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GENERAL DEBATE

Satya N. Nandan, the Chair of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, welcomed delegates to the fifth session before calling for a moment of silent reflection. The Chairman then advised delegates that the Bureau's proposed work program for the fourth session would proceed immediately with general statements or observations on the text contained in document A/CONF.164/22 addressing substantive issues. Chairman Nandan expressed satisfaction with the intersessional consultations, specifically the meetings held in Tokyo and Geneva. Matters of particular concern in those meetings were: compatibility of conservation and management measures in areas under national jurisdiction and high seas areas; new participants in regional and sub-regional fisheries organizations; enforcement of conservation and management measures in high seas areas by non-flag States; and the desirability of using UNCLOS provisions with respect to dispute settlement.

He expressed concern over the deteriorating state of global fisheries citing a recent FAO Report on the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture and emphasized the need for practical and effective global solutions that are consistent with UNCLOS. Chairman Nandan underlined the urgency of the task before delegates. Mentioning recent incidents involving fishing vessels, he urged restraint on all sides and immediate action to resolve these important issues.

CANADA: The Hon. Brian Tobin, Minister of Fisheries, stated that the condition of the fish stocks on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland has worsened. He chastised the Spanish for their lack of cooperation in Canada's efforts to improve the health of the Grand Banks stocks and stated that without the cooperation of DWFNs these efforts will be in vain. He described recent arrests of fishing vessels (one stateless and one Spanish) involved in the harvesting of undersized fish with illegal gear. Canada has committed itself to negotiations with other States, he said, and when necessary, to unilateral action to end overfishing. Canada has not taken these unilateral measures eagerly but will enforce them until alternatives are found.

He said five Conference goals must be achieved: a legally binding UN Convention; the implementation of a precautionary approach; compatibility between conservation measures inside and outside 200 miles; binding and compulsory dispute resolution measures; and high seas enforcement.

EUROPEAN UNION: Fisheries Commissioner Emma Bonino restated the EU's firm commitment to ensuring sound and effective conservation of SFS and HMFS and their responsible and sustainable utilization in full consistency with UNCLOS. She said the priority of scientific aspects in the building up of conservation measures must be acknowledged. Effective conservation can only be achieved by ensuring compatibility between measures taken on the high seas and in EEZs. She said SFS and HMFS involve the rights of more than one State and sound and effective conservation can only be obtained through cooperation among all States concerned.

Referring to the arrest of the Spanish fishing vessel "Estai", she said that only the Canadian authorities saw the fishing net in question. The vessel had been inspected on January 17 and nothing unusual was found. She refuted Canadian statements that there had been abnormal use of the vessel's fishing gear and that catches had been falsely recorded.

US: Larry L. Snead said a global agreement must reach the objective of sustainable use of SFS and HMFS and be consistent with UNCLOS. Cooperation in the conservation and management of SFS and HMFS is most effectively achieved through regional or subregional organizations or arrangements. An effective international agreement must have strong enforcement and compliance procedures to achieve effective conservation and management of the stocks in question, and effective and workable dispute settlement procedures that are compulsory and binding.

AUSTRALIA: Richard Rowe, speaking on behalf of the member countries of the South Pacific Fisheries Forum Agency (SPFFA) urged delegates to undertake a speedy examination of the draft document with a view to reaching consensus on all remaining differences during this session. He said recent incidents highlighted the tensions existing on the world's oceans, requiring urgent resolution. The SPFFA supported the creation of a legally-binding regime for the conservation and management of SFS and HMFS.

CHILE: Amb. Andres Couve said coastal States have special concerns to ensure high seas fisheries do not harm activities carried out in the EEZs of coastal States. The coastal State has the duty and mandate established by UNCLOS to care for such resources. Based on duties and special interests, conservation measures must be taken into account by DWFNs.

BRAZIL: Renato Xavier said his country has sought to avoid entrenchment in the coastal States' positions and strongly favors cooperation to deal with SFS and HMFS problems. He said a more constructive attitude is necessary between coastal States and DWFNs. The blurring of the 200 mile boundary acts as a barrier to the implementation of international law. Responsibilities must be developed that include port and flag States.

JAPAN: Matsushiro Horiguchi said that issues of concern to Japan include: compliance and enforcement on the high seas; port State enforcement; consistency between conservation and management procedures applicable to areas under national jurisdiction and those applicable to areas of the high seas; as well as data collection and exchange systems. He said the outcome should be non-binding in nature. On high seas enforcement, he pointed to the necessity for strict accordance with international law and UNCLOS, and stated that regional agreements must be used to implement enforcement measures. Safeguarding against excessive enforcement is of high concern.

PERU: Amb. Alfonso Arias-Schreiber said current unlawful high seas harvesting cannot be allowed to continue. High seas rules must be compatible with coastal State rules. The draft document goes beyond UNCLOS provisions with respect to seizures of vessels on the high seas. Port State action must protect coastal State interests and prevent illegal catches and landings by flag States.

THAILAND: Boonlert Phasuk said Thailand agrees with cooperation between coastal States and DWFNs, especially with regard to exchange of reliable information and data. He urged for the "special needs" of the developing countries to be taken into account through "equitable access" and that "equitable sharing" be applied, enabling new entrants to receive preferential rights of access.

