With Stocks of Tuna, Shark in Sharp Decline, Countries Prepare for Review to Strengthen Key Fishing Agreement

18 March 2010

With Stocks of Tuna, Shark in Sharp Decline, Countries Prepare for Review to Strengthen Key Fishing Agreement

18 March 2010
Press Release
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

With Stocks of Tuna, Shark in Sharp Decline, Countries Prepare

for Review to Strengthen Key Fishing Agreement


NEW YORK, 18 March (Office of Legal Affairs) -- Faced with the urgent need to reverse the decline of certain fish stocks, such as tuna, oceanic sharks and cod, preparations are under way to review the effectiveness of a key international treaty aimed at conserving and managing these fisheries.

During two days of preparatory discussions that concluded on 17 March, delegates stressed the need to strengthen measures to protect fish stocks when country representatives meet at the resumed Review Conference on the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, to be held from 24 to 28 May at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

With three quarters of the world’s fish stocks in distress and nearing depletion, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that the majority of straddling fish stocks, highly migratory species and other high-seas fish stocks are either fully exploited or overexploited.  The status of many stocks is simply unknown due to lack of information.

Adopted in 1995, the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement covers highly migratory species that regularly travel long distances, such as tuna, swordfish and oceanic sharks, as well as 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.

During the preparatory meeting, delegations acknowledged that significant progress had been made in tackling some of the problems affecting these stocks, but agreed that further work was needed.  Stuart Beck (Palau), speaking on behalf of States parties to the Nauru Agreement, urged delegations to consider that actions taken at the resumed Review Conference would have “a fundamental and critical bearing upon our food security and economic future”, and upon related discussions, including a the high-level review of the Millennium Development Goals later this year.  Delegates also discussed the need to improve the governance of regional fisheries management organizations as other bodies became increasingly concerned about threats to the world’s fisheries.

The resumed Review Conference will assess the effectiveness of the Fish Stocks Agreement in securing the conservation and management of these stocks, and consider further means to strengthen implementation.  It will also take stock of progress made in the implementation of recommendations from the 2006 Review Conference, many of which led to concerted action to improve fisheries.

Delegates agreed on a provisional agenda and a draft organization of work for the resumed Review Conference, and discussed possible outputs of the Conference.  Participants also considered possible future actions, including future meetings of the Review Conference.  There was general consensus on the need to keep the Agreement under review in order to respond to changes in fisheries, in particular the status of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

The meeting was attended by representatives of intergovernmental bodies, regional fisheries management entities and civil society organizations, such as the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

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.  Twenty more States have become parties to the Agreement since the Review Conference was convened in 2006.

As of March 2010, there are 77 parties to the Agreement: 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.

For background information on the resumed Review Conference, please see Press Release SEA/1926 of 12 March.  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
For information media. Not an official record.