin, and J. Almeida Serra of the European Union are expected to make keyspeeches. Other delegations expected to make general statements include Australia,Japan, Poland, Russia and the US.

NGO ACTIVITIES

A caucus group of NGOs consisting of the World Wide Fund for Nature, GreenpeaceInternational, Natural Resources Defense Council, International Collective in Supportof Fishworkers and the Environmental Defense Fund will deliver a press briefing at10:00 am on the 10th Floor of the Church Centre at 777 UN Plaza. The briefing willfocus on the deepening global fisheries crisis and will also critique the Chair'sRevised Draft Agreement. Notice of a NGO declaration to be presented at thismorning's Plenary will be given. Look for the NGO Declaration supported by 78NGO signatories. Look also for NGO documents recommending alternative languageto the Chair's Revised Draft Agreement. NGO representatives will continue theirconsultations in Conference Room A for the duration of this session.

IN THE CORRIDORS

Some delegates are indicating that last week's three days of 'closed doors'intersessional has narrowed the divergence of views on Article 21 dealing withenforcement. A US 'non-paper' on Article 21, promoted from the Washington DCworkshop attended by a handful of invitees, resulted in two alternative proposals to besubmitted by the EU and Japan during the 3 day intersessional. Although somedelegates expressed annoyance at not being invited to the Washington workshop, theUS 'non-paper' has acted as a catalyst in attempting to seek a 'middle ground'position. Discussion on Article 21 continued late into Friday night, but without fullcoverage of the 'non-paper'.

Look for a circulation of a revised text on Article 21 and circulation of a functionaldefinition of 'arrangement' either in the form of separate conference room papers orcontained in a complete revision of the Chair's Revised Draft Agreement. Article 14on high seas enclaves remains a contentious issue for some coastal States and DWFNsand it is unclear whether a convergence of views will be attainable. At least oneDWFN is believed to find the Chair's revised text completely unacceptable. Look forfurther reference to the Sea of Okhotsk.

This final negotiating session has effectively been extended by one week as delegateswrestled with proposals for alternative text for Article 21. Some delegates question whether two weeks is sufficient time in which to harmonize text prior to theconclusion of the session. Look for continued caucusing by the larger like-mindedgroup of coastal States. Other delegates have remarked that any delays of time willcause the Chair to convene special working groups to hammer out remainingdifficulties, as the Chair's preference is for a consensus document to materialize. Evenif the text can be harmonized, delegates concede that it will be impossible to open the'Agreement' for signature on the final day. Look for details on a separate signingceremony that is expected towards the end of November or early December 1995.

Participants

Negotiating blocs
European Union
Non-state coalitions
NGOs

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