The problems related to high seas fisheries are not new to the UN system. Participants at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea were well aware of the issue, however, attempts to deal with it during the course of the ten years of negotiations were not successful. The negotiators decided to leave such problems to be resolved between States concerned with high seas fisheries in different regions.
During the last decade, however, the pressure on high seas fisheries has grown rapidly, and the problems have become more urgent. In a recent report, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that inadequate management and over-fishing are the major problems in high seas fisheries. In this report, the FAO concluded that "excessive fishing is endangering the very sustainability of high seas fishery resources."
A number of events in the early 1990s indicated that an international conference should be convened to resolve the issues related to high seas fisheries, which had been discussed by regional fisheries organizations and by the FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI) over the years. In 1991, the UN convened an experts' meeting that prepared a study on the problems of the implementation of the high seas fisheries provisions in the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The International Conference on Responsible Fishing was convened by the Government of Mexico, in collaboration with FAO, from 6-8 May 1992 in Cancún. The Conference adopted the Declaration of Cancún that contained provisions related to the management and utilization of high seas fisheries, requested the FAO to prepare an international code of conduct for responsible fishing, and urged States to cooperate on all levels to establish and implement effective means and mechanisms to ensure responsible fishing on the high seas. This code of conduct will aim at correcting the inefficiencies resulting from open-access conditions by focusing on the responsibility of those engaged in the fisheries.
[Return to start of article]