Summary report, 23–27 May 2016

Resumed UNFSA Review Conference

The Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFSA, or the Agreement) convened from 23-27 May 2016 at UN Headquarters in New York.

The meeting assessed the effectiveness of the Agreement in securing the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, including reviewing the implementation of the recommendations adopted at the Review Conference in 2006 and 2010 and proposed means of further strengthening the substance and methods of implementation of the provisions of the Agreement. Participants also considered, inter alia: a presentation of the report of the 12th round of Informal Consultations of States Parties (ICSP) to the Agreement; and the status of the Assistance Fund.

From Monday to Wednesday, participants convened in plenary to discuss implementation of the recommendations and means of strengthening them. On Thursday morning, President Fábio Hazin (Brazil) shared a draft outcome document that sought to reflect these discussions, particularly on areas where further action might be needed. Delegates discussed this draft text in plenary and in a drafting committee. Participants reached agreement on the outcome document on Friday afternoon.

The outcome document recommends further actions in a number of areas. One key issue addressed was the conservation and management of fish stocks, with participants sharing a range of views including on the application of the precautionary approach to new and exploratory fisheries; marine protected areas (MPAs) and reserves; data collection and information sharing; sharks; and by-catch management and discards. The Conference also agreed to, inter alia: undertake regular performance reviews of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and develop best practice guidelines for conducting performance reviews and implementing their results; enhance the participation of developing states in RFMOs or Arrangements; and promote wider participation in the Agreement, including among non-parties.

The outcome document also provides further guidance on the future of UNFSA-related processes, establishing that the ICSPs would continue and that the formal Review Conference could resume, although not until at least 2020. Participants agreed that the ICSP should be dedicated to the consideration of specific issues arising from the implementation of the Agreement on an annual basis.


The UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, called for by Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, was convened by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address problems related to the harvesting of these stocks on the high seas. Six substantive sessions were held from 1993 to 1995, resulting in the adoption of the UNFSA in August 1995. The UNFSA entered into force on 11 December 2001 and currently has 83 parties.

The UNFSA aims to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, and includes general principles for their conservation and management and provisions on, inter alia: application of the precautionary approach; compatibility of conservation and management measures; cooperation for conservation and management; RFMOs; collection and provision of information and cooperation in scientific research; non-members of RFMOs; duties of, and compliance and enforcement by, flag states; international, subregional and regional cooperation in enforcement; procedures for boarding and inspection; measures taken by port states; special requirements and forms of cooperation with developing countries; and dispute settlement. The Agreement establishes a set of rights and obligations for states to conserve and manage the two types of fish stocks as well as associated and dependent species, and to protect the marine environment.

The UNGA established an associated Assistance Fund under Part VII of the Agreement (the Assistance Fund) in 2003 to assist developing states parties in UNFSA implementation. Following UNGA resolution 56/13, ICSPs have been held at UN Headquarters in New York to consider the regional, subregional and global implementation of the Agreement and prepare for the 2006 Review Conference and the 2010 and 2016 Resumed Review Conferences.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS 2002-2006 (ICSP 1-5): In its first five sessions, all held at UN Headquarters, from 2002-2006, the ICSP focused on various issues, including assistance for developing countries under Part VII (ICSP 1), the Assistance Fund and financial issues (ICSP 2), flag states and implementation at the regional level (ICSP 3), and preparation for the 2006 Review Conference (ICSP 4 and 5).

UNFSA REVIEW CONFERENCE: The Review Conference, which was mandated by Article 36 of the Agreement and by UNGA resolution 59/25, took place from 22-26 May 2006 at UN Headquarters in New York. Delegates assessed the adequacy of the Agreement’s provisions for securing the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, and proposed means to strengthen implementation of its provisions to better address any continuing problems in conservation and management.

The Review Conference concluded with recommendations to, inter alia: integrate ecosystem considerations in fisheries management; reduce urgently the world’s fishing capacity to levels commensurate with the sustainability of fish stocks; strengthening RFMOs’ mandates to implement modern approaches to fisheries; conduct RFMO performance reviews; develop a legally-binding instrument on minimum standards for port state measures and a comprehensive global register of fishing vessels; expand assistance to developing countries; and establish a continuing dialogue to address concerns raised by non-parties.

At the conclusion of the meeting, delegates decided to suspend rather than formally close the Review Conference, thus providing an opportunity for the Conference to resume at a later date. The UNGA subsequently decided in resolutions 63/112 and 64/72 that the Review Conference would resume in 2010.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS 2007-2010 (ICSP 6-9): Following the 2006 Review Conference, the ICSP convened four times. Its focus included: the performance of RFMOs and the control, monitoring and surveillance of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (ICSP 6); non-parties and a follow up to the Review Conference (ICSP 7); wider participation in the Agreement; and initial preparations for the Resumed Review Conference (ICSP 8). ICSP 9 took place from 16-17 March 2010. In accordance with UNGA resolution 64/72, delegates focused on preparing for the Resumed Review Conference. Participants discussed the Secretary-General’s report to the Resumed Review Conference (A/CONF.210/2010/1). They also considered the Resumed Review Conference’s organization of work, draft provisional agenda, Bureau and outputs. In addition, participants considered possible future actions and events after the Resumed Review Conference.

UNFSA RESUMED REVIEW CONFERENCE: The Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement took place from 24-28 May 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York. The Resumed Review Conference focused on three substantive issues: areas in which implementation of recommendations adopted at the Review Conference in 2006 are proceeding well overall; areas in which implementation of recommendations from the 2006 Review Conference are at an early stage or where there has been little progress; and means to further strengthen the substance and methods of implementation of the UNFSA.

The meeting agreed on an outcome document that recommends further actions in a range of areas. A key issue addressed was the conservation and management of fish stocks, including outcomes on sharks, the ecosystem approach, excess fishing capacity, and developing states’ abilities to develop their fisheries. The outcome also addresses mechanisms for international cooperation; monitoring, control and surveillance; compliance and enforcement; and developing countries and non-parties to the UNFSA. In addition, the document provides guidance on the future of the UNFSA process, establishing that the ICSPs would continue and also that the formal Review Conference could resume, although not until at least 2015.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS 2011-2015 (ICSP 10-12): Following the 2010 Resumed Review Conference, the ICSP convened three times, all at UN Headquarters. ICSP 10, which took place from 7-8 April 2014, discussed issues for consideration during the Resumed Review Conference and called for the UN Secretary-General to prepare a report on sustainable fisheries to facilitate the work of the Resumed Review Conference. ICSP 11, which met from 16-17 March 2015, agreed on a draft provisional agenda and draft organization of work for the Resumed Review Conference. ICSP 11 also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the UNFSA by holding a round-table discussion.

ICSP 12 convened from 22-23 March 2016. In accordance with UNGA resolution 70/75, ICSP 12 served primarily as a preparatory meeting for the Resumed Review Conference, adopting the provisional agenda and draft organization of work. Participants also suggested, inter alia: addressing new and emerging challenges, such as the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on the sustainability of fish stocks; and considering the issue of “shark finning” at the Resumed Review Conference, noting that there is not yet an agreed global definition. Delegates called for improving the quality of performance reviews, implementation of recommendations, and coordination and cooperation among RFMOs, among other areas.


On Monday, 23 May, Miguel de Serpa Soares, UN Legal Counsel, on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, opened the meeting. Delegates elected Fábio Hazin (Brazil) as the 2016 Resumed Review Conference president.

President Hazin welcomed the upcoming entry into force of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) and urged delegates to address UNFSA implementation gaps.

