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AFTERNOON INFORMAL PLENARY SESSION

The Chair convened the session with an introduction on the form the outcome of this Conference should take. A first series of speakers took the floor to tell of their determination to see a legally-binding document become the outcome of this Conference. They said that if the text was finally agreed to by all, there should be no reason why the agreed measures would not be binding. While it is true that regional organizations will play a key role in implementation, there are a number of general principles that will apply in all instances. These should be codified in a legally-binding document.

Several delegates indicated their willingness to continue the process beyond the August deadline if this leads to the adoption of a convention. A delegate argued that the transformation of the text in a convention would merely be a technical exercise, and if the document is too comprehensive, certain key elements could be retained in a convention and would be supplemented by other documents such as a General Assembly Resolution.

Enforcement by the coastal States is one of the areas in which a legally-binding document would prove most useful. Past experiences have shown that no action can be taken against those States that have refused to abide by the regional arrangements. A new treaty law approach could solve this problem, and it might best be achieved through an intergovernmental negotiating committee approach similar to the one in the conventions on climate change and biodiversity. A delegate said that a draft convention had been submitted to the Secretariat by a number of Latin American countries and should be available to the delegates by the end of the week.

The representative of a coastal State said that measures need to be binding. If measures are not accepted at the global level, they will not be more acceptable at the regional scale. A delegate said that those who oppose the adoption of a legally-binding document are those who want the over-fishing to carry on as it has up to now.

Settlement of disputes is another area in which a Convention would provide more certainty and predictability. Safeguards could be included to ensure that some specific conditions are met before any enforcement measure is taken. A delegate said that one should distinguish what is illegal from what is wrong and a convention alone can ensure that unfair practices stop.

A number of States said that they were quite flexible on the form of the outcome as long as there is agreement on the substance. A delegate said the final text would make little sense if it did not apply to the stocks throughout their range.

Several representatives of distant water fishing States were of the view that a legally-binding document was not required. Meaningful results can be achieved through other means. The drift-net ban resolution was given as a good example, but a coastal State answered that there is no common measure between this very simple resolution and the scope of what this Conference is trying to achieve.

A convention was characterized as expensive and lengthy to implement. Drafting a convention goes beyond the mandate of this Conference under Resolution 47/192. It was also argued that States would not be as willing to compromise if they felt that they would be legally-bound by the outcome.

The representative of a small island State suggested that the measures be adopted by consensus and they would then be implemented and become the custom before ratification and entry into force. A delegate also remarked that most of the States favoring a legally-binding document are also those who want to limit the scope of the Conference to the high seas.

The Chair concluded the debate on this section by saying that this issue had been simmering from the beginning and he felt this exchange of views had been constructive.

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