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PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

The EC said that the precautionary principle comes directly out of Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration, which applies to chemicals, and that it cannot be translated automatically to fisheries management. FAO document A/CONF.164/INF.2 states what the principle means in the fishing field. There can be no autonomous transfer from the Rio Declaration to fisheries. New Zealand responded that it previously expressed its reservation on the limits of application of the precautionary principle, as adopted by the FAO. It is not the responsibility of the FAO's technical consultations to make the authoritative interpretation of the precautionary principle.

Japan agreed with the EC. In response to New Zealand's comment, he said that not all delegations have to agree with the content of the FAO report, but it is a good document that can be the basis for efficient and specific discussion. Fishery management and conservation should always be carried out in a cautious manner, partly because of the absence of sufficient data. The problem with the use of the precautionary principle is that it may at times be equated with the notion of banning fishing unless the user can demonstrate that fishing has no adverse impact on the stock. It is difficult, if not impossible, to prove a negative.

Chile said the Conference should not attribute greater or lesser value to some FAO documents. They are very valuable but are not the authority for the elaboration of the precautionary principle on the high seas. The US said that straddling stocks should be managed in a precautionary manner, recognizing that this does not require a moratorium. Allowable catch levels should be established based on the best scientific information available and take into account uncertainties concerning the size and production of the resource. The Philippines said that precautionary measures should be looked at with prudence and caution. China thought that this interim type of measure should not be too simplistic, leading to a moratorium on fishing.

Poland associated itself with the Philippines, saying that the Conference should take a precautionary approach to the precautionary principle. The Republic of Korea associated itself with both the EC and Japan that the application of the precautionary approach to fisheries was inappropriate. He quoted from three FAO papers to show that FAO took a consistent position in providing a negative picture of the application of the precautionary principle to fisheries.

Sweden felt that the precautionary principle has been used in handling environmental issues such as biodiversity and that in relation to fisheries, this principle has to be further elaborated. Australia said that there is no doubt that the precautionary principle, as set out in the Rio Declaration, has relevance in all fields of natural resource management. Australia felt that it was important for scientific assessment to take uncertainty into account. Norway's opinion was that the principle should be generally applied, and that it is important when the scientific basis for management is poor. Papua New Guinea agreed with Australia and New Zealand and said that the principle was discussed in detail at UNCED. Adoption of the principle here should take into account uncertainties of factors such as climate and economy. Consideration of the principle in the FAO documents was inadequate.

Iceland agreed with New Zealand that the principle is applicable throughout the entire range of human activity. There is a general obligation to apply precaution, but the lack of full certainty is not a reason to postpone such measures. Canada said that depletion of stocks are the accidents that point to the need for traffic lights, even in the absence of compelling statistics. The Russian Federation felt that the principle is important, but different States will have different interpretations. Indonesia expressed sympathy for the principle and Trinidad and Tobago saw the principle as an important management tool.

Greenpeace said that the principle should be applied in all cases of uncertainty, and that its use does not necessarily lead to the application of moratoria. The Alaska Marine Conservation Council said that the precautionary approach is linked to long-term sustainable fishing for human consumption and for small-scale and industrial activity to protect the base of oceanic activity. Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration lacks scope to give developing nations the ability to incorporate the principle in regimes.

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