The United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks concluded its third substantive session at UN Headquarters in New York on 26 August 1994. This Conference, one of the major outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), was called for by the UN General Assembly in one of a series of resolutions designed to implement the decisions taken in Rio.
The Conference, which brought together many delegates responsible for negotiating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea with those involved in the UNCED process, addressed the divisive issue of the management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks on the high seas. According to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, straddling and highly migratory fish stocks include species occurring within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of two or more coastal States or both within the EEZ and in an area beyond and adjacent to it. An EEZ is defined as an area extending beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea but not beyond 200 miles from the baselines. Many of these stocks are among the most commercially valuable species and are, therefore, subject to intense fishing efforts. Recent reports have concluded that many straddling and highly migratory fish stocks are either over-exploited or depleted.
The Chair, Satya Nandan (Fiji), opened the session and urged participants to take critical decisions and show a new kind of global commitment as UNCLOS enters into force. At UNCED, States admitted to the failure of the international community to manage global fish resources. Part of the problem was a lack of cooperation among States, who have ignored the fact that the right to fish is conditional and accompanied by the duty to manage and conserve the resources for present and future generations. This Conference must establish minimum international standards, ensure that the measures taken in the EEZ and on the high seas are compatible and coherent, ensure that there is an effective mechanism for compliance and enforcement of those measures, provide for a globally-agreed framework for regional cooperation, and establish a compulsory, binding dispute settlement mechanism consistent with UNCLOS.
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