5. The concept of responsible fishing was first raised at the FAO committee on Fisheries (COFI) in April 1991. In May 1992, the Government of Mexico, in close consultation with FAO, organized the International Conference on Responsible Fishing that led to the adoption of the Declaration of Cancún. The Conference requested FAO to draft an International Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing, as set out in the Declaration. The principles embodied in the Declaration include (a) cooperation by States on bilateral, regional and multilateral levels to establish, reinforce and implement effective means and mechanisms to ensure responsible fishing n the high seas, (b) States fishing on the high seas should cooperate with other States to ensure conservation and rational management of the living resources, and (c) States should cooperate to deter reflagging of vessels to avoid conservation and management measures.
6. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992, adopted the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21. Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 sets out a Programme of Action for Sustainable Development for the Protection of the Oceans and Coastal Areas. It points out that the management of high seas fisheries, including the adoption, monitoring and enforcement of effective conservation measures, is inadequate in many areas and some resources are over-utilized. It further notes that "there are problems of unregulated fishing, overcapitalization, excessive fleet size, vessels reflagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases and lack of sufficient cooperation between States". The Conference called upon States to inter alia (a) negotiate, where appropriate, international agreements for the effective management and conservation of fishery stocks, (b) convene, as soon as possible, an inter-governmental conference under United Nations auspices, with a view to promoting effective implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, and (c), take effective action to deter reflagging of vessels by their nationals as a means of avoiding compliance with applicable conservation and management measures for fishing activities on the high seas.
7. Following the Cancún and Rio Declarations on the need to deter reflagging of fishing vessels on the high seas, the FAO Council, at its Hundred and second Session held in Rome in November 1992, agreed that the Organization should draw up an Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas. The Agreement was approved unanimously by the FAO Conference at its Twenty-seventh Session in November 1993 and circulated for acceptance on 14 February 1994. The Agreement provides for the responsibility of flag States to take measures including the authorization of fishing operations on the high seas to ensure that their flag vessels do not undermine the effectiveness of international conservation and management measures. It further provides for the establishment of a data base on fishing vessels authorized to fish on the high seas and the exchange of information on such vessels.
8. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was adopted by the FAO Conference at its Twenty-eighth Session, Rome, 20 October to 2 November 1995. The Code consists of twelve Articles and sets out principles and international standards of behaviour for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The first five deal with nature and scope, objectives, relationship with other international instruments, implementation, monitoring and updating, and special requirements of developing countries. Article 6 deals with general principles while the remaining Articles cover specific subjects. These are: Fisheries management, fishing operations, aquaculture developments, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, post-harvest practice and trade, and fisheries research. The Code places a great emphasis on the regional and sub-regional fisheries organizations for its implementation. The application of the Code is voluntary and it contains provisions that have already given binding effect by means of other obligatory legal instruments. The Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas forms an integral part of the Code. The FAO regional fishery bodies with their long and close associations with their members as well as their traditional involvement in most aspects of fisheries of their members and the regions they cover are well placed to implement the Provisions of the Code.
9. The Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was reached in New York in August 1995. It was adopted by the Conference and is now open for signature. The Agreement will enter into force 30 days after the date of deposit of the thirtieth instrument of ratification or accession. The objective of the Agreement is "to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks through effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the [LOS] Convention". It is, by far, the most detailed and comprehensive international legal instrument on the subject of conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. The following Provisions in the Agreement are relevant to any discussion concerning the role of the FAO regional fishery bodies in the management of high seas fisheries.
10. Part III of the Agreement is entitled "mechanisms for International Cooperation Concerning Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks". In general, coastal States and States fishing on the high seas shall cooperate in relation to straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks either directly or through appropriate subregional or regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements. The purpose of such cooperation is to agree on conservation and management measures with respect to particular fish stock(s) where there is evidence that such stock(s) may be under threat of over-exploitation or where a new fishery is being developed for such stock(s). Where a regional or sub-regional fisheries body exists and has the competence to establish conservation and management measures for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, States fishing for the stock(s) on the high seas and coastal States with an interest in the stock(s) are to give effect to their duty to cooperate by participating in the work of that body. States with an interest in the stock(s) which are not parties to an existing fishery organization or arrangements are encouraged to participate in the work of the organization. Only those States which are members of such an organization or participants in such an arrangement, or which agree to apply the conservation and management measures established by such organization or arrangement, are to have access to the fishery resources to which those measures apply.
