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HIGH SEAS FISHERIES CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: TUESDAY, 13 JULY 1993

NEW ZEALAND: The Minister of Fisheries, Doug Kidd, expressed concern about the disorder that remains among the world's high seas fishing fleets 11 years after the adoption of the Law of the Sea. He commented that New Zealand's fishing industry receives no subsidies, incentives or other financial support from the taxpayer. New Zealand's experience with tradeable quotas confirms that security of access to a resource brings about fundamental changes in the attitude of harvesters towards that resource. The same principle should hold true if applied to fisheries that are not within national jurisdiction. He mentioned four main areas to be addressed: the obligation of conservation, in relation to both target and bycatch species; cooperation in the conservation and management of highly migratory and straddling stocks; the responsibilities of fishing nations and management organizations to acquire and share data, conduct research and ensure the attainment of conservation and management objectives; and a definition of minimum standards to ensure effective compliance with agreed management regimes.

NORWAY: Dag Mjaaland said that the mandate of those participating in the Conference is to lay the foundation for responsible and sustainable exploitation of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. These stocks can be subject to pressure that destroys reproductive capacity and reduces long-term harvesting potential of the stocks. Excessive fleet size, deficiencies in monitoring and enforcement, and reflagging are problems that need to be examined. The Conference should formulate detailed principles concerning jurisdictional competencies with respect to the two stocks by strengthening the role of coastal States in management and conservation. He supported others who spoke of cooperation with developing countries. The outcome of the Conference should enhance the capacity of developing countries to utilize resources under their jurisdiction.

UNITED STATES: David Colson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries Affairs, described the multifaceted nature of US interests as both a coastal State and a distant water fishing State. He urged coastal States and distant fishing States to work together to develop effective measures for conserving straddling stocks in high seas areas. He encouraged the establishment of strong, regional organizations among the States concerned, capable of managing straddling stocks and highly migratory species in a way that is consistent with the Law of the Sea. Three traditional arguments must be rejected: effective enforcement measures would be inconsistent with high seas freedoms; there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that fisheries or stocks should be controlled or reduced; and consensus is required before decisions can be taken. He also supported greater transparency in high seas commercial fisheries, greater control by flag States, and multi-species ecosystem- oriented management.

REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Minister Dae-Won Suh offered the following suggestions on topics the Conference may want to consider: (1) As straddling stocks and highly migratory species have different places of occurrence and migratory range, it is not easy to invent a global framework for a fisheries conservation regime applicable to all parts of the ocean. (2) As the work by the FAO on a flagging agreement as part of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing is being finalized, we should be careful to avoid unnecessary duplication of work on this issue. (3) Over-fishing by the coastal States of the fish stocks occurring within their EEZs may often cause greater adverse impacts on living resources than over-fishing in the adjacent areas of the high seas. (4) Conservation and management of fisheries within the EEZ and its adjacent areas of the high seas should be based on the "best scientific evidence available," as stated in Article 119 of the Law of the Sea Convention.

JAPAN: Matsuhiro Horiguchi stated that Japan has historically cooperated in the conservation and management efforts pursued by regional bodies. Living marine resources must be used sustainably, based on the best scientific evidence available, to be shared for future generations and so that depleted stocks can be restored. A fair balance must be maintained between the duties and rights of coastal States and those of fishing States. There should be consistency between measures taken both inside and outside the EEZs. Conservation measures covering all areas of migratory resources are necessary. He said that it is essential that States cooperate effectively on scientific research and the handling of data on the conservation of living marine resources. Likewise, cooperation among all States must be promoted with respect to global issues, such as reflagging, satellite monitoring, and assistance to developing countries. Japan finds it neither necessary nor appropriate to conclude a legally-binding instrument.

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: Indrani Lutchman listed a number of criteria that should be considered in the development of effective approaches to regional management of fishery resources. Management should be conservation-based, and include, inter alia, a clearer definition of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), and an evaluation of the environmental impact of new gear before use. Regional bodies, she added, should adopt a common goal of reducing bycatch, and allow for greater transparency and participation by the general public. The regional management entities need to be held accountable, possibly to a formal international high seas management authority. Membership in regional management bodies should be a requirement for fishing on the high seas, and management decisions by bodies should be legally binding for all members. Enforcement measures must be strengthened and might include on-board observers. A fee system might be established, requiring a royalty to harvest. Finally, dispute settlement mechanisms need to be set up before the Law of the Sea Convention enters into force.

