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HIGH SEAS FISHERIES CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: WEDNESDAY, 14 JULY 1993

UNITED KINGDOM: David Anderson, Second Legal Adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, spoke on behalf of the UK's territories that do not fall under the scope of the European Community. He said that a common starting point is the need for regional cooperation, where appropriate. It will be important to formulate recommendations by way of consensus in accordance with the rules of procedure. Anything less may perpetuate present difficulties.

BRAZIL: Amb. Henrique R. Valle said that the main purpose of this Conference is to promote effective implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS that will lead to the goal of sustainable management and conservation of marine living resources. Brazil believes that to be truly effective, comprehensive measures, capable of regulating a crucial activity in the world economy, should be embodied within a legal instrument, constructively negotiated by all parties.

SWEDEN: Per Wramner, Director-General, National Board of Fisheries, said that the precautionary principle should be applied until scientific knowledge is sufficient. Continued work at the global level should be transferred to the Commission on Sustainable Development, in close cooperation with FAO. Over-utilization of fish stocks does not occur because of shortfalls in UNCLOS, since most of the regional bodies were established earlier. The Conference should recommend that funding agencies allocate resources to developing countries and regional bodies for work on the maintenance of biodiversity within high seas fisheries management.

SRI LANKA: Chandra Amerasekare said that recommendations of the Conference should promote a consensus approach regarding regulations and fishing management practices with respect to high seas fishing. Capacity-building for developing systematic ocean observing systems for developing countries is important. A legal framework alone is not sufficient to address the problems and find solutions. Regional intergovernmental organizations can play a vital role for assisting member countries in building up capacity.

MEXICO: Jos‚ Robles said that it is important to improve the quality and reliability of fish statistics, collect and provide timely information on activities of high seas vessels, and establish mechanisms for the settlement of disputes. Any agreement adopted by this Conference should promote new international understanding that fishing on the high seas is subject to regulation and support a system of responsible fishing.

UKRAINE: Stanislav Klementyev, First Vice-Chairman of State, Commission for Fishing Industry, said the Conference should keep in mind the following guidelines: principles of consensus (regional international fishing organizations will be the most effective approach); principle of scientific justification (decisions can be adopted only in the presence of scientifically reliable data); and the idea that living marine resources are the property of the whole of humanity.

TANZANIA: Peter K. Chisara, Senior Fisheries Officer, Ministry of Tourism, Natural Resources and Environment, said that conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks are difficult due to lack of cooperation among States; new technological developments that encourage the use of unsustainable exploitation of ocean resources; and lack of commitment to sustainable management on the part of distant fishing fleets. Developed countries should assist developing nations in capacity building.

SIERRA LEONE: Henry Ngongou highlighted the fact that, as a least developed country, Sierra Leone finds it difficult to face the additional responsibilities vested under the extension of the EEZ. Distant water fishing vessels do not always abide by regulations set up by the coastal States and they, in turn, are financially incapable of containing such violations. Financial assistance should be provided to facilitate collection of data and support for surveillance mechanisms. A special fund might be created to assist LDCs in the management of their fish stocks.

COLOMBIA:. Rodolfo Jaramillo said that the time has come for the international community to consider a legally-binding regime to avoid further plundering and arbitrary use of natural resources by some States. Measures of conservation should be applied on the basis of the most up-to-date scientific information, but not in critical cases where the precautionary principle should be applied. He advocated consistency between the regimes of coastal States and the high seas and stressed the need to devise dispute settlement mechanisms.

SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM FISHERIES AGENCY: Michael W. Lodge said that the major constraint to effective cooperation is the fact that cooperative research and analysis is based on incomplete data. Unregulated transshipment of in-zone catches on the high seas contributes to increasing pressure on stocks within and beyond EEZs and to unreliability of data. The rapid expansion of driftnet fishing in the South Pacific in the late 1980s bears witness to the speed with which fishing operations on high seas can threaten regional fisheries resources.

COOK ISLANDS: James Gosselin, International Legal Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed his support for the comments made by the representatives of Solomon Islands and the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency. He insisted on flag State responsibility, the recognition of the specificities of the South Pacific region and the special needs of developing nations. He called on appropriate restraints in the exercise of freedom to fish on the high seas.

INTERNATIONAL OCEANOGRAPHIC COMMISSION (UNESCO): Geoffrey Laurence, Senior Assistant Secretary for Ocean Sciences and Living Resources, made the following recommendations: consensus management should be agreed to by all parties based on the best available information; conservation and management regulations should be implemented through intergovernmental or regional bodies of consenting and complying nations; and the adoption of prudent conservation measures for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks within the framework of UNCLOS and Agenda 21 should be expedited.