CHINA: Shenli Lin said the general guiding principle of the draft agreement should follow the guiding principle of UNCLOS. Referring to recent high seas conflict, China opposes unilateral action taken by any coastal State that harms the fishing rights of flag States on the high seas. UNCLOS provisions should be respected. China will oppose provisions allowing a port State to detain and arrest fishing vessels operating on the high seas. The use of the term "enclave" lacks broad agreement but the conservation and management measures in the specific area should follow the principles of high seas fisheries management.

KOREA: Amb. Wonil Cho said Korea desired to participate meaningfully in the Conference but argued that the revised draft agreement clearly leaned in favor of coastal States. An agreement must reflect equity between coastal and flag States and be fully consistent with UNCLOS. Korea remained concerned about the arrest of a fishing vessel on the high seas in contravention of UNCLOS.

POLAND: Dr. Stanislaw Pawlak said international cooperation based on the best scientific knowledge is the only way to ensure the future sustainability of fisheries. Referring to the Grand Banks fisheries conflict, Poland rejected unilateral action. He said it is important to identify management structures by applying effective conservation and management measures that recognize the biological unity of fish stocks. High seas enclaves should not be treated any differently. Poland supports a consensus document that can be translated and applied at the regional level.

ICELAND: Amb. Helgi Agustsson said Iceland is willing to cooperate with other States within competent regional organizations in establishing effective management and conservation measures. The result of this Conference should become the basis for such cooperation among States. Referring to the EU/Canadian dispute, he said delegates should not be distracted from the principal issue at stake, which is the need to regulate high seas fisheries globally.

NORWAY: Dag Mjaaland said that it is not difficult to understand that the situation in the NAFO regulatory area has created concern, both in respect of the viability of sustainable management and conservation principles, as well as with regard to how such principles should be applied. He said the situation off the eastern coast of Canada underscores the importance of having a set of general rules that can be applied to the numerous vexing problems in this field. What is needed is a multilateral solution and not unilateral action.

ARGENTINA: Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi said it is no longer possible to passively witness the unbridled and disorderly use of the high seas, as coastal States have the obligation to preserve stocks within their EEZs. There are no appropriate international regulations to ensure conservation of fish resources in adjacent areas. This leads to the adoption of unilateral measures when there is a lack of cooperation. She said the Conference must complete an international convention to establish an effective regime for the preservation of living marine resources on the high seas.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Vladimir K. Zilanov said the central problem is to attain universal and irreversible compliance by fishermen of all States with scientifically-based measures for conservation of fish stocks on the basis of principles of precaution and responsible fishing on the high seas. The Russian Federation would suggest a method for a fair solution to the question of enclaves, thereby implementing the precautionary principle and responsible fishing, taking into account the special responsibility of the coastal State for maintaining the productivity of the fish stocks concerned.

UKRAINE: Volodymyr Boudarenko reaffirmed his country's interest in establishing cooperation, taking into account interests of all States in an equal way. In trying to achieve a compromise between coastal States and States fishing on the high seas, the specific interests of the countries with economies in transition must be taken into account. He attached great importance to the work of regional and sub-regional organizations.

BANGLADESH: The representative of Bangladesh said the rights and obligations of port States, flag States and coastal States must be clearly spelled out. He supported the precautionary approach to fisheries management and the special requirements of developing countries.

MEXICO: Gerardo Lozano said this Conference should promote cooperation among coastal States and DWFNs by means of bilateral agreements or within the framework of existing regional agencies. Measures applied in the EEZs must be compatible with measures on the high seas. Mexico could support a binding instrument, but said monitoring schemes might impinge on State sovereignty.

ECUADOR: Amb. Luis Valenvia said results can only be obtained through cooperation and precise management measures in the high seas areas adjacent to coastal States' EEZs. Flag State control must be reflected by an obligation to examine infringements and violations. Port States must be able to carry out physical inspections. Freedom of the high seas is not an authorization to abuse international law.

PERU: Speaking for a second time, Amb. Arias-Schreiber said cooperation has not worked because cooperation invariably lacks political will. He reiterated that the only alternative is to establish a set of compulsory rules. One cannot tender that the rights and duties of coastal and flag States are equal in the management and protection of SFS and HMFS.

MOROCCO: The delegate from Morocco said consensus will be meaningless without effective observation and enforcement measures.

IGOs: The representative of the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific (CPPS) said that machinery must be adopted to deal with high seas fishing and a binding agreement established to protect SFS and HMFS. He supported mechanisms for port States to inspect vessels on the high seas. The representative of OLDEPESCA said that irresponsible EEZ management is being used as an excuse to fish in other EEZs.

NGOs: Clifton Curtis from Greenpeace International said government intervention resulted when cooperation failed. The provisions of small scale and artisanal fishers must be respected in the final text. The application of the precautionary approach must be binding and the enforcement procedure must include high seas boarding, arrest and the detention of vessels.

At the conclusion of the general statements, the Chair said he was aware of the changes needed in his draft text. He endorsed the comments of Greenpeace and reminded delegates that time is of the essence and a practical approach is required. Nandan suggested that the draft agreement be considered in a selective manner, taking Parts I, II and VIII in the first instance, followed by Parts VI and VII. Consideration of the less contentious Parts III and IV would then follow. He said he would undertake informal negotiations as necessary. Securing endorsement to his proposed work plan, Nandan declared the Conference in informal plenary to undertake detailed consideration of his draft agreement.

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