De Serpa Soares reported on six new parties to the Agreement since 2010, bringing the total to 83 parties. Observing that the overall status of straddling and highly migratory stocks has deteriorated, he urged delegates to address UNFSA implementation gaps.

President Hazin introduced the provisional agenda (A/CONF.2010/2016/L.1), which delegates adopted with minor amendments. Delegates also agreed on the organization of work (A/CONF. 2010/2016/L.2).

Delegates elected the following Vice-Presidents: Maria del Mar Fernandez Merlo (Spain), for Western European and Other States; Cristian Laborda (Chile) for Latin American and Caribbean States; James Waweru (Kenya) for the African States; and Luke Daunivalu (Fiji), for Asia-Pacific States. For non-parties, Li Yongsheng (China) was elected Vice-President.

On the appointment of the Credentials Committee, parties nominated, and accepted, Nigeria and the Netherlands and confirmed the re-appointment of Norway, Saint Lucia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Uruguay. 


On Monday, participants delivered general statements. Several parties remarked on the continued relevance of recommendations from the 2006 and 2010 meetings, with some highlighting priority recommendations on the fuller adoption of science-based measures; the precautionary and ecosystem approaches, including with respect to sharks; and monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) to combat IUU fishing. Many participants addressed cooperation, with Fiji calling for cooperation between flag and port states.

Several parties, including Fiji and Iceland, expressed concern about RFMO performance, with Canada recommending enhancing performance review consistency and IUCN proposing to make performance reviews of RFMO members mandatory. New Zealand highlighted the establishment of new RFMOs, like the South Pacific RFMO (SPRFMO), and urged improving linkages among RFMOs through sharing of vessel lists. IUCN recommended strengthening RFMO mandates.

On the development of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), the Russian Federation and Japan expressed concern about undermining the UNFSA’s mandate.

Nauru, on behalf of Pacific small island developing states (SIDS), highlighted several challenges to SIDS’ sustainable development, including overfishing, IUU fishing, destruction of marine habitats and biodiversity, and climate change.

Parties also highlighted concerns related to: fish stocks’ failure to improve, despite several measures adopted by states; lack of stock assessments for some species; inadequate capacity in developing countries; and climate change and ocean acidification. Canada recommended expert panel discussions at the ICSP meetings.

An in-depth summary of the discussion is available at:


On Monday, 23 May, President Hazin presented the ICSP-12 report (ICSP12/UNFSA/INF.3), which considers, inter alia, the priorities and identification of focus areas for the Resumed Review Conference. On Wednesday, delegates discussed labor conditions and the concept of disproportionate burden.

Labor conditions: President Hazin noted that this Resumed Review Conference is the first to address labor conditions and human rights issues of high sea fleets, with some questioning UNFSA’s mandate on labor.

Norway urged ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention. The US, the European Union (EU) and Fiji said flag states should be held accountable for labor conditions of fishing fleets. The EU emphasized the link to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 (Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all). FAO said that the entry into force of the PSMA offers an opportunity for countries to inspect working conditions on vessels.

President Hazin confirmed that a new recommendation will be developed on the issue.

Avoidance of the transfer of a disproportionate burden of conservation action to developing states: The US, supported by the Republic of Korea, the EU and Canada, stressed the need to define disproportionate burden in order for states to reliably address or avoid future burden. Nauru, on behalf of Pacific SIDS, recognized that the concept of disproportionate burden is often qualitative and difficult to quantify, stressing that certain types of disproportionate burden are easily identified. She recommended using the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s Conservation and Management Measures (CMM) 2013-06 as a starting point for addressing the issue.

Brazil called for a fair mechanism for allocation of fishing possibilities that takes into account developing states’ rights to sustainably develop their fishing capacity.


Matthew Camilleri, FAO, presented a note by the Secretariat (A/CONF.210/2016/2) and a note by the FAO on the Assistance Fund. He reported, inter alia, that, since 2011, the fund has been exclusively used for meeting-related travel. Supported by the EU and Iceland, he suggested broadening the Assistance Fund’s use to other activities, including for implementation of the Agreement. Bangladesh recommended the Fund also cover capacity building and dispute settlement. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) called for improved awareness of the Assistance Fund and financed activities.


Delegates discussed this issue in plenary on Monday and Tuesday. Plenary considered this issue again in a draft outcome of the Resumed Review Conference on Thursday and Friday. Discussions focused on: adoption and implementation of measures; application of the precautionary and ecosystem approaches; environmental factors affecting marine ecosystems; achievement of compatible measures; and development of area-based management tools.

Adoption and implementation of measures: Some delegates highlighted SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) and expressed hope that its time-bound conservation and management targets might focus efforts and strengthen implementation. Others welcomed progress on inter alia: FAO’s initiative on developing a global estimate of IUU fishing; the adoption and implementation of reference points at the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission; and on measures for conservation and management of Atlantic bluefin tuna by ICCAT. The EU identified over-capacity in global fleets, IUU fishing and subsidies as reasons for limited progress and recommended ensuring fishing capacity is commensurate with fishing opportunities.

Application of precautionary and ecosystem approaches: Some delegates reflected positively on progress with the application of these approaches. The US pointed to the adoption of measures by some RFMOs on preventing negative impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). The Republic of Korea observed older RFMOs are revising their instruments to accommodate both approaches. The EU said applying the ecosystem approach requires moving away from single-stock management to more holistic management on target and by-catch species and species-specific data collection, citing sharks as an example where such data collection is needed. The Marshall Islands regretted that precautionary measures have not been taken in the absence of operational level data.

Environmental factors affecting marine ecosystems: Participants discussed issues relating to sharing and incorporating climate-related data, including on ocean acidification, modeling, and resilience building into decision-making. Canada underscored the need to understand the effects of climate change on migratory patterns and productivity.

Achievement of compatible measures: The EU stressed compatibility as a cornerstone of the Agreement to ensure effective stock management, calling for: capacity building to help states meet obligations, including on data collection and MCS. On the role of RFMOs, the EU and Chile urged increased reporting among states and RFMOs on the measures they adopt. New Zealand and Fiji called for improving cooperation in developing compatible measures to enhance the decision-making process in RFMOs. The Russian Federation highlighted successes based on RFMOs’ multilateral efforts, including on driftnet fishing, ongoing patrolling, monitoring, and scientific-based management. China said it is not reasonable for coastal states to impose national measures in the high seas, recommending that RFMOs adopt a unified standard.

Development of area-based management tools: Participants discussed MPAs in the context of the SDGs and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Targets. Some, including Japan, the US, Canada and Chile, underscored the need for well-designed MPAs and MCS, with Canada urging consideration of ecological connectivity.

Reduction of fishing capacity to levels commensurate with the sustainability of fish stocks: Speakers reflected on, inter alia: technological advances and fishing methods that contribute to overcapacity, including engine power, technology to locate fish, and storage capacity; data gaps in fishing capacity; coupling control of fishing effort with MCS measures and enforcement activities; and knowledge strengthening and capacity building for implementing the Agreement. The US, Barbados and others recognized disproportionate burdens on small-scale fishers in developing countries. The Republic of Korea said SIDS need to increase capacity to fulfill fisheries aspirations.

Elimination of subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing, overfishing and overcapacity: Speakers called for greater transparency on subsidies, with some suggesting providing more economic data to RFMOs. A few, including Japan, pointed out that positive subsidies support fishing communities. Nauru did not support subsidies. The EU reiterated its commitment to achieving SDG Target 14.6 on prohibiting fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity, overfishing and IUU fishing by 2020. FAO said the current indicator for SDG Target 14.6 does not address monitoring subsidies elimination per se, but only relates to IUU fishing. A number of participants, including the EU and New Zealand, supported a resumption of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on tackling fisheries subsidies. The US cautioned pursuing the Doha mandate might be detrimental, recalling a lack of consensus on the Doha Round at the WTO Ministerial Conference.