ALASKA MARINE CONSERVATION COUNCIL: Chris Chavasse urged non-signatory nations to sign, ratify and endorse the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, including the enforcement and dispute resolution mechanisms. He recommended and encouraged governments to consider the following areas requiring recognition, agreement and legally-binding action: incorporation of a precautionary approach into all management plans and regulations; conservation, management and extraction of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks should be consistent with coastal States' conservation and management regimes; establishment of a Code of Conduct to govern or eliminate vessel re-flagging for marine living resource extraction purposes; establishment of contaminant monitoring on a permanent basis; creation of a neutral observer corps to monitor and report on catches, vessel operating standards and working conditions; and the establishment of a conservation fund by collecting fees for the extraction of marine living resources on the high seas.

ARGENTINA: Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido di Tella said that there should be an effective fishing regime based on international cooperation. Coastal States, in conformity with the Law of the Sea, have a mandate to preserve the seas within their EEZs. The new regime must adequately contemplate the rights of coastal States in accordance with the Law of the Sea and the rights of developing States to obtain rational benefit from the waters under their jurisdiction. He supported yesterday's remarks by the Chair and Canada.

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Amb. Rex Horoi, spoke on behalf of the 16 members of the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency and highlighted the problems that these States confront. He noted the experience gained by these States in negotiating common positions during the 1992 Manila Principles on High Seas Fisheries Management. Cooperation in the manner envisaged by existing regional and international fisheries commissions has not proved effective in the management and conservation of high seas resources. From a South Pacific perspective, elaboration of flag State responsibility needs to be reaffirmed. He concluded by calling on States to achieve tangible results during this session and not treat it as merely preparation for a longer process.

FIJI: Amb. Ratu Manasa K. Seniloli supported the Solomon Islands' statement and suggested that the Conference should concern itself with the substance and mechanisms of a proposed regime. Fiji believes that the collection of data on high seas catches is fundamental to understanding fish stocks in and beyond EEZs and would provide the basis for further investment opportunities. Better fisheries management practices, based on best available scientific evidence, and a deeper political commitment for all parties involved is needed for stocks to produce the maximum sustainable yield.

POLAND: Dr. Zbigniew Karnicki, Director of the Sea Fisheries Institute, said that at the time of the Law of the Sea Convention, highly migratory and straddling fish stocks did not seem particularly important but the situation has clearly changed. No one knows the exact reason for the collapse of stocks, but Poland has taken strong measures to remedy the situation. It is important for the Conference to address the issue of catch allocation and particularly historical participation. Even though there are limits to fishing on the high seas, no additional preference should be granted to coastal States. 95% of fish resources are already located within EEZs and it would be unfair to grant coastal States further advantage. Geographically disadvantaged States should be given priority in the allocation of quotas. The Polish Government has maintained full control over its distant fishing fleet and all vessels are registered and operate under licenses. The Conference should adopt a clear set of principles, acceptable to both coastal and distant water fishing States, within the framework of the Law of the Sea.

INTER-AMERICAN TROPICAL TUNA COMMISSION: James Joseph said that to properly manage tuna and other highly migratory species, one should bear in mind that distant vessels also migrate and that markets are truly international in nature. He called on the creation of a single agency to manage migratory species worldwide, or at least greater coordination among existing agencies. One of the most vital issues that should be addressed is that of bycatch. The Commission has gained experience trying to reduce dolphin mortality. The potential changes within CITES for the listing of endangered species may further reduce bycatch of non-target species.

FOGO ISLAND COOPERATIVE: Bernadette Dwyer said that the 400-year-old Fogo Island communities are facing the same threat: the permanent destruction of northern cod. Since these people have little or no professional work skills outside the fishery, they will face total reliance on government social programs. A temporary two-year moratorium on northern cod, to allow stock rebuilding, went into effect in 1992. Current evidence suggests that the northern cod stocks are still in decline, and that much of the remaining body of northern cod has migrated into warmer, deeper water on the shelf of the Grand Banks, outside Canada's EEZ and, thus, is even more vulnerable to uncontrolled fishing. The temporary moratorium may have to be extended to the year 2000. She called for a temporary suspension of fishing of all threatened species in the area adjacent to and beyond Canada's EEZ.

OCEANS INSTITUTE OF CANADA: Al Chaddok deplored the rape of fisheries by high-tech "aquabusiness". He insisted that the aim of this Conference should not be solely to restore stocks to a sustainable level, but to bring back the fisheries to the people. Fisheries should not be seen as a source of profit for a few private enterprises, but as a source of food for the people of the world. He expressed hope that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated and that the need for such a Conference would not arise again.

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