11. Article 9 of the Agreement entitled "Subregional and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements" states that:
"1. In establishing subregional or regional fisheries management organizations or in entering into subregional or regional fisheries management arrangements for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, States shall agree, inter alia, on:
(a) the stocks to which conservation and management measures apply, taking into account the biological characteristics of the stocks directly concerned and the nature of all the fisheries involved;
(b) the area of application, taking into account Article 7, paragraph 1, and the characteristics of the subregion or region, including socio-economic, geographical and environmental factors;
(c) the relationship between the work of the new organization or arrangement and the role, objectives and operations of any relevant existing fisheries management organizations or arrangements; and
(d) the mechanisms by which the organization or arrangement will obtain scientific advice and review the status of the stocks, including, where appropriate, the establishment of a scientific advisory body.
2. States cooperating in the formation of a subregional or regional fisheries management organization or arrangement shall inform other States which they are aware have a real interest in the work of the proposed organization or arrangement of such cooperation."
12. The Provisions embodied in Article 10 of the Agreement entitled "Functions of subregional and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements" are of particular relevance to the future role of the FAO regional fishery bodies:
"In fulfilling their obligation to cooperate through subregional or regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements, States shall:
(a) agree on and comply with conservation and management measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks;
(b) agree, as appropriate, on participatory rights such as allocations of allowable catch or levels of fishing effort;
(c) adopt and apply any generally recommended international minimum standards for the responsible conduct of fishing operations;
(d) obtain and evaluate scientific advice, review the status of the stocks and assess the impact of fishing on non-target and associated or dependent species;
(e) agree on standards for collection, reporting, verification and exchange of data on fisheries for the stocks;
(f) compile and disseminate accurate and complete statistical data, as described in Annex I, to ensure that the best scientific evidence is available, while maintaining confidentiality where appropriate;
(g) promote and conduct scientific assessments of the stocks and relevant research and disseminate the results thereof;
(h) establish appropriate cooperative mechanisms for effective monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement;
(i) agree on means by which the fishing interests of new members of, or participants in, the organization or arrangement will be accommodated;
(j) agree on decision-making procedures which facilitate the adoption of conservation and management measures in a timely and effective manner;
(k) promote the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with Part VIII;
(l) ensure the full cooperation of their relevant national agencies and industries in implementing the recommendations and decisions of the subregional or regional fisheries management organization or arrangement; and
(m) give due publicity to the conservation and management measures established by the organization or arrangement."
13. Under Article 13, States are required to cooperate to strengthen existing subregional and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements in order to improve their effectiveness in establishing and implementing conservation and management measures for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. The Agreement also provides detailed provision on Compliance and Enforcement (part VI) and Peaceful Settlement of Disputes (part VIII). In general, States parties to a subregional or regional fishery management organization or arrangement are obliged to enforce the conservation and management measures adopted by that body and the disputes arising from the adoption of such measures are to be settled by compulsory means should it become necessary. These provisions go beyond the present commitment by States in the work of existing fishery management organizations.
14. The main problem concerning the present state of high seas fisheries has been the application of the open access principle by States whose vessels are engaged in high seas fishing. Central to the principles embodied in the Declarations of Cancún and Rio, the Provisions of the Compliance Agreement, FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks is the clear and unequivocal responsibility of States. Unless States accept their responsibility and are willing to discharge their duties no progress will be made in respect of the proper and effective conservation and management of the high seas resources. The mechanisms by which regional and subregional fishery organizations are established or restructured in order to discharge their conservation and management duties effectively depend entirely on the political will of States which are parties to these bodies.
15. The requirements embodied in the provisions of the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks have two immediate implications for existing regional or subregional fishery bodies. One is that the mandate of almost all existing fisheries organizations, including those of FAO fishery bodies, dealing with the conservation and management of high seas fisheries may need to be reviewed with a view to improving their effectiveness. The second implication is that the existing bodies may need substantially increased budgets to implement the provisions of the UN Agreement. Thus, States will need to commit themselves both politically and financially to the work of the regional or subregional fishery bodies if the management of high seas resources is to be carried out effectively.
16. On 14 and 15 March 1995 a Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries was held in Rome at the invitation of the Director-General of FAO to review the state of world fisheries and the FAO follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The meeting adopted the Rome Consensus on World Fisheries. In the discussion, the Ministerial Meeting noted the FAO analysis which indicated that the problems of overfishing in general, and overcapacity of industrial fishing fleets in particular, threaten the sustainability of the world's fisheries resources for present and future generations. It recognized the need for continuing international cooperation and coordination toward reestablishing sustainability of world fisheries. It stated that improved fisheries conservation and management, along with better protection of fisheries from harmful sea- and land-based
activities, are crucial to maintaining world fish resources and aquatic ecosystems. the particular importance of the fisheries sector for small island developing States was noted.