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: The representative from Trinidad and Tobago, speaking on behalf of the 12 member States of CARICOM, distinguished the sovereign rights of coastal States within their EEZs from the right to fish on the high seas. States have a duty to cooperate in the management of the global commons. He called for a collective response by the international community, inter alia to use the precautionary principle in specific circumstances.

INDONESIA: Muchtar Abdullah, Director-General of Fisheries, said that to ensure the sustainable yield of fisheries, they must endorse the principle of shared responsibility of the international community. It is primarily the responsibility of the flag States to ensure that their vessels comply with agreed conservation and management rules. Developing countries should receive technical assistance to meet their responsibilities and to enhance their ability to participate in utilizing fisheries resources on the high seas.

PHILIPPINES: Deputy Permanent Representative Ronald B. Allarey attributed the overexploitation of marine resources to the lack of specific obligations on States fishing on the high seas. Careful consideration must be given to reservations that States may have with measures that recommend a code of conduct with regard to fisheries in the EEZs. He emphasized the importance of scientific research data as a basis for informed management decisions.

ECUADOR: Gustavo Gonzalez Cabal, Under-Secretary of Fisheries Resources, said that UNCED showed a new direction for international relations, and that interdependence was an undeniable fact, especially in the environmental sphere. The new world order should be based unequivocally on a legal framework negotiated within the international community. Therefore, the rights and obligations of States could be defined with regard to high seas fishing and a dispute mechanism should be instituted.

INDIA: Amb. M. H. Ansari said a distinction is necessary between straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. Coastal States of a region should have a controlling authority in the decision-making of the fisheries organizations of the region. The Conference will achieve its objectives if it can focus on these and related issues and generate meaningful discussion.

ICELAND: Amb. Gudmundur Eir´┐Żksson said that Iceland's attitude towards high seas fishing was frustrated because efforts to secure internationally-agreed solutions have not been productive. This Conference is the last hope for a multilaterally-agreed solution and that the Conference will not upset any balance found in UNCLOS. Iceland, having aligned itself with the group of 60 like-minded countries, is seeking a binding international agreement, consistent with UNCLOS, regulating the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.

COSTA RICA: The representative described the importance of fishing for the economies of the majority of coastal developing countries. It is important that this Conference produce realistic results, based on the spirit of the Law of the Sea Convention. It is necessary to establish cooperation mechanisms and laws to govern the conduct of States on these issues.

LATVIA: Normunds Riekstins, from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, declared that Latvia has been elaborating a new conception of fisheries in order to meet the demands of a free market economy. He expressed concern about possible grants of authority and rights to coastal States with respect to straddling and highly migratory fish stocks on the open seas. The matter should not become a question of granting political and economic advantage to some States and reducing the rights of others, but remain focussed on the preservation of fish stocks.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Amb. Renagi R. Lohia endorsed the statement of Solomon Islands and said that complementary and fundamentally similar approaches with respect to living marine resources is the only way to reach consensus on commitments at this Conference. He also said that timely and accurate data are conducive to the development of an appropriate conservation and management regime for the high seas, along with financial and technical assistance to developing countries.

CUBA: Humberto R. Rosario called for new approaches and new guidelines for the application of international law. The Law of the Sea provided the basic measures but remains insufficient in many areas. It is vital that flag States take measures to correct deficient practices. Cuba is willing to participate in working groups and help bring together the interests of flag States and coastal States.

KIRIBATI: The representative said that living marine resources play an important role in providing foreign earnings, food, and employment. Future economic development of small island countries will undoubtedly depend entirely on marine resources. The practice of transshipment at sea should be stopped and observers should be placed on board the licensed foreign fishing fleets to ensure reporting of accurate catch data.

FAO: Dr. W. Krone reported on the concern the FAO has had regarding the state of high seas fisheries. The FAO has fostered international cooperation, as exemplified by the documents available at this Conference. Many of the FAO recommendations have become national policies. The Code of Conduct was elaborated as a matter of priority and aims at including agreed guidelines and rules. The draft document on flagging still contains brackets, but they should be withdrawn by the end of 1993.

FOUR DIRECTIONS COUNCIL: Russel Barsh said traditional fisheries are proprietary, very selective, consistent with conserving biodiversity, and labour intensive, while very efficient in terms of physical and financial capital. Industrial fisheries target a small number of species and harvest them aggressively. The legal treatment of the high seas as a global common has the effect of confiscating the property of coastal communities and giving it to those harvesters who have the largest amount of capital. It is most rational to focus marine harvesting in coastal areas, reduce or eliminate high seas fishing and make a major effort to restore and rebuild coastal fisheries.

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