Yesterday, when the Conference discussed compliance and enforcement, countries frequently referred to the FAO draft agreement to promote compliance with international conservation and management measures by fishing vessels on the high seas. Negotiations, organized by the FAO Secretariat, in cooperation with several interested governments, were held each evening last week at the UN. While these discussions were not officially part of the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, talks were being held since, as one delegate put it, "everyone was already here." Last year's FAO Council established an ad hoc group to draft part of the international code of conduct for responsible fishing that will deal with the practice of flagging or reflagging vessels. This group reported to the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting in Rome last March, where parallel negotiations by a working group produced a heavily bracketed text. In June, this draft was presented to a meeting of a technical committee established by the Council. It was tabled at this Conference as an annex to the COFI report.
The final version, negotiated last week, is virtually a consensus document. From here it will be presented to the FAO Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters (CCLM) and then to the FAO Council and the 27th session of the FAO Conference in November. Observers have commented on the speed with which this draft convention was negotiated, as there was the necessary political will. Copies of the final draft were circulated informally last Friday and the document will be released as a Conference document later this week.