Lost or abandoned fishing gear and discards: Speakers highlighted challenges related to lost or abandoned fishing gear, such as plastic and microplastic pollution from such gear. The Republic of Korea and others called for innovation and regulation, highlighting experiences with biodegradable gears, fishing gear registration systems, fish aggregating device (FAD) registers and books, and non-entangling gear. The Russian Federation shared its moratorium on large driftnet fishing on the high seas and within exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

Data collection and sharing of information: Delegates addressed, inter alia, data shortages, ways of using incentives and disincentives to increase collection and sharing, and broadening the scope of data collection. Many expressed concern on limited data sharing, with Japan, supported by Canada, underscoring the importance of understanding factors that hinder data submission. Australia highlighted national data sensitivities as a barrier to sharing data. Many lamented capacity shortages and supported using the Assistance Fund. On increasing data submission, the EU, Canada and Chile favored using disincentives, like ICCAT’s “No data, no fish,” when data is repeatedly not provided. The EU and Chile stressed that fisheries data goes beyond stock assessments and includes ecological, economic and social data. IUCN emphasized data collection should also include by-catch and discard information.

Conservation and management of sharks: Speakers addressed the five percent fin to carcass weight ratio, with the US saying it has been less effective for conservation and management of sharks. The Marshall Islands recommended longline fishing obligations and data provision on shark by-catch on the high seas and within EEZs. Pew advocated applying the precautionary approach when catch data is unavailable.

Conservation and management measures for deep-sea fisheries: Participants discussed VMEs, with the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) saying areas where VMEs are likely to occur have been closed to bottom fishing. Japan observed that RFMOs prohibit deep-sea fisheries in most areas and said these VME protection measures should be transmitted to BBNJ PrepCom. The EU suggested more focus on deep-sea fish species as VMEs. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlighted the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization’s (NAFO) reluctance to do so.

Determination of reference points or provisional reference points for specific stocks: Speakers expressed concern on limited progress on adopting reference points, with the US lamenting incomplete coverage of reference points and the failure to tie management decisions to targets. Australia observed some RFMOs struggle to reduce fishing mortality to recommended levels. The Marshall Islands urged expedited management to address Pacific bigeye tuna stocks. The Republic of Korea underscored the importance of regular stock assessments for effective reference points.

Science-policy interface: Underscoring the importance of communication between science and policy communities, speakers supported a continued, possibly revised, recommendation on this issue, with some suggesting a future ICSP focus on best practices.

Rebuilding and recovery strategies: Some speakers highlighted specific examples of successful recoveries, like the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna and the Indonesian Napoleon wrasse stocks. Others encouraged sharing lessons learned.

By-catch management: The EU said by-catch is linked to overfishing, adding that discards contribute to food waste and undermine achieving the SDGs. Observing that all fishing methods have drawbacks, the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations (ICFA) said favoring one fishing gear over another would not alleviate by-catch.

Compliance with obligations as members or cooperating non-members of RFMOs and arrangements: Speakers discussed the importance of compliance within RFMOs, with New Zealand underscoring the importance of robust operational data for assessing compliance. The EU and the US suggested adopting appropriate measures in cases of non-compliance. Australia supported harmonizing measures across RFMOs. The Marshall Islands urged supporting SIDS and coastal States to meet obligations. Chile requested broadening the recommendation to include reference to non-members engaged in fishing-related activities.

Establishment of new RFMOs and arrangements: Delegates welcomed the establishment of: the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC); the South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA); and SPRFMO. New Zealand highlighted SPRFMO as an example of best practice, particularly on voting and objection procedures. On emerging RFMOs and agreements: the US shared its efforts with Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the Russian Federation to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas of the Arctic region through a non-legally binding instrument and discussions on a legally binding agreement. FAO informed of its assistance to coastal states of the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea in establishing an RFMO.


On Tuesday, delegates discussed this issue in plenary. The meeting considered this topic again during discussion on a draft outcome of the Resumed Review Conference on Thursday and Friday. Discussions focused on: strengthening mandates and measures in RFMOs; performance reviews and best practice guidelines; strengthening cooperation among RFMOs; participation; decision-making rules and procedures; interim measures; and effective control by flag states.

Performance reviews and best practice guidelines: Delegates highlighted the need for: performance assessments of RFMO members; a stepwise approach and follow-up mechanism for implementing performance review recommendations; an adaptive, independent and regular review exercise; and accountability, transparency and participation from civil society.

Strengthening and enhancing cooperation among RFMOs: Several delegates highlighted the joint meetings of the five tuna RFMOs, the “Kobe Process,” as a good example of RFMO cooperation. Some noted the PSMA as an opportunity for cooperation. NEAFC offered lessons from the Joint Advisory Group on Data Management to promote harmonization and standardization in fisheries data management.

Participation in RFMOs: Some delegates called for sharing best practice decision-making across RFMOs, citing SPRFMO’s review process as a useful example. The Republic of Korea proposed inviting non-members, like market and port states, to participate in RFMOs.

Decision-making rules and procedures in RFMOs: The EU said consensus based decision-making is beneficial but can lead to weak outcomes, suggesting voting be allowed sometimes. Chile invited consideration of the SPRFMO opt-out clause. Greenpeace observed the need for enhanced transparency.

Effective control by flag states: Participants discussed: the role of FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance, including for assessing RFMO members’ compliance; linking vessel authorization with obligations by relevant RFMOs through fishing licensing systems; and de-registering vessels conducting IUU fishing; and ensuring the ability of the flag state to implement its responsibilities prior to flagging a vessel. 

Full coverage of interventions can be found at


On Wednesday, delegates considered this item in plenary. Discussion focused on: strengthening effective control over vessels and assessment of flag state performance; participation in the PSMA; control over fishing activities of nationals; strengthening compliance, cooperation and enforcement schemes in RFMOs and alternative mechanisms for compliance and enforcement in RFMOs; regulation of trans-shipment, supply and refueling vessels; strengthening fisheries access agreements; market-related measures; international MCS Network for Fisheries-Related Activities; and the FAO Compliance Agreement and global record of fishing vessels.

Strengthening effective control over vessels and Assessment of flag state performance: The Republic of Korea, Fiji and Chile shared examples of national progress on control over flagged vessels. Others recommended, inter alia: strengthening national legislation to address stateless vessels; applying the precautionary approach to new and exploratory fisheries; and “port-to-port” MCS systems.

Participation in the PSMA: Many, including the Republic of Korea, the US, New Zealand, Norway, the EU, Iceland, Indonesia, Chile and the Philippines, urged full implementation of and participation in the PSMA, suggesting assistance to developing states could help support increased implementation. The FAO shared its global programme on capacity development.​ The US, the EU and Chile highlighted the value of adopting port state measures at the RFMO level.

Control over fishing activities of nationals: On deterrents, several recommended actions against nationals that have engaged in IUU fishing. The Philippines stressed that this includes vessel owners. Kenya recommended applying sanctions against vessel owners. The EU urged penalties with deterrent effects, informing that Spain imposed penalties of nearly €17 million and disqualifications from fishing activities ranging from 5 to 23 years. Others underscored the need for sufficient information and evidence to prosecute cases.

