The Chair opened the session by introducing the FAO paper on reference points for fishery management. The FAO representative said that the principle of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) was adopted in UNCLOS as a target for development or rebuilding of resources that would be efficient for humans and safe for the resource. But, with an imperfect knowledge of fish population dynamics and incomplete understanding of socio-economic dynamics, using MSY as a management target is neither efficient nor safe. Reference therefore needs to be made to more precautionary reference points. The concept of stock management unit is central to conservation, and management and cooperation need to be developed. The MSY concept is flawed, sometimes seriously, because the stock production potential is variable and the MSY shifts as fishing intensifies. There is complete uncertainty on the precise value of the MSY and the corresponding effort, and on the fisheries themselves. The optimum sustainable yield (OSY) concept has been coined but offers little opportunity for practical application. The FAO paper suggests that managers use more than one reference point, promote proper statistical models and take into full consideration errors attached to assessments.
One delegate said that the unit stock is the basic principle of all models. Establishing target limits needs to be done over the whole range of distribution of the stock, both within the EEZs and beyond. A coastal State delegate strongly disagreed with this view and said that measures on the high seas should be compatible and in agreement with the measures in the EEZs. Another representative said that there are positive aspects to the concept of MSY and the FAO paper gives negative aspects. These should be left to the Working Group.
It was highlighted that the FAO document brings clarity to the concept of Biological Reference Point (BRP), but it is still unclear how the document on BRP should be introduced in the work of this Conference, since this concept and the Precautionary Approach are closely related.
A distant water fishing State delegate said that where scientific information is poor, the BRP should be flexible to allow more practical approaches for step-by-step changes in fishing rather than imposing strict measures on the stock, such as moratoria. But another State said that in the absence of complete information, empirical solutions cannot be accepted, especially on a step-by-step basis. A delegate asked that the difference be made clear between stock management and stock utilization, since the terms do not mean the same thing. An NGO representative said that the concept evolved when fisheries were still developing, but should now be the upper limit where more strengthened measures have to be used.
The Chair then said that the Working Group would pick up the debate and asked for delegates to comment on the Russian amendments to the negotiating text. The authors of the amendments said that they intended to adopt language closer to UNCLOS than the Chair's text. A delegate said that it should also reflect on the UNCED mandate and emphasize human-centered sustainable development.
Once again, attempts were made to reflect more strongly on measures within the EEZs and were just as expectedly opposed by coastal States representatives.
It was noted by some that the Russian proposal artificially disintegrates measures to protect straddling fish stocks, since it refers to long-term sustainability for straddling fish stocks and to optimum utilization for highly migratory fish stocks. But the authors pointed to some specific stocks that should be managed in a special way, and reference was made to a list of such particular stocks.
The next amendment was on paragraph 19 of Section III on enclosed and semi-enclosed seas. The authors highlighted the lack of trust between countries fishing in the enclosed or semi-enclosed seas and the differences in agreements due to the absence of objective appraisal. Some delegates expressed their unease at the amendment since it departs substantially from Article 123 of UNCLOS. Others insisted that the text is not so much contradictory as complimentary to this article. Any additional rights to the coastal States were strongly opposed by those who saw an attempt in the Russian amendments to extend national legislation towards the high seas. The authors answered that their intention was not to infringe on the freedom of the high seas but rather to encourage cooperation among the States involved. The Chair concluded the debate by explaining that the problem was one of finding the right balance between the special interests of the coastal States and the freedom of others to fish on the high seas.
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