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WORKING GROUP ON FISHERIES MANAGEMENT REFERENCE POINTS

Six delegations and two NGOs made submissions to the Chair of the Working Group on Fisheries Management. These, together with the initial working group comments, were developed into a draft working text by the Secretariat. The text was available to delegates prior to the resumption of the Working Group discussions. Chair Rosenberg introduced the six-page text, which includes five sections: (I) an introduction; (II) the development of management objectives; (III) target and limit reference points; (IV) uncertainty; and (V) linkage to management. He said that while the text was long, the major agreed concepts were fully elaborated. At the outset he said there was a need to strive for technical consensus, and he felt this realistically was attainable.

On Section I, a distant water fishing (DWF) State delegate spoke of a preference to see the draft text referenced back to the FAO document (A/CONF.164/INF/9), which included a useful shopping list of reference points. He also said the guidelines needed to be flexible for practical fisheries management, because no reference point was perfect. The Chair said it was important not to enshrine reference points, because they needed updating in the light of improved data and technology.

A delegate referring to paragraph 5 said there was a need to amplify all forms of mortality, especially toxin-induced, that caused man-made fisheries diseases. The FAO representative said the text catered more for selectivity and habitat destruction issues that are biologically reversible, than for biological degradation, which is irreversible.

A Like-Minded core group delegate recommended the introduction of the safe biological unit concept as identified by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES), which was supported by other delegates. The FAO said it was important to recognize the concept, but only in general terms agreed by technicians and scientists. Another Like-Minded core group member said the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) concept should be developed further in paragraph 7 as an objective reference point for building up fisheries and that fish stocks be regarded as biological units. A delegate agreed that the MSY could be established as a target reference point, and when reached, it could be interpreted as a limiting reference point. Another DWF State delegate said that, theoretically, it is not good to set the MSY as a recovery target. A fourth Like-Minded core group member said that while the text initially appeared long, the inherent complexity of fisheries management reference points required unavoidable lengthy explanation to be of practical value to the end user. He also noted that habitat destruction is a reality that needed incorporating into the text, as did the matter of irreversibility because equilibrium yield changes. He suggested the stochastic approach might be included in Section I. A DWF State said it would be difficult to set reference points for non-target species. Alternative "non-target" species language was suggested in the form of incidental catch, bycatch or multi-species terminology.

During discussion of Section II, the development of management objectives, the Chair reminded delegates that the purview of the Working Group is to provide technical advice to the Plenary, and not to become embroiled in compatibility and coherence issues. A DWF State delegate said he did not understand the reference to social and economic differences in Section II paragraph 2. The Optimal Sustainable Yield (OSY) did not have a technical definition but it could be established by a set of reference points. Throughout Section II there was a preference by coastal State and DWF State delegates to delete references to the State and sovereignty issues.

A delegate emphasized the need for management objectives to recognize long-term conservation of living marine resources and that there should be reference in the text to ecosystem management. A DWF State delegate said ecosystem management required considerable analysis, as it is important to recognize what is realistically achievable under such a management approach. Another DWF State delegate said that there should not be a mix of different meanings because a reference to biological reference points would cover ecosystem management.

Under Section III, delegates felt that the inclusion of Annex 1 of the FAO document would be a beneficial addition to the text, but there was concern that the FAO document should be referred to as a whole, because of its technical value. A regional fisheries commission representative said that it was necessary to question the use of an MSY reference point in a developing fishery, as it is impossible to estimate the initial MSY value. A developing coastal State delegate said it is necessary to recognize changes in species composition as an indicator in management. The FAO said it is necessary to identify global models of management and while the concept of reference points is useful, the Working Group should also think analytically, because in the future it might be necessary to develop analytical models with separate reference points for breeding and spawning areas. In closing the second session of the Working Group, the Chair said the Secretariat would work throughout the night preparing revisions of Sections I, II and III, prior to resuming consideration of Sections IV and V this morning.

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