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PRECAUTIONARY APPROACH WORKING GROUP

An informal working group, consisting of seven States, with additional written input from three distant water fishing (DWF) States, labored late on Thursday night seeking consensus on a draft revised text for the Precautionary Approach Working Group. A written text was delivered to the Bureau on Friday morning.

The Bureau worked up a revised text (Section I, Paragraph 5, Rev.2) during the morning, which was circulated to the Working Group by the Chair, Andres Couve, at 3.00 p.m. on Friday. A separate listing detailing the main points of divergence was also circulated. The Chair, in acknowledging the valuable contributions made, said the Bureau had tried to avoid the use of conflicting wording in Rev.2. The text, he believed, was technically correct and balanced, but it was not a consensus text. He preferred to advance the structure of a set of technical guidelines rather than reopen Rev.2 to serve as the basis of an Annex to the negotiating text.

Delegates initially expressed disappointment that their additional comments were not adequately reflected in Rev.2. One DWF State, while acknowledging the technically sound structure of Rev.2, voiced concern that the consensus text reached in the informal working group had not been adequately reflected.

The Chair admitted the impossibility of incorporating all the divergent points of view tendered, but emphasized, the Bureau had made all reasonable efforts to incorporate many new concepts. The FAO Representative said Rev.2 had been developed from the Working Group proposals, and should be read carefully. Most of the new concepts had been accommodated by substantial re-wording of the sub-paragraphs. He said the revised Chapeau had been accepted in its entirety.

One member of the Like-Minded core group congratulated the Bureau on crystallizing, succinctly, the many complex ideas in a document that could be usefully passed back to the Plenary to develop further, because some of the explicit technical language invoked political connotations.

Another delegate said that unless important conceptual issues were reflected accurately, the Plenary would not have a comprehensive technical text upon which to proceed. He said it was essential to include precautionary measures that covered the entire range of a stock and that the entire stock area needed recognition both technically and biologically. He urged strengthening the concept of uncertainty, which is essential to precaution. Bycatch needs minimizing but clearly it is impossible to eliminate. A DWF State delegate spoke of practical bycatch problems because of predator-prey relationships in tuna long-lining. A Like-Minded core group member said he could not accept generalized references to ecosystems. A member of the Like-Minded core group said Rev.2 was not just a summary of a good discussion, but it had sufficient content to go forward to the Plenary as a consensus document from the Working Group. The Chair thought it should go forward as a "proposal" from the Working Group. Another Like-Minded core group member said he did not sense the unity expressed by a Like-Minded core group colleague and felt time could be more beneficially utilized developing a framework of technical guidelines.

A delegate suggested several minor amendments that could bring Rev.2 closer to consensus. A DWF State said that he did not disagree with the text, but some of the sense of the text had been lost through editing. Recognizing the deadline set by the Plenary, delegates accepted an assurance by the Chair that some modifications to Rev.2 would be made by the Bureau prior to circulation in the Plenary today.

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