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CLOSING PLENARY SESSION

The Chair opened the final session of the Conference at 12:05 pm and stated that the agenda would cover: the report of Credentials Committee Chair; adoption of the Agreement; the statement of the Conference Chair; resolutions in the Draft Final Act to be adopted; and a list of speakers.

Amb. Alberto Luis Daverede of Argentina, Chair of the Credentials Committee, stated that the Committee had met on 3 August 1995 and prepared documents A/CONF.164/31 and A/CONF.164/34. He said that credentials had been submitted to the Secretary-General in the form provided for by rule 4, paragraph 1, of the Rules of Procedure by a number of countries. He further noted that with appointments of representatives communicated by cable, credentials and appointments with respect to this session had been received from 112 States and the EU. He outlined two recommendations by the Credentials Committee regarding the acceptance of representatives, and encouraged others to make their submissions expeditiously. The Chair then stated that paragraph (6) of document A/CONF.164/34 contains the recommendation of the Credentials Committee and asked for the agreement of the delegates regarding its adoption. It was adopted.

The Chair then introduced document A/CONF.164/33 dated 3 August 1995. This document represents the agreed text in its final version, and he said it is available in all languages. The Chair recommended no vote be taken. The text was adopted and delegates applauded.

The Chair stated that delegates had just adopted an historic instrument, the provisions of which are practical, realistic and firmly based on UNCLOS. He noted that the Agreement is built on three essential pillars: it sets out principles on which conservation and management must be based including the precautionary approach and the use of the best scientific information; it ensures that conservation and management measures are complied with and adhered to, with primary responsibility reaffirmed with the flag State and a framework for action by other States; and, it provides for the peaceful settlement of disputes. The Chair underscored the fact that these pillars allow for a framework of cooperation, to replace conflict. In providing this framework, the Agreement, inter alia: establishes detailed minimum standards for measures for the conservation and management of SFS and HMFS; ensures compatibility and coherence in these measures in areas under national jurisdiction and on the high seas; ensures that effective mechanisms exist for compliance and enforcement on the high seas; and, recognizes the special requirements of developing States. The Chair pointed out that regional and subregional fisheries management organizations and arrangements will play a pivotal role and stated that the full cooperation of the international community is imperative. He praised the FAO for its work in providing technical advice to the Conference, and said that the Code of Conduct and the Agreement will work together to strengthen conservation and management practices for fisheries worldwide. Nandan thanked the Vice Chairmen, colleagues from the Pacific, and the Secretariat for their invaluable assistance in this process. He said that delegates should feel proud of the results achieved, and urged rapid implementation of the Agreement. He said that it was a great personal honor for him to have been elected Chairman of the Conference, and expressed his gratitude for the privilege of working with such distinguished and highly competent friends and colleagues. The Chair's statement was followed by prolonged applause.

CANADA: Hon. Brian Tobin, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, stated that an important missing chapter from the Law of the Sea had been written at this Conference. He noted that participants in the Conference had become aware of the urgent need for effective international controls given the state of the world's fisheries, and complemented the creativity applied by all parties in the pursuit of this goal. Tobin stated that regional fisheries management organizations play a fundamental role, and that the use of the precautionary approach, compatibility of management decisions for areas under national jurisdiction and the high seas, and compulsory binding dispute settlement are the keys to this role. He stated that Canada has strongly supported this Conference and has shown patience and forbearance with foreign overfishing of straddling stocks, but pointed out that on occasion it has been necessary to take action. He urged a commitment to speedy implementation of controls to end abuses of high seas fishing rights, and stated that the Government of Canada will retain Bill C-29 until the new Agreement is fully and properly adopted.

The Chair then dealt with two procedural issues in document A/CONF.164/32. The first requested that the Secretary-General open the Agreement for signature, and the second was annexed to the Draft Final Act, and built upon articles in the Agreement which recommend that the Secretary General take action. Both of these resolutions were adopted. Nandan then requested that the Secretariat make facilities available on 4 December for the signature of the Agreement. He further noted that the Draft Final Act must now be updated to include the activities of the last two days. These actions were also adopted.

