Review Conference on Saving World’s Fish Stocks Concludes With Adoption of Draft Outcomes, Provisional Report

28 May 2010

Review Conference on Saving World’s Fish Stocks Concludes With Adoption of Draft Outcomes, Provisional Report

28 May 2010
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Review Conference on                                       

 Fish Stocks Agreement                                     

18th Meeting (PM)

Review Conference on Saving World’s Fish Stocks Concludes


With Adoption of Draft Outcomes, Provisional Report


Adopting its provisional final report by acclamation today, the Review Conference for the landmark 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement determined that implementation of the accord would be further strengthened by additional recommendations that built on outcomes adopted in 2006 and addressed, in some cases, new issues relevant to strengthening the substance and methods of implementation.

Urging that implementation of the recommendations adopted in 2006 “continue and be strengthened”, the Conference emphasized that full implementation of and compliance with conservation and management measures adopted in accordance with international law — and which applied the precautionary approach and were based on the best available scientific evidence — were essential to ensuring the recovery, long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.  Concerned about continuing over-exploitation or depletion of those stocks, the Conference also reaffirmed that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement provided the legal framework for their conservation and management.

Considered to be the most important legally binding global instrument for the conservation and management of fishery resources since the 1982 adoption of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Agreement establishes a comprehensive legal regime for the conservation and sustainable use of global fish stocks.  It includes provisions relating to strengthening the responsibilities of flag States, as well as the role of regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements.

The five-day Review Conference, which ran from 24-28 May, was a resumption session of the review, which began in 2006.  Over the last four days, the Conference focused its discussions on assessing the Agreement’s effectiveness around four clusters of elements relating to:  conservation and management of fish stocks; mechanisms for international cooperation and non-Parties; monitoring, control and surveillance, as well as compliance and enforcement; and developing States and non-parties to the Agreement.  The Conference also considered the effectiveness of the Agreement and the question of further review.

In adopting a series of draft outcomes that would constitute its final report, the Conference agreed that its President should transmit the final text to the secretariats of all regional fisheries management organizations, including, where possible, those under negotiation, and to the General Assembly, the International Maritime Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other relevant organizations.  It also agreed to suspend the Review Conference and recommend a resumed session, no earlier than 2015, to take account of the portion of its mandate requiring it to review and assess the adequacy of the Agreement’s provisions.

Conference President David Balton ( United States) said at the outset of the afternoon meeting that the first draft outcomes he had prepared yesterday had been subject to “very considerable debate” yesterday and this morning, and almost every point had been amended in some way.  Praising participants for their “energy and spirit” over the last 24 hours, he said that, while there had been a great deal of “give-and-take and compromise”, in all likelihood no one was “happy with every aspect”.

Recognizing that several delegations would have liked to have more time to advance proposals for additional points, he said the Conference had simply run out of time.  However, it had been “very successful” in the sense of having been “highly collaborative”, he said, adding that a good exchange of ideas and compromises on specific language had allowed the process to move forward.

According to the outcomes, the Conference recommended that States and regional economic integration organizations — individually and collectively through regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements — commit urgently to improving the status of over-exploited or depleted straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks through effective conservation and management measures.

Another recommendation would have cooperation between flag States with vessels fishing on the high seas and coastal States improved so as to ensure compatibility between measures concerning the high seas and those areas under national jurisdictions.  There should also be full compliance with obligations, as members or cooperating non-members of regional management organizations, to submit timely, complete and accurate data, and steps should be taken to address persistent failures to fulfil those obligations.

Also by the outcomes, States should reaffirm the commitment urgently to reduce the capacity of the world’s fishing fleets to levels commensurate with the sustainability of fish stocks, while recognizing the legitimate rights of developing States to develop their fisheries.  Additionally, the implementation of an ecosystem approach should be strengthened by promoting and conducting scientific research in support of fisheries management, applying appropriate risk-assessment tools and conducting stock assessments, and adopting management measures for currently unregulated directed fisheries or for those species caught as by-catch and then traded commercially.