Strengthening compliance, cooperation and enforcement schemes in RFMOs and alternative mechanisms for compliance and enforcement in RFMOs: Several shared examples of best practice in MCS and other mechanisms, including vessel lists and electronic reporting system. The Russian Federation said the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission has achieved zero IUU fishing levels due to cooperation and surveillance.

Several supported increased information sharing among RFMOs, with Chile urging joint RFMO efforts for boarding and inspection, and the EU supporting sharing surveillance information between coastal and flag states. The EU and Indonesia underscored the importance of effective penalties for enhancing enforcement. The Marshall Islands stressed that domestic laws of coastal states should take priority in IUU fishing enforcement. Brazil lamented unfair targeting of developing over developed country vessels. Greenpeace requested compliance committees formally consider civil society submissions.

Regulation of trans-shipment, supply and refueling vessels: Many delegates stressed the need for more information and information sharing where necessary trans-shipment occurs, with the Republic of Korea calling for international standards and reporting requirements. The EU said that, where trans-shipment is necessary, rigorous rules, including full observer coverage and prior notification should be in place. The Marshall Islands and New Zealand recommended increasing the number of observers for longline tuna fishing vessels and trans-shipment on the high seas. Japan and the EU suggested only registered carriers be allowed to conduct trans-shipment. Greenpeace urged restricting trans-shipment to designated areas and ports.

Strengthening fisheries access agreements: The EU highlighted its: support to countries to develop their own fisheries; adherence to human rights; and commitment to fishing efforts based on scientific evidence. Greenpeace reported RFMO progress in requiring members’ transparency over fisheries access agreements, urging similar efforts for charter agreements.

Market-related measures: Multiple interventions addressed catch documentation schemes (CDS), with calls for expanded and consistent application in RFMOs, and designing and implementing CDS based on risk-based analysis. ICCAT highlighted its electronic-CDS for Atlantic bluefin tuna. The Republic of Korea urged further promotion of market-based mechanisms. The EU and Chile recommended engaging consumers. Some said measures should be consistent with WTO rules.

International MCS Network for Fisheries-Related Activities: New Zealand reported on its MCS Network Workshop. FAO highlighted the Workshop’s recommendation to develop a risk assessment framework for IUU fishing, adding that the meeting outputs would be presented at the 32nd session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI 32). The Republic of Korea, the Federated States of Micronesia, the EU, the US, and Chile recognized the Network’s potential in controlling and monitoring IUU fishing.

FAO Compliance Agreement and global record of fishing vessels: FAO provided a summary of the global record, explaining: flag states should provide vessel information but in the absence of such information, International Maritime Organization (IMO) information may be used; the global record aims to be dynamic, rather than static, and include the vessel’s compliance history and could support PSMA implementation; and that FAO will present a pilot version to COFI 32. Delegates welcomed progress on the global record, with the EU stressing it as a key tool to sustainably manage capacity and combat IUU fishing, and the US recommending that all fishing vessels have an IMO number. The EU and the US encouraged states to become parties to the compliance agreement.


On Wednesday, delegates discussed this agenda item in plenary. Discussions focused on: promotion of wider participation in the Agreement; enhancement of the participation of developing states in RFMOs; cooperation with, assistance to, and capacity-building needs of developing states; capacity-building mechanisms and programmes, including the Assistance Fund; and small-scale and artisanal fishers, women fishworkers and indigenous peoples in developing states.

Promotion of wider participation in the Agreement: Interventions covered strategies for understanding non-participation and ideas for wider participation. The EU, supported by the US, suggested an ICSP to examine the reasons for non-participation. Norway noted 43 RFMO members are not parties to UNFSA and suggested approaching them to promote participation. Barbados suggested a meeting of developing state parties to share concerns and best practices and identify implementation needs.

Enhancement of the participation of developing states in RFMOs: A number of delegates provided reasons for limited participation in RFMOs. Barbados commented on a lack of funds to attend RFMO meetings, leading to developing states’ exclusion. The Marshall Islands noted constraints in acceptance of national fisheries management measures at the RFMO level. Fiji highlighted disproportionate burdens on developing states, including limitations on flag state vessel numbers, which he said limits development of states’ fisheries.

Cooperation with, assistance to, and capacity-building needs of developing states: Several delegates supported additional efforts in this area, with some sharing best practice examples.

Capacity-building mechanisms and programmes, including the Assistance Fund: FAO urged developing states parties to make broader use of the Assistance Fund. Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, Director, United Nations Division of Oceans Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS), highlighted: one possible use of the Fund would be for dispute settlement procedures; and the Fund’s current depleted state does not allow for broader uses beyond meeting attendance. Brazil called for wider interpretation of Part VII (requirements of developing states), including for enhancing developing states’ participation in high seas fisheries. Norway encouraged further contributions to the Fund, and, with Brazil, supported a broader utilization of the Fund. The US encouraged coordination among different RFMOs’ funding mechanisms, FAO and bilateral programmes.

Small-scale and artisanal fishers, women fishworkers and indigenous peoples in developing states: The EU suggested acknowledgment of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries and their implementation, as appropriate.

An in-depth summary of the discussion is available at:


On Thursday, Sri Lanka presented the report of the Credentials Committee (A/CONF.210/2016/4), which delegates adopted.


On Friday, President Hazin presented text on dissemination of the report and further reviews to plenary. On agreeing to keep the Agreement under review through the resumption of the Review Conference, participants agreed to specify “at a date not earlier than 2020.”

On language that the ICSP first focus on Annexes I (Standard Requirements for the Collection and Sharing of Data) and II (Guidelines for the Application of Precautionary Reference Points) of the Agreement and science-policy interface, New Zealand, supported by the US and the EU, proposed adding “and thereafter that the ICSP identify the priorities for its next meeting.” The EU reminded participants that the ICSP is only a two-day meeting, with limited time for discussion, and suggested agreeing on ICSP topics through the UNGA resolution on sustainable fisheries in November 2016. Canada also supported identifying a focus for the ICSP, but contrasted the number and complexity of proposed topics with the ICSP’s timeframe, suggesting the need for further consideration on a proposed topic before the adoption of the UNGA resolution.


On Thursday morning, President Hazin distributed a draft outcome document, as prepared by the drafting committee that met throughout the week. Delegates discussed the draft in plenary on Thursday and Friday.

Preamble: Japan and the Russian Federation called for including examples of progress made, such as on bottom fisheries and new RFMOs. The EU requested also recognizing the areas where lack of progress persists, such as in overcapacity and IUU fishing. After lengthy discussions, delegates agreed to refer to areas of progress and lack of progress without specific examples.

Outcome:The preamble contains 13 paragraphs, that inter alia: reaffirm and consolidate the recommendations adopted in 2006 and 2010; express concern that the overall status of highly migratory and straddling fish stocks has not improved since 2006 and 2010; reaffirm the importance of the SDGs, the Paris Agreement, The Future We Want (outcome document from the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development), and the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA Pathway); and welcome the forthcoming entry into force of the PSMA.

Conservation and management of stocks: Delegates engaged in lengthy discussions on this section. The key points of contention included issues regarding: the application of the precautionary approach to new and exploratory fisheries; MPAs and reserves; data collection and sharing of information; and sharks.

China, opposed by all delegates, suggested deletion of a recommendation to adopt, as soon as possible, cautious conservation and management measures for new or exploratory fisheries in line with the precautionary approach, as per Article 6(6) (the precautionary approach for new and exploratory fisheries) of UNFSA and for catch and effort limits to remain in force until sufficient data allow for the assessment of the impact of the fisheries on the long-term sustainability of stocks and respective conservation and management measures to be applied based on the assessment. After lengthy discussions and consultations, delegates agreed on language to adopt “appropriate” conservation and management measures, deleting “as soon as possible” and “cautious” measures.