NORWAY: Mr. Jan Henry T. Olsen, Minister of Fisheries, stated that the Chair had demonstrated exceptional leadership and judgment and deserved the highest praise. He pointed out that the Agreement provides to the world a powerful and timely example of the will to seek reasonable compromise and peaceful settlement of the issues before them, and to allow the rule of law to prevail in their relations with each other. He urged that the achievements of today be transformed into the lasting benefits of tomorrow through early entry into force of the Agreement and reaffirmed Norway's willingness to work in partnership with their friends in the North-East Atlantic region in pursuit of this goal.

THE EUROPEAN UNION: Fisheries Commissioner Emma Bonino complemented the Chair on his efforts to build an instrument which has the potential to form the basis for the strong conservation requirements needed, and which seeks to obtain solutions that are acceptable to all parties involved. She noted that the EU has not only an important high seas fishing fleet, but a substantial coastal area, and stated that it has defended the need for a regime based on strong regional organizations open to all States having a real interest in the fisheries concerned. She said that: only non-discriminatory, open regional organizations can offer States the possibility to fully discharge their obligations under international law; flag States must have exclusive jurisdiction over vessels flying their flag; and, the EU remains faithful to the mandate of the General Assembly and Article 4 of the Agreement regarding consistency with the provisions of UNCLOS. She noted that the European Community, though its competent authorities, will evaluate the Agreement in order to see whether this mandate has been achieved. She emphasized that binding legal dispute prevention and settlement must exist, and that actions by States that take the law into their own hands is unacceptable. She stated that she was profoundly astonished to find that a provision exists in the text that does not take into account concerns over the non-use of force, and expressed hope that the vague wording on this issue will be specified in the framework of regional and subregional organizations and arrangements.

ICELAND: The Fisheries Minister viewed the Conference as a continuation of the work begun during the Conferences on the Law of the Sea and noted that the Agreement built on successes already achieved as a result of UNCLOS. He further stated that "with the adoption of the agreement today, we find once again confirmation of the invaluable contribution the United Nations can make to the resolution of disputes between States through the evolution of international law." Iceland also thanked Conference participants for their willingness to reach compromise and thereby establish a framework for future cooperation.

THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Dr. V. F. Korelsky stated that the Agreement addresses the most acute problems facing the world's fisheries today and should resolve them in the near future. He added that provisions of the Agreement are sufficiently detailed to furnish effective solutions, providing that States continued to cooperate following the Agreement's implementation. He also underscored the importance of the provisions concerning conservation and management of SFS and HMFS on the high seas, enclaves and EEZs, as well as those related to dispute resolution.

CHILE: Fisheries Undersecretary Patricio A. Bernal expressed general support for the Agreement and noted that its provisions must be implemented as soon as possible. He stated that as the fourth largest fishing nation in the world, Chile has sought to establish domestic legislation to regulate most of its main fishing areas even though this requires that social and economic sacrifices be made. He stated such sacrifices were necessary for better conservation of fishery resources and urged all States to follow suit. He said that the final text continued to have some weaknesses such as the lack of a procedure for provisional implementation where no regional or subregional organizations have been established. He remarked there is a need to establish an international norm for implementation. He also called for the development of new research paradigms to better understand key aspects of fisheries management, particularly those related to States calculating the income derived from the resources.

UNITED STATES: Larry L. Snead noted that the Agreement carefully balances the interests of coastal States and fishing States; calls for the use of a precautionary approach to fisheries management; sets new standards for data collection and exchange; and, establishes innovative rules on boarding, inspection and enforcement. He stated that "our Agreement will bring added strength to regional fisheries organizations so that they can do a better job." He further added that the Agreement's requirement that States resort to compulsory and binding dispute resolution procedures will promote better decision-making and more peaceful settlement of disputes. The US also emphasized that effective conservation and management of SFS and HMFS throughout their biological range is a shared responsibility and in the mutual interest of all concerned States. He closed by encouraging States to maintain the momentum established over the course of the Conference by implementing provisions of the Agreement as soon as possible.

