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AFTERNOON INFORMAL PLENARY SESSION

The Chair convened the afternoon session of Plenary in informal session for further consideration of the reports of the two Working Groups. One delegation emphasized that the precautionary approach is the fundamental element of good management. The precautionary approach is consonant with UNCLOS to secure long-term sustainable fishing and to protect the surrounding marine environment. The best scientific information available must necessarily be an essential management tool. Several delegates asked for a clarification on the term "best scientific evidence available".

One delegate suggested a minor modification to clarify language, saying that the use of the term "scientific information" made better sense than "scientific evidence". Another delegate said that the revised draft of paragraph 5 of the Chair's negotiating text presented no major difficulties if a paragraph was added stating that the coastal States concerned should coordinate the establishment and implementation of precautionary measures. He agreed that coherence was needed, but coordination does not authorize distant water fishing States to participate with the same rights as the coastal State within the coastal State's EEZ. Proper restrictions within and outside the EEZ apply under UNCLOS and should not be undermined by the concept of biological unity.

One delegate stated that the documents prepared are applicable to the regime being set up for the high seas. Another delegate said that it was impossible to distill a document that took three days to complete and that such a process would be useless. One representative said that language concerning regional fishery management organizations should be made consistent with language found throughout the negotiating text. The same delegate supported protecting straddling fish stocks and highly migratory stocks throughout their range. He supported the idea that full account must be taken of socio-economic conditions. Subparagraph (b), dealing with the precautionary approach, can only be valid when serious and irreversible damage is done, as is stated in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration.

A delegate stated that conservation of stocks comes first and that legal argumentation is of a secondary nature. He cited Articles 61 and 62 of UNCLOS that economic factors and the need of coastal communities must be taken into account in conserving resources. However, another delegate underscored the inclusion of socio-economic conditions, questioning its inclusion into paragraph (a), a paragraph which deals with biological data. In paragraph (a) (bis), regarding the management of fish stock, he favored talking about the impact of fishing on components of the ecosystem, not the ecosystem as a whole. Sufficient reflection has not been given to restoration of stocks in the document. He said that the importance of bycatch should be inserted in (a) (bis). This is of particular importance to developing countries. He continued by saying that another important amendment is the proposal in paragraph (c) on previously agreed-to recovery plans. Once reference points are exceeded and there is a necessity to facilitate recovery of stocks, that recovery should come through a trigger mechanism.

Three NGOs made statements. One NGO identified some key points: management objectives should be set for each fishery; target and limit reference points should be set for each fishery; States should cooperate on collecting and sharing data for the estimation of reference points; MSY is an international minimum standard for a limit reference point, but in addition target and limit points should be stock-specific and species-specific; management strategies should be structured to ensure that target reference points are not exceeded on average and that the risk of exceeding limit reference points is low.

Another NGO recommended the deletion of the phrase "and socio-economic conditions". Short-term economic gain has driven fisheries management policy in the past. Retention of the phrase would ultimately undermine the conservation intent of the document. Socio-economic references are inapplicable in texts seeking to achieve and maintain the biological integrity of living marine resources and their habitats. One other representative expressed the frustration of other NGOs at the reluctance of coastal States to see measures apply in their EEZs. Principles and standards must apply throughout the range of the stocks but it must be made clear that this will not give DWFSs any special access to future quotas.

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