17. To respond effectively to the current fisheries situation and the difficulties that can be foreseen in satisfying growing demand for fish and in conserving aquatic ecosystems, the Rome Ministerial Meeting urged that governments and international organizations take prompt action to:
- reduce fishing to sustainable levels in areas and on stocks currently heavily exploited or overfished;
- review the capacity of fishing fleets in relation to sustainable yields of fishery resources and where necessary reduce these fleets;
- strengthen and support regional, sub-regional, and national fisheries organizations and arrangements for implementing conservation and management measures;
- keep under review the effectiveness of conservation and management measures for ensuring the long-term sustainability of fisheries and aquatic ecosystems;
- continue and, when possible, increase technical, financial, and other assistance to developing countries, in particular to least developed countries, to support their efforts in fisheries conservation and management, and in aquaculture development;
- encourage States to further develop ecologically sound aquaculture as an important contributor to overall food security;
- strengthen fisheries research and increase cooperation among research institutions;
- increase consultation on fisheries with the private sector and non-governmental organizations;
- effectively implement the relevant rules of international law on fisheries and related matters which are reflected in the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;
- consider ratifying the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas.
18. The Kyoto Conference on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security was held in Kyoto, Japan, from 4 to 9 December 1995. The representatives of 95 States agreed on a set of immediate actions to be taken by States either directly or in cooperation with other states, or through FAO in cooperation with other appropriate intergovernmental organizations and/or regional fishery management organizations or arrangements.
19. These immediate actions included:
- To assess and monitor the present and future levels of global, regional and national production, supply and demand of fish and fishery products and their effects on food security, employment, consumption, income, trade and sustainability of production;
- to enhance subregional and regional cooperation and establish, where it is considered appropriate, subregional and regional fishery conservation and management organizations or arrangements for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks; and cooperate to strengthen, where necessary, existing subregional and regional fishery conservation and management organizations and arrangements in order to carry out their assigned task;
- to conduct, within their competences and, where appropriate, in cooperation with regional and other intergovernmental organizations, integrated assessments of fisheries in order to evaluate opportunities and strengthen the scientific basis for multispecies and ecosystem management;
- to identify and exchange information on potential mechanisms to reduce excess fishing capacity and implement action on programs to reduce excess capacity , where and when appropriate, as soon as possible;
- to develop, promote and facilitate the exchange of information on the use of efficient and standardized methodologies for the study of social, cultural and economic characteristics of fishing and associated activities; and, in particular, attempt to develop methods designed to permit verifiable indicators of the importance of such characteristics and their interaction and compatibility with management objectives;
- to promote the exchange of information amongst research institutes and other relevant entities aiming to: (i) increase opportunities for the sustainable use of unexploited or underexploited species as human food; and (ii) promote and support research activities in order to ensure improvement in scientific knowledge of existing fishery resources;
- to strengthen coordination of national and international research programs aiming to simulate environmentally sound aquaculture and stocking, giving emphasis to the development of international guideline for the development and management of activities in particular on: (i) the impacts on the environment and biodiversity; (ii) the application of biotechnology; and (iii) the health of cultured stocks.
20. The 95th Inter-Parliamentary Conference was held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 15 to 20 April 1996. The Conference discussed the Conservation of World Fish Stock in order to provide an important source of protein and ensure the continued viability and economic stability of fishing around the world.
21. The Conference adopted a Resolution which included the following paragraphs:
- Urges States to sign and ratify the UNCLOS (1982), the UNCLOS implementing Agreement (1995) and other relevant agreements, all of which are of importance for the management, conservation and exploitation of living marine resources;
- emphasizes in particular the importance of the UNCLOS (1995) Implementing Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks as a practical and enforceable means to end high seas overfishing, as well as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995) and the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (1993), both adopted by FAO Conferences;
- calls on States to promote and strengthen scientific research, including studies on the effectiveness of multispecies management and the ecosystem process-orientated approach, as the basis for the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture activities in order to ensure food security;
- also calls on States to ensure the sustainable and rational utilization of all living marine resources, including marine mammals, in order to optimize the sustainable yield of protein resources to satisfy human need worldwide;
- urges all fishing nations to adopt legislation and implement necessary measures in order to ensure responsible fisheries management, including zoning and mapping of fishing grounds for sustainable fishing; and
- urges States to make every effort to minimize environmental degradation of inland waters and marine and coastal areas, especially by protecting habitats and spawning grounds, as the preservation of freshwater, brackish water, marine and coastal environment is a prerequisite for achieving the sustainable development of fisheries.