12 March 2010
Press Release
SEA/1926

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release


Informal Consultations of State Parties to United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement


to Be Held at United Nations Headquarters, 16-17 March

 


NEW YORK, 12 March (Office of Legal Affairs) -- The ninth round of Informal Consultations of State Parties to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement will be held at the United Nations on 16 and 17 March.  The meeting will primarily serve as a preparatory meeting for the upcoming resumed Review Conference on the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, which will be held at the United Nations from 24 to 28 May.


With three quarters of the world’s fisheries in distress and nearing depletion, there is an urgent need for the international community to increase efforts to halt the decline of fish stocks.  According to the report of the Secretary-General prepared for the resumed Review Conference (document A/CONF.210/2010/1), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that the majority of straddling fish stocks -- highly migratory species and other high-seas fish stocks -- are considered to be either fully exploited or overexploited.  This means that fisheries are operating close to or above the optimal effort that is sustainable in the long term, and there is no expected room or potential room for further expansion.  For overexploited species there is a risk of stock depletion.


The Agreement is considered to be the most important legally binding global instrument for the conservation and management of fishery resources since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982.  It covers highly migratory species that regularly travel long distances, such as tuna, swordfish and oceanic sharks.  It also covers straddling stocks that occur both within the exclusive economic zone of one State -- up to 200 nautical miles offshore -- and areas beyond and adjacent to that zone, including cod, halibut, pollock, jack mackerel and squid.  The majority of the most important fishing countries in the world are now parties to the Agreement.


The Review Conference was originally held in 2006, four years after the entry into force of the Agreement.  It was attended by representatives from 97 States and the European Community, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.  The meeting adopted a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks (document A/CONF.210/2006/15).  Many of the recommendations were later endorsed by the General Assembly and included in its annual resolution on sustainable fisheries.


The Review Conference will resume in May, and bring together representatives of Governments, the fishing industry and environmental organizations, to take stock of the progress made in implementation of the recommendations of the Review Conference in 2006, and to make further recommendations to strengthen the Agreement’s implementation, if necessary.


Most of the world’s fisheries on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks are covered, or in the process of being covered, by regional organizations and agreements that set the rules and quotas for fishing in a certain area.  The performance of these regional organizations and agreements is expected to be an area of focus at the Conference.


Some of the other critical issues to be addressed during the resumed Review Conference will include illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; subsidies to the fishing industry; ineffective control by States over vessels flying their flags and their nationals; the development of measures for deep-sea fisheries, by-catch, discards and derelict fishing gear; and the need for conservation and management measures to be based on modern fisheries management principles.


As described in the report of the Secretary-General, since the Review Conference was held in 2006, there has been progress in tackling some of the problems affecting the fisheries on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.  These include strengthening the performance of regional organizations and arrangements; negotiations to establish new regional organizations and arrangements in the north-west and south Pacific; and the development of a legal and policy framework for port-State and market-State measures to prevent fish not caught in accordance with applicable rules from being landed in ports and reaching the markets.


Another important aspect of the resumed Review Conference will be addressing the special requirements of developing States in relation to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, as well as the development of their own fisheries and their participation in high-seas fisheries for such stocks.  Addressing these requirements would contribute to ensuring sustainable development for many developing States, in keeping with Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals.


Finally there is a need for continued efforts to increase participation in the Agreement by addressing obstacles that may prevent States from becoming parties in order to achieve the goal of universal participation.


Since the Review Conference in 2006, 20 more States have become parties to the Agreement.  As of March 2010, there are 77 parties to the Agreement, including the European Union, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Niue, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.


Background


The United Nations Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks sets out the legal regime for the conservation and management of those stocks and establishes that such management must be based on the precautionary approach and the best available scientific information.


The Agreement elaborates on the fundamental principle, established in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, that States should cooperate to ensure conservation and promote the optimum utilization of fisheries resources, both within and beyond the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).  The EEZ is the area up to 200 nautical miles offshore where coastal States have sovereign rights for the conservation and management of marine-living resources.


The Agreement provides the framework for cooperation in the conservation and management of those resources.  It promotes effective conservation and management by establishing, among other things, detailed minimum international standards for the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks; conservation and management measures in areas under national jurisdiction and in the adjacent high seas that are compatible and coherent; effective mechanisms for compliance and enforcement of those measures on the high seas; and recognition of the special requirements of developing countries in relation to conservation and management, as well as the development and participation in fisheries.


The Agreement was adopted on 4 August 1995 by the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and opened for signature on 4 December 1995.  It entered into force on 11 December 2001.


The Agreement (article 36) stipulates that a Review Conference would be convened by the Secretary-General four years after the entry into force of the Agreement with a view to assessing the effectiveness of the Agreement in securing the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks and, if necessary, propose means of strengthening the substance and methods of implementation of the Agreement to better address any continuing problems in the conservation and management of those stocks.


Informal Consultations of States parties have been held annually since 2002 to consider the implementation of the Agreement and prepare for the Review Conference.


For further information, please visit www.un.org/Depts/los/index.htm, or contact the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea at tel.: +1 212 963 3962, e-mail: doalos@un.org.


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For information media • not an official record