ENB:07:30 [Next] . [Previous] . [Contents]

CLOSING PLENARY SESSION THURSDAY MARCH 31, 1994

The Chair began the morning Plenary with general remarks on the revisions of the negotiating text. He explained that important progress had been achieved on the issues of compatibility and coherence and on national jurisdiction on the high seas. There is common ground now but further work is needed to achieve complete agreement. The Chair took delegates section-by-section through the negotiating text, which now reflects input from the Working Groups. Nandan suggested that States should not succumb to short-term interests.

The Chair then opened the floor for closing statements. The EU stated that only a responsible attitude on the part of all States could provide for a successful conclusion to the Conference before the 49th General Assembly. Japan suggested that further consultations begin immediately in preparation for the August meeting. New Zealand said that NGO participation is extremely important for the sake of openness and of reaching communities not easily reached by governments. NGOs should have the opportunity to participate in meetings in accordance with the rules of procedure, given the exigencies of space, which are often limiting. The Chair stated that the procedure in respect to NGOs has been known from the beginning. They are included as observers by the rules of procedure. The problem arises when you go to negotiations and smaller group meetings. The question is how far to go and how much everyone interested in the negotiations can be involved. The Chair acknowledged the important contribution of NGOs to the work here and elsewhere; however, in certain stages of negotiations, even the number of delegations in smaller rooms are limited. The Chair stated that he has tried to accommodate NGOs in informal meetings by designating two NGOs to be present unless negotiations are of such a character that other delegations are not permitted.

Ecuador introduced a new document, "Presentation of the Working Paper for a Draft Convention on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks on the High Seas" (A/CONF.164/L.44), resulting from the 10th Fishing Ministers Meeting in Lima, 8-10 March, 1994. He said that it is necessary to preserve the environment and mentioned Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 on the protection of oceans and seas and the rational use of living resources. The intention of this Conference is to adopt precise binding provisions to deal with problems discussed here. He also stated that there was massive support for a binding legal instrument to establish clear-cut standards for the regulation of fishing on the high seas. The text of L.44 reflects the negotiations of the first session of this Conference, FAO documentation, UNCLOS, and the definitions found in A/CONF.164/L.32, submitted by the Russian Federation. Interesting proposals from this session will be added.

Peru said that the purpose of the draft text is not to replace the Chair's negotiating text, but to provide a valuable auxiliary document. There should be a view to ensuring the rational use of resources on the high seas, contributing to the well-being of all people. The representative of OLDEPESCA said that the general feeling of the region and the majority of States was to negotiate a binding instrument for the effective conservation and management of high seas resources for the benefit of all. A number of other countries outside of the region had been present, so this draft text should not come as a surprise. Quoting World Bank figures, and using earlier interventions of the Philippines, Canada and Peru as support, he said there was high social content in the mandate producing L.44. For 1 billion people, the main source of protein is fish, and 100 million people rely on fishing for their livelihood. He stated that the ministers at Lima proclaimed a 5-year period for social development of fishers to the year 2000.

The Russian Federation said that it was not totally satisfied, as a tremendous amount of work was still needed to produce a legally-binding document. He said that he was uncertain if work could be finished by the conclusion of the next session. Other delegations, such as Samoa, said that this was a productive session and urged States to build on the early signs of consensus. He was concerned, however, by some delegations that avoid addressing fundamental and urgent issues, such as compliance and enforcement. Canada said that responsible coastal States cannot accept irresponsible fishing practices on the high seas that undermine EEZ management measures taken by the coastal States. He said that we must have a set of management measures inside and outside the EEZs for the same stocks, a global enforcement regime where fishing States' vessels can be arrested, and a global system of binding dispute settlement, all to be combined in a global convention.

Norway stated that there is a need to ban unregulated fishing of the high seas, and that the coastal States need enhanced powers of enforcement. Argentina associated himself with the remarks of Ecuador and also said that UNCLOS was too detailed in the preservation of resources in the EEZ. The US said that more work needs to be done, particularly on the Precautionary Approach and Annex 2 on reference points. He also said that those favoring a binding agreement are States that insist we deal with the high seas, developing binding rules and concepts only for those fishing on the high seas and negotiating a treaty that will only apply to others. Trinidad & Tobago said that there are certain central pillars, such as compatibility and peaceful settlement of disputes, without which significant practical benefits cannot be achieved. Australia said that it was imperative for all delegations to look at intersessional consultations to develop measures and principles for a strong framework to help deal with problems of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. Chile said that any regime established for the high seas must be fully compatible for the fishing regimes interested in the convention and not be detrimental to any of its aspects.

An NGO representative from the Fishermen's Community in Chile urged delegates not to neglect the needs of societies. There is a need to strengthen the Conference mandate by establishing equity, global peace and sustainable development. He asked that the real interests of fishers be recognized and urged governments to negotiate constructively to produce an instrument advancing the goals of conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. A representative of Greenpeace spoke of NGO frustrations at being excluded from participation in the informal-informal negotiations and noted that NGO contributions to the Conference received little reflection in the revised negotiating text. He asked for meaningful NGO participation during the intersessional period and at the August session of the Conference, and read an open letter to the Chair and delegates on behalf of the NGO conference participants. The letter expressed in strong terms their frustrations at being excluded from negotiating sessions which contradicts the letter and spirit of Agenda 21 and the follow-up of UNCED. A representative from the National Audubon Society, speaking on behalf of a caucus of NGOs, urged States to dispense with their narrow self-interests and enter into a mutually beneficial, binding and enforceable agreement to regulate straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.

[Return to start of article]