MEXICO: Amb. Manuel Tello acknowledged the Agreement is a step forward in ensuring that fisheries are sustainable in the future. He stated that this is particularly due to the inclusion of the precautionary principle, the compatibility of conservation and management measures for SFS and HMFS on the high seas and in EEZs, and the recognition of regional and subregional organizations in the Agreement's implementation. His one criticism of the Agreement was that the needs of developing countries was not well reflected in the text. However, he expects that the FAO may be able to help in this regard by urging developed countries to assist developing countries to fish in areas beyond their EEZs. Mexico also underscored the importance of ensuring that Article 92 of UNCLOS, concerning the status of ships, is adhered to in the implementation of the Agreement's conservation and management measures. He added that the needs of coastal States and DWFNs must be better balanced.

JAPAN: Minoru Morimoto acknowledged that the Agreement will ensure the conservation and management of SFS and HMFS throughout the oceans of the world as well as improving their sustainable management. He was pleased that Japan had played a major role in advancing the development of sensible and effective measures leading to greater cooperation between States but said the negotiations had required his country to make more than its share of accommodations and compromises. He said his delegation still holds the view that "States" used in many articles should have been changed to "States Parties." Japan remains concerned about the "use of force" in Article 22(1)(f) and said it should be interpreted narrowly and that the term "jurisdiction" refers to the "jurisdiction over fisheries."

He gave notice that Japan will host the International Conference on Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security in collaboration with the FAO in Kyoto in early December. Noting the potential conflict of dates, he said he hoped that persons attending the Agreement's signing ceremony would be drawn from a different range of professional fields than those attending Kyoto. In closing he thanked Nandan for his guidance, patience and fortitude, without which the Agreement would never have materialised.

PANAMA: Francisco J. Berguido, in speaking about the agreed text, said his country did not wish to go against consensus, but raised his concern about Article 22 (5)(f) and the use of force because those countries with greater resources may be able to effect greater controls on the high seas. He said the Agreement should underscore the "non-use of force" as the guiding principle, which would then be fully consistent with the spirit of peaceful intervention. He reserved his government's position on Article 20(7) because there had been insufficient time for his government to respond.

TURKEY: Ms. Yesim Baykal said the Agreement represented a major step towards universal cooperation for the use of SFS and HMFS, but as Turkey was not a party to UNCLOS it had decided not to participate in the Agreement's adoption nor the two supporting resolutions and the Final Act. She said Turkey did not desire to block the consensus, but wished to be considered absent during the adoption process. Turkey did not wish to become a party to the Agreement at this stage, since the Agreement itself aims to implement relevant provisions of UNCLOS that Turkey has been unable to sign.

CHINA: The delegate from China said the Agreement represented a balanced document, accommodating the positions of all sides, but said that insufficient time had been set aside to discuss some of the principles. He said it was necessary to take into account the needs of the developing countries which have either inadequate or no fishing capability on the high seas. All countries, he said, should conserve and manage resources on the high seas and within EEZs. China objected to the practices of a few countries who used the name of conservation and management to utilize the resources for themselves. China was against overfishing but said enforcement should be just and strict. In reference to the Province of Taiwan he noted that it enjoys abundant fishing.

REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Amb. Wonil Cho said this Agreement will make significant progress in conserving and managing SFS and HMFS throughout the entire range of their distribution and his government is fully committed to international conservation and management. He said the viable framework laid out for cooperation contains new concepts such as the precautionary approach, biological unity, compatibility, and cooperation mechanisms that have regard for the duties of and compliance and enforcement by flag States. He said his delegation believed that their requirements of clarity, transparency and legal security were secured in the Agreement, but argued that the boarding and inspection of a vessel of another State by a non-flag State on the high seas should be conducted with strict adherence to the agreed provisions and procedures. The use of force by inspectors should be carried out with utmost caution and care. His delegation had accepted the compromised version of Article 16 on an exceptional basis.

PERU: Amb. Alfonso Arias-Schreiber said the Agreement represented a significant step in the progression of international law and that his country wished to express agreement with the general consensus to adopt it.

PHILIPPINES: The Ambassador said the Agreement places primary jurisdiction on the flag States. The Agreement had not established a police or control regime for the high seas, but the Convention gives flag States the opportunity to control its vessels. He said the Agreement represented a delicate balance of competing interests and that his country supported its adoption.

ARGENTINA: Amb. Alberto Daverede said his country had warned of the potentially serious problem of overfishing on the high seas during the UNCLOS negotiations. He said the text is not a victory of one group of States over another but it instills cooperation between States. It had been constructed on the solid foundation of UNCLOS which Argentina intends to ratify shortly. He said the South West Atlantic bank is one of the richest fishing areas of the world and his country would not like to see it exhausted. He preferred quick implementation of international norms before the Agreement enters into force as this would provide for cooperation at the regional and subregional level.

