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FAILINGS AND SET-BACKS

LACK OF GLOBAL OCEAN LINKAGES: The Agreement has created a new conservation and management framework for high seas resources and its rules apply only to straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, throughout their entire biological unity. Fishing for SFS and HMFS constitutes a small percentage of the global marine fish catch. But a question mark hangs over the "actual" percentage. NGOs maintain that the Agreement will act as a "good first step" to beginning to solve the problems related to global fisheries, but the need remains for a holistic, all encompassing global regime as science continues to prove the interdependence of all species within individual ecosystems and the global oceanic system as a whole. The Conference failed to address, in any meaningful form, matters of environmental liability and compensation where damage to the marine environment is proven. Rules and regulations are needed to prevent and limit environmental damage resulting from harmful fishing operations.

FAILURE TO ADDRESS THE USE OF SELECTIVE FISHING GEAR: The issue of a requirement to use "selective fishing gear" became an NGO focal point at the beginning of the Conference. By-catch, waste and discards are all connected to this key issue. The obligation to use selective fishing gear and techniques "only to the extent practicable" will do little to solve one of the most pressing problems in fishing today. NGOs have especially charged that there are "extraordinarily high levels of bycatch, waste and discards" throughout the global fishing industry. Various figures suggest this could be more than 20 million tonnes. If this figure is "real" and there is some FAO confirmation of this amount, then the Agreement has substantially failed to link the need for improved conservation and management practices with the "global fish-food security" concept as well as failing to recognise that non-selective fishing gear not only supports overfishing, but results in social conflict between different gear groups. The FAO Code of Conduct will address by-catch, waste and discards, but the Code is for voluntary "adoption."

FURTHERING THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF FISHING CREWS: Absent in the earlier versions of the Chair's text from which the Agreement was born, was particular reference to the rights of fishers and fishworkers. Sustained lobbying by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, substantially developed the Chair's text requiring States fishing on the high seas to "take into account the interests of artisanal and subsistence fishers." The Agreement lacks linkages back to the working conditions on board distant water fishing vessels, especially as conservation measures can be better implemented with the collaboration of fishworkers. ICSF insistency to take into account the interests of fishers, was supported by Brazil, Peru and Venezuela. However, a group of fishworker union leaders from Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru referred to their members as "slaves of the end of the 20th century, without agreements or guarantees of international minimum standards for working hours, rest, repatriation and social security." This is indicative that much needs to be done so that commercial fishing activities help facilitate the achievement of sustainable development.

THE POTENTIAL FOR NON-ACCEPTANCE OF TRANSPARENCY IN DECISION-MAKING: Membership of the subregional and regional organizations is a like a "select club." The right of entry to "the club" by other interested States remained a bone of contention throughout the negotiation process. Transparency in decision-making can only come about through public scrutiny of the decision-making process. Access to such organizations typically carries a heavy "financial" fee. NGOs acting as public watchdogs will, for the most part, be unable to raise the necessary funds to gain access, even if political will exists in the subregional or regional organization to open up its "secretive deliberations" to external scrutiny. A crucial element of the well-functioning of such bodies is active NGO participation.

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