Press Conference on Resumed Review Conference of 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement

26 May 2010

Press Conference on Resumed Review Conference of 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement

26 May 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Resumed Review Conference of 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement

By week’s end, States parties to the landmark 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement would likely suggest concrete ways to improve management of the world’s key shared fisheries and tackle such pressing problems as over-fishing, over-capacity and the limited ability of developing countries to monitor off-shore coastal zones, a key ocean management official said Wednesday during a Headquarters press conference.

“There are some areas where I see a desire to move forward,” said David Balton, Chair of this week’s United Nations conference to review that agreement, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the United States Bureau of Oceans.

With three quarters of the world’s fish stocks on the high seas in distress and near depletion, Governments worldwide were increasingly waking up to the need to conserve and better manage them, he said.

“The idea of each country for himself has yielded tragedies of the commons.  We now realize we must do better collectively to address this,” he said.

Mr. Balton expects that parties to the Agreement — aimed at implementing the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — will call for better data and reporting to ensure effective fishery management rules, and suggest positive and negative incentives for such reporting, as well as ways to better conserve the overexploited and depleted shark population.  Seventy-seven States are parties to the Agreement.

Many of the recommendations made during the 2006 conference to review the Agreement — the current review is a resumption of that session — had already been implemented, he said.  Notably, regional fishery organizations were being created for the South Pacific, the North Pacific and the Indian Ocean.  Regular performance reviews of regional fishery management organizations in accordance with a standard set of criteria had helped those bodies do a better job.  And long-standing international mechanisms had renegotiated or strengthened management measures, while individual States had stepped up efforts to better monitor their own fishing vessels.

To a question about last year’s failed attempt to put the Atlantic bluefin tuna and some shark species on various appendices of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mr. Balton said that failure had been due to a lack of political will, but no one country alone was to blame.  The only viable option at present was for regional fishery organizations to step up efforts to conserve fish stocks.

Regarding creation of a property rights system for fish stocks, he said countries such as the United States and Iceland had moved away from so-called open-access fisheries to assigned property rights for fisheries.  But organizing property rights and managing fisheries accordingly for tuna species in the Atlantic Ocean fished by 30 countries posed significant challenges.

On removing fishery subsidies from the Doha trade round, he said that in principle everyone agreed that Government subsidies which promoted overfishing must be cut and eliminated.  Negotiations had moved forward in a promising way, with greater agreement on the need to impose discipline.  He suggested that the United Nations could perhaps issue a recommendation to the World Trade Organization in that regard.

Concerning the impact of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on fisheries, he said he was not aware of what the long-term effect would be.  The issue had not been discussed during the review conference, nor did he expect it would be.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.