ESTONIA: The delegate representing Estonia's Minister for Environment and Fish said the document is complete and well balanced and that he especially welcomed the new environmental concepts such as he precautionary approach. The text represented a giant step towards improved international cooperation.

COLOMBIA: The delegate from Colombia said that the consensus reached has given a "great" tool for the conservation and management of SFS and HMFS around the world. It is of great importance to the international community on the eve of the 21st Century, and ensures that fishing will be managed for future generations.

AUSTRALIA: Rep. Mary Harwood, speaking on behalf of the member countries of the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, stated that the new Agreement contains elements of fundamental importance to her region, including provisions giving meaning to the application of the precautionary approach. The key goal of greater commitment to flag State control has been achieved and is complemented by a scheme for cooperative enforcement action.

POLAND: Amb. Stanislaw Pawlak stated that in the interest of its fishermen, Poland had been hesitant to accept a binding agreement. He noted that the Agreement was adopted without a vote and does not fully respect the views of all States. Article 16 produced a drawn out debate, but this Article was not an urgent necessity. He stated that Poland understands that the compromise text is within the framework of UNCLOS, but expressed concern with the last sentence of Article 16 concerning provisional arrangements.

NAMIBIA: Dr. Burger W. Oelofsen stated that Namibia is one of the few countries that has the principle of sustainable utilization of natural resources enshrined in its Constitution, and Namibia applauds the adoption of this Agreement. It has set the global fishing family on the road toward achieving the goal of real sustainable utilization, but adoption is not the end of the road. Success will require goodwill, political commitment and concerted efforts.

URUGUAY: Amb. Julio Cesar Lupinacci stated that the Agreement responds to the Conference mandate and established principles which will help ensure the long term conservation of fisheries. It defines the scope and describes the form of cooperation which UNCLOS requires. Subregional and regional management entities must work with transparency and take into the account the right of all States. He said that Uruguay has participated at all stages and is very satisfied with the results.

SYRIA: The delegate from Syria stated that he did not want to go against the general consensus, but said the time allotted for negotiation was not sufficient. He emphasised that Syria's position will be determined later, following an in-depth study of the draft by experts within his country.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Amb. Utula U. Samana stated that Papua New Guinea looks forward to signing this Agreement and will do its best to get the necessary processes done for early ratification and effective implementation. He said the Agreement underscores the level of cooperation needed and the areas where cooperation should be directed, and urged that goodwill and commitment will facilitate the full involvement of developing countries.

FAO: Dr. Wolfgang Krone assured the Conference that the FAO will do its utmost to help implement the Agreement and to coordinate its implementation alongside other fisheries arrangements, such as the Code of Conduct. The FAO has already begun development of a draft regional programme and will look closely at regional fishery management bodies. He expressed confidence that FAO would receive support from its membership.

WORLD WIDE FUND FOR NATURE (WWF): Ms. Indrani Lutchman expressed hope that this Conference has shown delegates the kind of contributions that NGOs can make to negotiations dealing with fisheries. NGOs have provided constructive criticisms, contributed new ideas and raised public awareness, which in turn has generated the political will necessary to begin changing global fisheries management. WWF sees the willingness of regional bodies to open their secretive deliberations as the first test of this Agreement's strength.

GREENPEACE: Ms. Helene Bours expressed disappointment that the Agreement is not stronger. Greenpeace has serious concerns over the qualifications to application of the conservation measures, and believes that governments have failed on the issue of selective fishing. Nevertheless, the seeds of hope for future action are contained in this treaty, particularly the precautionary approach and data sharing requirements.

INTERNATIONAL COLLECTIVE IN SUPPORT OF FISHWORKERS (ICSF): Mr. Sebastian Mathew said that ICSF is glad to see the reference to the interests of artisanal and subsistence fishers, and the need to avoid adverse impacts on artisanal and small-scale fishworkers. He thanked the delegations of Peru, Venezuela and Brazil for support, and added that he would have like to see language in the final text on improving the working conditions on board distant water fishing vessels.

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