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The problems related to high seas fisheries are not new to the UN system. Participants at UNCLOS were well aware of the issue; however, attempts to deal with it during the course of the ten years of negotiations that concluded in 1982 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. A number of events in the early 1990s indicated that an international conference should be convened to resolve issues related to high seas fisheries. One forum where this was discussed was the Preparatory Committee for UNCED. After long and difficult negotiations, participants at the Earth Summit in Rio agreed to "convene an intergovernmental conference under UN auspices with a view to promoting effective implementation of the provisions of the Law of the Sea on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks".

The resolution establishing the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (47/192) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 22 December 1992. The resolution states that the Conference, drawing on scientific and technical studies by FAO, should: identify and assess existing problems related to the conservation and management of HMFS and SFS; consider means of improving fisheries cooperation among States; and formulate appropriate recommendations. The resolution also stipulated that the Conference should complete its work "as early as possible" in advance of the 49th session of the UN General Assembly.

The organizational session for the Conference was held at UN Headquarters in New York from 19-23 April 1993. The participants adopted the rules of procedure and agenda, appointed a Credentials Committee, and agreed on how its substantive work would 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 and issues as a guide for the Conference, and delegations were requested to submit their proposals to the Secretariat.

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