83. The Secretariat introduced document COFI/2005/6, which was commended by many Members. The Committee noted the challenges that the management of deepwater demersal fisheries posed, both on the high seas and when they occurred in exclusive economic zones (EEZs), as a consequence of the vulnerable biological characteristics of deepwater demersal fishes, and which were compounded by concerns about the conservation of biodiversity in deep-sea habitats.
84. The Committee welcomed the realization of DEEP SEA 2003, which had been convened by the New Zealand and Australian Governments in association with FAO, and its positive and successful outcome. It noted subsequent discussions to call attention to the problems associated with deepwater demersal fisheries, particularly those held in the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The Committee requested FAO to provide the UNGA with appropriate information and technical advice on these fisheries and, in general, to provide leadership in this field and actively participate in the relevant international fora.
85. Some Members reaffirmed the critical role that RFMOs played in improving the conservation and management of deepwater resources in the high seas. They proposed that FAO provide appropriate advice, including coordination, technical information, etc., to these organizations in support of conservation and management. Many Members suggested that the mandates of existing RFMOs, in terms of geographical area as well as of competencies to cover the management and impact of fishing on deepwater high seas stocks, be extended, as appropriate. Reference was also made to the establishment of new RFMOs with competence on deepsea species and the Southern Indian Ocean ongoing process was cited in this regard. Several Members expressed concern about the possible proliferation of RFMOs because of the burden their governments could face in participating in their activities and in supporting them.
86. The Committee took note of concerns about the deficiencies in the existing legal and institutional framework for deepsea fisheries. Some Members stressed the need for new approaches including a single global arrangement for the management of these fisheries. Many Members pointed out however that current problems would be better addressed under the 1982 UN Convention and other instruments including the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its IPOAs. They stressed that there was no need to build a new framework and called for relying upon the existing instrument or adapting existing instruments, such the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement, rather than creating new ones.
87. Several Members stressed the urgency for regulatory interventions to safeguard deepwater habitats and proposed that States take interim measures, including requiring their flag vessels to refrain from engaging in deepsea fishing, until appropriate management arrangements had been developed and implemented. Some Members supported the need to take immediate, albeit different action, such as the gathering of information that would make it possible to adopt at the earliest possible time the best management measures. The Committee urged Members to fully apply the Code of Conduct and its four related IPOAs to all deepsea fishing by vessels flying their flags including fishing for stocks that are not regulated by an RFMO. The Committee also urged Members, by fulfilling their flag State responsibilities, to ensure their vessels were regulated effectively and operated in a manner consistent with the ecosystem approach to fisheries, in particular by ensuring that fishing vessels flying their flags reported fully data regarding their fishing activities.
88. To support these activities, the Committee requested Members and RFMOs, as appropriate, to submit information on deepsea fish catches by species and size composition and fishing effort, noting that reporting would need to be on a relatively fine spatial scale to address the association of fishing activities with vulnerable marine ecosystems, as well as information on any conservation and management measure that may be in place for such fisheries.
89. The Committee endorsed the proposed future FAO activities outlined in document COFI/2005/6. The discussion highlighted the need for, in particular:
(a) collection and collation of information concerning past and present deepwater fishing activities;
(b) undertaking an inventory of deepwater stocks and an assessment of the effects of fishing on deepwater fish populations and their ecosystems;
(c) convening technical meetings to develop a code of practice/technical guidelines; and
(d) reviewing legal framework needed to support conservation and management of deepwater fisheries.
In this respect, the Committee called for the allocation of adequate resources to relevant programme activities of the Organization and its Fisheries Department.
90. The Committee called upon Members directly and through RFMOs, as appropriate, to implement as a matter of priority paragraphs 66 to 71 of UNGA Resolution 59/25. The Committee requested FAO to cooperate with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the development of the report as called for in paragraph 70 of UNGA Resolution 59/25.
91. The Committee called upon Members conducting deep-sea fisheries on the high seas individually and in cooperation with others to address adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems and to sustainably manage the fishery resources being harvested including through controls or limitations on new and exploratory fisheries.
92. The Committee requested FAO when revising the FAO Technical Guidelines on Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management to consider appropriate measures regulating destructive fishing practices.
93. The Committee noted that the Review Conference for the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement scheduled for 2006 may be an appropriate forum for exploring international conservation and management options for discrete high seas fish stocks.
94. The Committee also noted that the "Governance of High Seas Fisheries and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement - Moving from Words to Action" Conference, scheduled for May 2005 in Canada, could also inform discussions on the conservation and management of deep-sea fisheries.
95. The Committee encouraged the meeting of regional fisheries bodies (RFBs) that will immediately follow the twenty-sixth session of COFI to consider the issue of deep-sea fisheries conservation and management.