On area-based management tools, New Zealand observed that the wording is broad in scope and lacks timeframes. The EU preferred the 2006 language and added reference to relevant SDG commitments. Nauru and Norway raised concerns on text related to displacement of fishing effort.

The Russian Federation suggested deleting reference to “MPAs and marine reserves” as area-based tools, noting their cautious approach to area-based management, which he said should be developed on a case-by-case basis. He also recommended adding “consider” the development of area-based tools. Chile asked for clarification on the language used in 2010. President Hazin noted that if agreement could not be reached, they would revert back to the 2010 recommendation, which included MPAs. New Zealand said discussion from the 2016 meeting, including on the ecosystem approach and the sustainable development agenda, would be a shame to lose, asking the Russian Federation to re-consider his position. The EU stressed, inter alia, UNCLOS obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment, adding that reverting back to 2010 language would be a step backwards. As a compromise, the US suggested adding development of “appropriate” area-based management tools, including closed areas, MPAs and marine reserves, to which delegates agreed.

On data collection and information sharing, New Zealand and others supported stronger language on data collection and sharing requirements. The EU, opposed by Chile, suggested text on respect for data confidentiality and, with Japan and the Republic of Korea, opposed language on collection and sharing of operational level data. The US and Australia supported keeping these data obligations. President Hazin noted a similar provision in UNFSA Annex I, Article 2(a) with respect to fishing effort statistics and vessel-related information, and suggested adding reference to this provision. After lengthy discussions, delegates agreed to refer to Annex I in general and delete reference to “operational data.”

On the conservation and management of sharks, the EU requested reference to the FAO International Plan of Action (IPOA) on sharks, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). The US expressed disappointment that delegates had not strengthened the 2010 recommendation and suggested referencing the precautionary approach. China opposed reference to the precautionary approach with regard to the development of science-based conservation and management measures for sharks, specifically. The US noted its preference for stronger language on fins naturally attached, and, with the EU, supported keeping reference to the precautionary approach. The EU suggested including reference to the 2015 UNGA resolution on sustainable fisheries. After lengthy discussions, delegates agreed to move reference to the precautionary approach, in the context of the FAO IPOA-Sharks, to the chapeau, and include reference to resolution 70/75.

On determination of reference points for specific stocks, delegates also discussed precautionary target and limit reference points; and the inclusion of social, economic and ecological data. On by-catch management and discards, the US questioned reference to SDG 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) only. The EU expressed concern that the recommendation is weaker than paragraph 113 of UNGA resolution 70/75.

On compliance with RFMO obligations, the EU recommended recognizing all RFMO CMMs and existing RFMO review processes. On RFMO establishment, the Russian Federation proposed that agreement on interim measures be “based on reliable scientific evidence available.” Chile suggested referencing the precautionary approach. Participants agreed to best scientific information available and on the precautionary approach.

Outcome:On the conservation and management of fish stocks, the outcome document makes a series of recommendations for states and for regional economic integration organizations, individually or through RFMOs and Arrangements. The Resumed Review Conference agreed to, inter alia:

  • adopt appropriate conservation and management measures for new or exploratory fisheries in line with the precautionary approach, in accordance with Article 6(6) of the Agreement;
  • develop appropriate area-based management tools, including closed areas, MPAs and marine reserves, and criteria for their implementation to effectively conserve and manage stocks and protect habitats, marine biodiversity and VMEs, on a case-by-case basis, and in accordance with best available information, the precautionary and ecosystem approaches, and international law, recalling the commitment in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to by 2020 conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas;
  • improve the collection and sharing of data on catches in accordance with UNFSA Annex I, including on by-catch and discards in order to improve stock assessments, and on economic and social information, taking into account confidentiality requirements;
  • take into account the FAO IPOA-Sharks, including the precautionary approach, through parties’ participation in appropriate instruments, taking into account the 2015 UNGA resolution on sustainable fisheries; strengthen the conservation and management of sharks by, inter alia, developing science-based conservation and management measures for sharks; and strengthen on the basis of the best scientific information available, enforcement of existing prohibitions on shark finning by requiring sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached or through different means that are equally effective and enforceable;
  • establish rebuilding and recovery strategies for overfished stocks, with time frames and probabilities of recovery aimed at bringing the stocks back at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield, guided by scientific assessments and periodic evaluation of progress;
  • minimize by-catch and reduce or eliminate discards, taking into account the relevant targets under the SDGs, inter alia, by improving selectivity of fishing gear, reducing catch of juveniles, adopting environmentally-friendly material, improving data collection and MCS; and
  • comply fully with their obligations as members or cooperating non-members of RFMOs or arrangements by fully applying conservation and management measures adopted, including the timely, complete and accurate submission of fisheries data.

 Mechanisms for international cooperation and non-members: Delegates raised different suggestions on this topic. The key points of contention included issues regarding performance reviews and decision-making procedures.

On a follow-up mechanism on performance reviews, the EU, opposed by China, suggested a time-bound implementation of recommendations. On RFMO cooperation, participants agreed on inclusion of explicit reference to data-collection and sharing; strengthening cooperation; and sharing vessel lists.

On RFMO participation, the EU recommended reflecting UNFSA language on states with real interest in the fisheries and strengthening allocation rights.

The Bahamas said all humanity have a real interest in becoming members of RFMOs, including in the context of food security. President Hazin said this view will be reflected in the Chair’s summary, rather than in the outcome document.

On improving RFMO decision-making rules, the Russian Federation recommended referencing historical catch criterion. Norway and Chile opposed, preferring to avoid singling out a specific criterion. New Zealand suggested a new paragraph encouraging RFMOs and Arrangements to review their decision-making procedures and consider voting and objection procedures.

On control by flag states, Australia proposed taking action against ships without nationality.

Outcome:The Resumed Review Conference agreed to, inter alia:

  • undertake regular RFMO performance reviews that include some element of independent evaluation, seeking information from all stakeholders;
  • develop best practice guidelines for conducting performance reviews and implementing their results, where appropriate by using Kobe-like processes by other RFMOs and Arrangements;
  • establish mechanisms to follow-up actions and implementation of performance review recommendations, when necessary, in a timely manner, including transparency and accountability;
  • develop mechanisms to invite states to commit to providing incentives, where needed, and to encourage non-members to join RFMOs;
  • address participatory rights through, inter alia, transparent criteria for allocation of fishing opportunities, taking due account of the status of the stocks and the interest of all those with a real interest in the fishery;
  • ensure opt-out behavior is constrained by rules to prevent those parties opting-out from undermining conservation by establishing dispute resolution processes and equally effective alternative interim measures; and
  • ensure that flag states have the ability to implement their responsibilities with regard to vessels flying their flag, before they grant fishing vessels the right to fly their flag or issue authorization for fishing to such vessels.

MCS and compliance and enforcement: Delegates discussed this section at length, with varying points of view on strengthening flag state responsibility, IUU fishing, vessel monitoring system (VMS) requirements, strengthening fisheries access agreements, and market-related measures.

China proposed bracketing a paragraph encouraging states to strengthen their legal operational and institutional capacity to take action against their flagged vessels that have engaged in IUU fishing, including through the imposition of adequate sanctions having deterrent effects and depriving accrued benefits as an alternative to de-registering such vessels and rendering them without nationality. Following discussion and consultation, China proposed alternative language, which delegates opposed. After lengthy discussions, delegates agreed to compromise language by deleting reference to “having deterrent effects and depriving accrued benefits.”

