The Chair introduced his working draft on this controversial issue by emphasizing the two opposite views on the matter. On the one hand, a number of delegates have called for a biological unity approach through which measures taken for the management of a stock on the high seas have to be applied throughout its range, i.e., within the EEZ. But coastal States see this as a clear impingement on the jurisdictional rights granted to them by UNCLOS. As the Chair put it, the two views -- one biological and the other jurisdictional -- have to be reconciled for the sake of effective conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.
STATE SOVEREIGNTY: One of the delegates initiated the debate by calling on all States to relinquish part of their sovereignty in order to achieve a better solution for all. Distant water fishing nations have to yield to special rights of the coastal States, while the coastal States must allow for some outside intervention in the management of the straddling and highly migratory fish stocks in their EEZs. This proposal, while approved by some, met with some strong opposition from other delegates. A delegate insisted that each State give due regard to the interests of others. A solution to this apparently unsolvable problem can be reached if all parties negotiate on an equal footing. Another delegate, however, insisted that the States were not on equal footing to start with since the nomadic vessels fishing on the high seas have access to other fishing grounds while the coastal communities depend on the straddling stocks for their livelihood. Another delegate responded that socio-economic needs of the distant fishers should also be taken into consideration. It was also argued that UNCLOS does not provide for equality among States but grants coastal States a clear advantage. It was argued, however, that these special rights are not absolute, but subject to a number of stringent conditions that need to be met.
AN ECOSYSTEM APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT: This approach was advocated by the proponents of the biological unity approach, who argue that due to their biological particularities, these stocks cannot be managed separately within the EEZs and on the high seas. As one delegate put it, a single stock cannot be managed by two separate entities.
SCOPE OF APPLICATION: There was some degree of controversy as to where the measures taken by the regional organizations should apply. Some parties insisted that "on the high seas" be deleted from paragraph 2 to make sure that those measures cover the whole range of the stocks. This was also reflected in the debate on paragraph 3, where the conservation measures taken are to place no undue burden on the coastal States. Some opposed this provision as subordinating the freedom to fish on the high seas to the rights of the coastal States.
MEASURES TO BE TAKEN IN CASE THE NEGOTIATIONS FAIL: Paragraph 5 met with strong opposition from distant water fishing nations who oppose the priority given to coastal States' measures if no agreement is reached. Instead, it was suggested that the States be compelled to negotiate further and provisionally and voluntarily adopt measures based on the best available scientific evidence to ensure that the condition of the stocks does not deteriorate. Some coastal States thought this was too weak to protect depleted stocks. This suggestion gives high seas fishers too much judgement in the adoption of conservation measures.
NATURE OF THE CONSERVATION MEASURES: Conservation measures should take into account all the relevant factors such as stock conditions but also the socio-economic impacts on the fishers and their communities. A delegate pointed out that while economic factors are mentioned in UNCLOS, social factors are not and they should be clearly defined before they are integrated in the final document. A nation insisted that measures applying to straddling stocks should be different from those applying to highly migratory stocks.
THE FAO CODE OF CONDUCT ON RESPONSIBLE FISHING: The Code of Conduct was singled out as a good indication on how management and conservation measures should be carried out. A delegate suggested that the Code of Conduct should be fully implemented by 1996, when the UN Commission on Sustainable Development will be addressing the implementation of the oceans chapter of Agenda 21.
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