The outcomes would have States strengthen the conservation and management of sharks by establishing and implementing species-specific data collection requirements for shark species caught in directed shark fisheries or as by-catch in other fisheries; conducting biological assessment and developing associated conservation and management measures for such sharks; and strengthening, on the basis of the best scientific information available, enforcement of existing prohibitions on shark finning.

Under the terms of another recommendation, where a stock was identified as being overfished or depleted, States should establish rebuilding and recovery strategies, with timeframes and probabilities of recovery, guided by scientific assessments and with periodic evaluation of progress.  Interaction between fisheries managers and scientists should also be strengthened to ensure that conservation and management measures were based on the best available scientific evidence and met the management objectives set by regional fisheries management organizations.

Concerning the cluster on international cooperation and non-members, the Conference underscored the importance of modernizing the mandates of regional fisheries management organizations to reflect explicit provisions on the use of modern approaches to fisheries conservation and management set forth in the Agreement, including with respect to the aspirations of developing States, particularly the least developed and small island developing States.  Negotiations among all interested States on establishing new regional management organizations should also be concluded as soon as possible, and those organizations that had not undertaken performance reviews, including some element of independent evaluation, should do so no later than 2012.

As for monitoring, control and surveillance, and compliance and enforcement, the Conference recommended that States assess on an annual basis compliance with measures set by regional fisheries management organizations and, where appropriate, cooperation by non-members with those measures.  They should create incentives to promote compliance and cooperation, while taking steps to address persistent non-compliance and non-cooperation.

Concerning developing States and non-parties, the Conference recommended building the capacity of developing States so as to facilitate a greater level of participation in high seas fisheries, and to allow them to receive greater benefits from sustainable fisheries and improve their market access.  It further recommended that States contribute to the Part VII Fund and other mechanisms to assist developing States in the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

The Conference decided to add to the draft outcomes two proposals introduced by the representative of the Solomon Islands, the first of which urged the mainstreaming of efforts to help least developed countries and small island developing States with a view to enhancing international coordination to enable them to develop their national capacity to exploit fisheries resources consistent with the duty to ensure their conservation and management.  The second proposal included a recommendation to encourage the identification of strategies to further help developing States realize a greater share of the benefits from straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks while strengthening regional efforts for their sustainable conservation and management.

Additionally, the Conference decided to include a recommendation, proposed by the European Union’s delegate, concerning the establishment of long-term conservation and management measures for deep-sea fisheries, in accordance with FAO’s international guidelines on the conservation and management of deep sea fisheries on the high seas.

In other business, the Conference elected Annelle Urriola ( Panama) to the Bureau.

The Conference also took note of the financial report on the status of the Part VII Assistance Fund (document A/CONF.210/2010/2).

Alhaji Jallow, FAO’s Senior Regional Fisheries Officer for Africa, presented and updated the report, noting that contributions to the Fund between 2004 and 2009 had totalled $836,000, from six donors, including Lebanon and New Zealand in 2009.  Total annual expenditure for 2009 was approximately $464,000, of which about $164,000 had been devoted to travel, while the balance had gone to projects approved by the Panel of Experts.

He went on to say that while the Fund’s balance remained healthy for the 2008 financial period, there had been a “significant change” in 2009 since a large proportion of expenditure in that year had been devoted to capacity development.  Expressing appreciation for Norway’s pledge to make a further contribution of $100,000, he said the Fund’s current balance stood at about $45,000.

The Conference also approved, as orally amended, the report of its Credentials Committee (document A/CONF.210/2010/5), which was presented by Muditha Halliyadde ( Sri Lanka,) that body’s Chairman.

Delivering brief statements were the representatives of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Canada, Mozambique, Panama, Mexico, Samoa, Palau, India and Japan.

A representative of Greenpeace, speaking on behalf of more than 60 non-governmental organizations, also contributed to the discussion.

In closing remarks, the Chairman said the recommendations to be put forward would surely serve to strengthen the implementation of the Agreement.  “We are all linked by this together, for its tentacles have stretched into all oceans and into all aspects of fisheries management,” not only for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, but also for associated species.

* *** *

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