On strengthening RFMO compliance, cooperation and enforcement schemes, the EU recommended stronger language on ensuring that all high seas fishing vessels carry VMS. Japan opposed the suggestion, preferring actions through RFMOs and favoring retaining reference to “as soon as practicable.” The EU emphasized flag states’ obligations under the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Advisory Opinion 21. The US favored retaining concepts related to RFMO obligations and other flag states fishing on the high seas. After lengthy discussions, delegates agreed to keep the concepts on RFMOs’ and flag states’ obligations. They also agreed to retain “as soon as practicable.”

On strengthening fisheries access agreements, Norway suggested referencing the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance. The EU requested reference to scientifically determined surplus. Japan objected to making access agreements publicly available, citing confidentiality rules. After lengthy discussions, delegates agreed to take into account the provisions of the FAO Guidelines to strengthen fisheries access agreements to promote good governance of fisheries activities.

On market-related measures, Norway, supported by the US, recognized CDS as a valuable tool, although not a solution for all species, and proposed deleting the reference. Japan favored its retention, explaining CDS is not meant to be applicable to all species. After lengthy discussions, delegates agreed to delete the paragraphs on CDS.

Outcome:The Resumed Review Conference agreed to recommendations to, inter alia:

  • encourage states to strengthen their capacity to take action against their flagged vessels that have engaged in IUU fishing, including through the imposition of adequate sanctions as an alternative to de-registering such vessels rendering them without nationality;
  • ensure compliance by fishing vessels of obligations to carry VMS in accordance with requirements by RFMOs or arrangements and ensure that all vessels fishing on the high seas carry VMS as soon as practicable;
  • take into account the provisions of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance;
  • take necessary measures, consistent with international law, to ensure that only fish taken in accordance with applicable conservation and management measures reach their markets, recognizing the importance of market access in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; and
  • call for the timely finalization of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on CDS and other market-related measures;
  • cooperate with FAO to develop a comprehensive global register of fishing vessels; and
  • expedite efforts through FAO, in cooperation with the IMO, to create a unique vessel identifier system to create this global register, using as a first step the IMO Number Scheme.

Developing States: Delegates discussed several issues related to developing states, including on enhancing participation of developing states in RFMOs and Arrangements, strengthening capacity for developing states and capacity-building mechanisms and programmes, including the Assistance Fund, avoiding adverse impacts on and ensuring access to fisheries by subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishers and women fishworkers, and indigenous peoples in developing states, and avoiding transferring of a disproportionate burden of conservation action onto developing states.

On the preamble on developing states, the Marshall Islands requested referencing Article 24 (recognition of special requirements of developing states) with Article 25 (forms of cooperation with developing states), to which delegates agreed. On a compilation of sources of available funding, Canada asked who will take the lead on this intervention. UNDOALOS Director Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli noted UNDOALOS compiled this information in 2006 and updated it in 2010, and it can be updated upon request of the UNGA. On strengthening capacity-building mechanisms and programmes, including the Assistance Fund, Norway said too much of the Fund is used for meeting travel and suggested adding “including prioritizing activities,” to which participants agreed.

On avoiding transferring a disproportionate burden of conservation action onto developing states, the Marshall Islands expressed concern about the paragraph and Nauru suggested preambular text noting progress towards the implementation of Articles 24 and 25 through conservation and management measures that are designed to avoid the transfer of a disproportionate burden of conservation action to Pacific SIDS. After lengthy discussions on whether to include other developing countries and SIDS, delegates agreed to reference this progress in the meeting’s report but not in the outcome document.

On non-parties, the EU cautioned reference to a strategic plan for dialogue with these parties may be premature. Participants agreed to remove the reference.

Outcome:The Resumed Review Conference agreed to, inter alia:

  • enhance the participation of developing states in RFMOs or Arrangements, including through: facilitating access to fisheries for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, taking into account the need to ensure that such access benefits the states concerned and their nationals; and establishing mechanisms to assist developing states in RFMOs or Arrangements that do not already have such mechanisms and ensure that those mechanisms support the implementation of the Agreement;
  • build the capacity of and further develop and mainstream strategies to assist developing states, in particular SIDS and least developed countries (LDCs), to participate in high seas fisheries, including for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, to realize a greater share of the benefits of sustainable fisheries of such stocks, strengthening regional efforts to sustainably conserve and manage stocks, and improve market access in support of the 2030 Agenda;
  • strengthen capacity-building mechanisms and programmes, including the Assistance Fund, by: inviting FAO and UNDOALOS to further publicize the availability of assistance through the Assistance Fund; soliciting views from developing states parties regarding the Fund’s application and award procedures; considering changes to improve the process; establishing a link to the Assistance Fund on RFMOs websites; and urgently contributing to the Fund to allow for its diversified use and targeting of assistance to areas including stock assessment and scientific research; data collection and reporting; MCS; port state control; compliance with market and trade-related measures; sharing of information; flag state responsibility; and dispute settlement;
  • avoid adverse impacts on, and ensure access to fisheries by, subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishers and women fishworkers, and indigenous peoples in developing states when establishing conservation and management measures; and
  • avoid the transfer of a disproportionate burden of conservation action on developing states, including through urgently developing a common understanding of the concept of “disproportionate burden” and better defining the concept, quantitatively and qualitatively, with a view to fully implementing Article 24(2)(c) of the Agreement.

Non-parties: Delegates discussed this text in the drafting committee and plenary. They adopted the text without amendments.

Outcome: The Resumed Review Conference agreed to promote wider participation in the Agreement, including through:

  • calling upon all states that are involved or may become involved in fisheries for straddling stocks and highly migratory fish stocks that have not yet done so to become parties to the Agreement;
  • disseminating through RFMOs or Arrangements of which they are members information about the Agreement, including its objectives, the rights and duties it provides and the potential benefits arising from becoming a party to the Agreement; and
  • assessing conditions hindering further ratification or accession to the Agreement and strengthening the dialogue with non-parties to broaden participation in the Agreement.

Dissemination of the report and further reviews: Delegates agreed to request the President to transmit the final report of the Conference to all RFMO Secretariats, including, where possible, those under negotiation, and to the UNGA, IMO, FAO, and other relevant organizations, and to highlight relevant recommendations and requests for action contained in the report.

Outcome: The Resumed Review Conference agreed that further review is necessary. They agreed to, inter alia:

  • continue the informal consultations and keep the Agreement under review through the resumption of the Review Conference at a date not earlier than 2020;
  • dedicate the ICSP to the consideration of specific issues arising from the implementation of the Agreement on an annual basis, with a view to improving understanding, sharing experiences and identifying best practices for the consideration of states parties, the UNGA and the Review Conference; and
  • identify the priorities for the ICSP at its next meeting.


On Friday afternoon, many delegates welcomed the consensus agreement on the outcome, including Chile, China, Kenya, Nauru, New Zealand, and the US. The EU said the outcome will further obligations, including towards sustainable development. China expressed happiness with the constructive spirit of the meeting, welcoming the consensus agreement.

Chile highlighted its participation in the Conference as a state party for the first time and hoped more states, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean, would be parties by the next meeting.

FAO welcomed the outcome, hoping it would translate to improved fisheries governance around the world and said FAO commits to engaging in the activities requested by the Conference. He said he expects COFI 32 will take up the outcomes from the conference.

Observing that wider participation is a key element in moving towards implementation, including on the SDG targets, Thailand informed it has begun preparation to accede to the Agreement.

President Hazin congratulated everyone for the friendly, constructive atmosphere, stressing the importance of the outcome for world fisheries. He praised UNDOALOS for their efforts, echoing Kenya’s statement that UNDOALOS is a team of magicians, and thanked FAO for its efforts, which he said have helped the Agreement achieve results. He suspended the meeting at 5:59 pm.



Participants at the third round of the Review Conference of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement arrived in New York with the Agreement facing a mixed record of implementation. Many expressed concern that high seas fisheries face continued declines, with some pointing to results from the first global integrated assessment of the marine environment―UN World Ocean Assessment I―indicating overfishing as a key issue in preventing fish stock recovery. Pointing to the Assessment’s findings, some delegates expressed concern that 69 percent of highly migratory stocks showed no change, 20 percent deterioration, and only 11 percent had recorded improvement.

Others highlighted progress in RFMOs, with the establishment of three new RFMOs and amendments of older RFMO Convention texts to reflect the UNFSA’s provisions since the last Review Conference, as important signs of progress. Similarly, several participants highlighted the potential for parallel processes, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs, the imminent entry-into-force of the FAO’s Port State Measures Agreement, and discussions on a new, legally-binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction, as opportunities to further strengthen the Review Conference’s recommendations and implement the Agreement.

The Resumed Review Conference’s close examination of the implementation of its 2006 and 2010 recommendations, alongside opportunities for improving and strengthening the recommendations, highlighted the continued relevance of many of the recommendations for the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks worldwide. Many stressed that, given the current state of fish stocks, the Resumed Review Conference is more important than ever and that there is need to bolster implementation of these recommendations to reverse the negative trend.

This analysis examines progress in the implementation of UNFSA, including its successes, shortcomings and expectations for the future. It also considers the implications of recent and related governance developments.


Participants repeatedly highlighted RFMOs in discussions throughout the week, with many pointing to their critical role in implementing the Agreement. Others raised concerns about participation in and progress of RFMOs, saying that the Conference should not rely entirely on RFMOs to achieve its aims. In this context, many also highlighted the complementary role played by FAO through its various instruments and agreements, with one insider saying, “This Conference owes many of its concrete results to FAO.”

Participants shared best practice examples from RFMOs, highlighting the recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna as an achievement. Some welcomed International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ development of harvest control rules in contributing to Atlantic bluefin tuna stock recovery, with one participant saying these controls “raised the bar” for other RFMOs to take action to reverse population declines. Some pointed to the Kobe process, a series of joint meetings by five tuna RFMOs, as a best practice example of how RFMOs can streamline and coordinate their work.

A few participants struggled to make their more critical voices heard over those who were more inclined to laud progress on RFMOs. There was consistent reference to the newly formed South Pacific RFMO and its advanced systems of internal governance, including on decision-making procedures and more cumbersome opt-out mechanisms. Yet, concerns raised repeatedly in plenary by a few delegates from the Pacific about the continued decline of Pacific bigeye tuna led to a few murmurings in the corridors that some older RFMOs are still struggling to respond to the urgency of stock conservation and management and to realize adoption of precautionary and ecosystems approaches. The frequent acknowledgement that “an RFMO is only as good as its members,” was used by some to suggest a lack of political will by some states has impeded the effectiveness of some RFMOs.

One outstanding concern on RFMOs remains disparity in RFMO coverage, particularly given calls by a few for RFMOs to play the primary role in addressing key issues. For instance, some participants highlighted gaps in geographical and species coverage in the Pacific and South Atlantic as a cause of concern. In the Caribbean region, some acknowledged the large number of regional fisheries bodies, while also pointing out the lack of RFMOs to implement binding obligations. Given UNFSA’s primary reliance on RFMOs and Arrangements to implement its obligations, the creation of new organizations and the review and strengthening of weaker RFMOs will be a necessary area of action going forward. Amendments to older RFMO conventions, including incorporating concepts like the ecosystem and precautionary approaches, as in the case of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization in 2007, suggest an area of tangible progress.


The 2016 Resumed Review Conference also gained traction on issues related to compliance and enforcement, with a few key delegates saying they were “surprised and pleased” by the progress in this area. Participants also advanced discussion on areas related to participation, data collection and cooperation, and more focused agendas at future ICSPs.

State participation in the Agreement has increased by six parties since 2010. Perhaps more noteworthy, however, are the ways in which the Conference listened to and respected the views of non-parties. Late on Friday afternoon, China’s perspective stood in stark contrast to other states parties. Rather than pointing out their non-party status, participants worked together in a spirit of consensus and cooperation, showing a willingness to bring both parties and non-parties to the table. This action bodes well for the future of the Agreement, suggesting that participants are willing to work across divides to focus on the conservation and management of fish stocks —and hopefully stimulate universal participation in this (still) progressing agreement.

Data was a key topic of discussion, with nearly unanimous acknowledgement of the importance of data collection and sharing for better stock assessments, implementation of the ecosystem approach, and enforcement. Many stressed that a lack of data and insufficient data reporting represent key challenges in estimating stocks and defining precautionary reference points for stocks rebuilding―key obligations under the Agreement. The Conference made key advances in recognizing that data also includes ecological, economic and social data. Participants recognized the role of economic data in promoting transparency in relation to subsidies. It also agreed on the importance of capacity building for developing countries, including the least developed among them and small island developing states, with a recommendation acknowledging their disproportionate burden of conservation, which was included for the first time at a UNFSA Review Conference.

Calls for increased focus on the ICSP meetings represent another potential avenue for future progress. The agreement to focus on key issues at future meetings of the ICSP means that participants will be able to devote needed time to key stumbling blocks in the Agreement and continue to identify areas where cooperation can play a role in increasing enforcement. With a recommendation from one delegate to include expert panel discussions at ICSPs, some viewed this proposal as an opportunity to also enhance dialogue between scientists and policy-makers in this process―a much needed endeavor in light of UNCLOS and UNFSA obligations on science-based decision making, as noted by one delegate.

One stumbling block identified over the years, which could merit more in-depth attention at a future ICSP, is overfishing. With participants from developing countries voicing their right to develop their own fisheries to ensure their sustainable development and skepticism about developed countries’ claimed progress in lowering their fishing effort, one insider made the point that “something has to give.” This recurring issue of over-capacity had several wondering how the world can achieve sustainable fisheries management in the face of increasing global fishing efforts alongside a host of other problems, such as technical advances in fisheries gear, continued IUU fishing, and climate change. Many, indeed, acknowledged the daunting task ahead and also expressed serious concern over IUU fishing activities. To address this ongoing overfishing problem, delegates agreed on a number of recommendations concerning flag state responsibility, including on data reporting, complemented by port state measures and market-related mechanisms.

On the whole, many agreed that mechanisms, guidelines and procedures provided for by the Agreement, complemented by generally agreed standards, as reflected in a number of FAO instruments, if implemented, are adequate to “remedy” these problems and ensure progress.


Since its inception, the UNFSA Review Conference has depended on implementation by states parties, RFMOs and others to ensure its recommendations have teeth. Throughout the week, a few delegations consistently said the SDGs provide time-bound targets that offer an opportunity to enhance the implementation of Conference recommendations and ensure timely progress. Others stressed the June entry-into-force of the PSMA as a very welcome instrument in giving port states more power to tackle critical challenges, including both IUU fishing and concerns about labor conditions on ships.

A few delegates remained alert during the week to the potential of a new UNCLOS implementing agreement to “undermine” UNFSA. However, the complementary rather than conflicting nature of a new implementing agreement on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction has been considered by many as an advantage for the UNFSA, with the former having the potential to take an ecosystems approach in a more comprehensive manner, and UNFSA continuing to share experience on fisheries governance. While it remains to be seen how the relationship between these two agreements will play out, some were willing to further reflect on this interplay during the second BBNJ Preparatory Committee meeting at the end of August, which will take place after another important and related workshop to review the implementation of the UNGA resolutions on bottom fisheries.


As one participant put it, the 2016 Review Conference’s recommendations may not be revolutionary, but they “stay the course for sustainable fisheries management.” Some stressed focus as critical in staying on track to meet the aspirations of the Agreement, pointing to areas such as implementation of precautionary reference points for new and exploratory fisheries, vessel monitoring systems and timely reporting, closure of areas to fishing to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems, and creation of marine protected areas, in which tangible results can be achieved within short timeframes. Others underscored the importance of leveraging existing mechanisms to provide complementary support to meeting recommendations.

Nevertheless, many recommendations remain the same as in 2006 and 2010. Some delegates lamented the fact that the outcomes were not as bold or progressive as UNGA resolutions on sustainable fisheries have been on recommendations regarding shark fins naturally attached, for example. Still, some participants stressed that the few recommendations in which language has changed or advanced, particularly on compliance and enforcement, represent real leaps forward for the UNFSA. Similarly, agreement on the need to better define concepts such as “disproportionate burden” highlighted a willingness by both developed and developing countries to bridge divides and work together to find consensus.


Despite the slow pace of the discussions on the outcome document, participants left the Review Conference satisfied, pointing out that the sometimes tedious discussion on the text was necessary to achieve consensus reaffirming, and in some instances, strengthening recommendations and ensure the continued relevance and success of the Conference, resulting in a new point of reference for which progress can be measured. In contrast to the 2010 Conference, where a vote was required, some of the more optimistic delegates referred to the 2016 outcome document as “a beautiful example of consensus” and “a new beginning for fisheries management.” A more cautious observer underscored that the real test of UNFSA Review Conference’s relevance is the implementation that follows its discussions. With an increasingly busy oceans agenda, participants concluded the Conference with a renewed sense of optimism that UNFSA is charting the right course, although they cautioned it was not yet full steam ahead.


Second Informal Open Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole of the Regular Process for World Ocean Assessment: The second informal Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects (World Ocean Assessment), will consider lessons learned from the first cycle of the Regular Process and the way forward towards implementation of the second cycle. date: 10 June 2016 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: UNDOALOS phone: +1-212-963-3962 email: www:

17th Meeting of the UN Open-ended Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea: The Consultative Process is intended to facilitate the annual review by the General Assembly of developments in ocean affairs and the law of the sea. This year’s meeting will convene under the theme “Marine debris, plastics and micro-plastics.” dates: 13-17 June 2016 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: UNDOALOS phone: +1-212-963-5915 fax: +1-212-963-5847 www:

40th Annual Conference of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy: The 2016 Conference will be held under the theme, “Legal Order in the World’s Oceans: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” in cooperation with UNDOALOS. dates: 27-28 June 2016 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: University of Virginia School of Law phone: +1-434-924-7441 email: www:

COFI 32: The 32nd meeting of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI 32) will review, among other things, international fishery problems and examine possible solutions through national, FAO and intergovernmental programmes. dates: 11-15 July 2016 location: Rome, Italy contact: COFI Secretariat email: www:

High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development: The 2016 meeting of the HLPF is the first since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. The session will include voluntary reviews of 22 countries and thematic reviews of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, including cross-cutting issues, supported by reviews by the ECOSOC functional commissions and other intergovernmental bodies and forums. A three-day ministerial meeting of the Forum will take place on 18-20 July 2016. dates: 11-20 July 2016 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development email: www:

22nd Annual Meeting of the International Seabed Authority: During the 22nd annual meeting of the International Seabed Authority, representatives from member states of the Authority will discuss the work of the Authority and its Secretariat. dates: 11-22 July 2016 location: Kingston, Jamaica contact: ISA Secretariat phone: +1-876-922-9105 fax: +1-876-922-0195 email: www:

Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Fisheries Summit: This Summit, part of The Economist Events’ World Ocean Initiative, will bring together government, industry, scientists and the financial sector to discuss fisheries reform across Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. dates: 27-28 July 2016 location: Jakarta, Indonesia contact: The Economist email: www:

IMCC4: The Society for Conservation Biology’s 4th International Marine Conservation Congress will bring together conservation professionals and students to develop new and powerful tools to further marine conservation science and policy. dates: 30 July - 3 August 2016 location: St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada contact: Lori Strong, Meeting Manager email: www

Bottom Fishing Workshop: This workshop will discuss implementation of paragraphs 113, 117 and 119 to 124 of General Assembly Resolution 64/72 and paragraphs 121, 126, 129, 130 and 132 to 134 of Resolution 66/68 on sustainable fisheries, addressing the impacts of bottom fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks. dates: 1-2 August 2016 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: UNDOALOS phone: +1-212-963-3962 email: www

Seventh Meeting of the Regular Process for World Ocean Assessment: The seventh Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects (World Ocean Assessment), aims to improve understanding of oceans and to develop a global mechanism for delivering science-based information to decision makers and the public. dates: 3- 9 August 2016 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: UNDOALOS Secretariat phone: +1-212-963-3962 email: www:

BBNJ PrepCom 2: The second meeting of the Preparatory Committee for an international legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) will address marine genetic resources, area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments, capacity building, transfer of marine technology and crosscutting issues. dates: 26 August - 9 September 2016 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: UNDOALOS phone: +1-212-963-3962 fax: +1-212-963-5847 email: www:

High-Level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14: This high-level UN Conference, co-hosted by the governments of Fiji and Sweden, will coincide with the World Oceans Day. The theme of the conference is “Protect our oceans, protect our future: partnering for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14.” dates: 5-9 June 2017 location: Nadi, Fiji contact: Permanent Missions of Fiji and Sweden phone: +1-212-687-4130 (Fiji); +1-212-583-2500 (Sweden) www:

CITES CoP17: The Conference of the Parties on the Convention in Trade in Endangered Flora and Fauna will convene for its seventeenth session. dates: 24 September - 5 October 2016 location: Johannesburg, South Africa contact: CITES Secretariat phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40 fax: +41-22- 797-34-17 email: www:

CMS SC 45: The 45th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) will be preceded by a meeting of the CMS Budget and Finance Sub-Committee on the afternoon of Tuesday, 8 November 2016. dates: 9-10 November 2016 location: Bonn, Germany contact: CMS Secretariat phone: +49-228-815-2401 fax: +49-228-815-2449 email: www:

CBD COP 13, COP-MOP 8 to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and COP-MOP 2 to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing: The thirteenth meeting of the COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 13), the eighth meeting of the COP serving as the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP/MOP 8), and the second meeting of the COP serving as the MOP to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (COP/MOP 2) will be held concurrently. dates: 4-17 December 2016 location: Cancun, Mexico contact: CBD Secretariat phone: +1-514-288-2220 fax: +1-514-288-6588 email: www:

CMS COP 12: The 12th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP12) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) will take place in 2017. dates: 22-28 October 2017 location: Manila, the Philippines contact: CMS Secretariat phone: +49-228-815-2401 fax: +49-228-815-2449 www:

UNFSA Resumed Review Conference: The next resumed review conference will take place not before 2020. In the meantime, the ICSPs will continue to meet. dates: not before 2020 location: UN Headquarters, New York contact: UNDOALOS phone: +1-212-963-3962 fax: +1-212-963-5847 email: www: