22. The important role of regional and subregional fisheries organizations in the conservation and management of the high seas fisheries has long been recognized. The provisions of UNCLOS concerning the role of regional and subregional fisheries organizations are reiterated, emphasized and expanded by the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The core of the UN Agreement is that high seas fisheries must by managed effectively on a regional or subregional basis through existing fisheries organizations or arrangements or by establishing new ones. The Rome Consensus on World Fisheries adopted by the FAO Ministerial Conference on Fisheries (Rome, 14-15 March 1995) urged the governments and international organizations to take prompt action, inter alia, to:
"reduce fishing to sustainable levels in areas and on stocks currently heavily exploited or overfished; to strengthen and support regional, sub-regional, and national fisheries organizations and arrangements for implementing conservation and management measures."
23. Regional and subregional fisheries organizations must first and foremost identify with the region or the subregion they are representing. They must manage and be seen to manage the resources of the region in the interest of the coastal States of the region and DWFNs with legitimate interest in the conservation and management of the resources of that region. To be able to respond quickly and efficiently to the conservation and management needs of a region or a subregion it is imperative that the relationship between the fisheries organizations and their members become more of a partnership bridging the gap between the advisory and decision-making functions.
24. There are more than twenty regional and subregional fishery bodies whose mandates include the conservation and management of high seas fisheries. some have full regulatory powers while others have an advisory role related to management issues. The functions of these bodies vary from dealing with a single species or a group of closely related species such as the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (I-ATTC) and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), to those based more on a region and covering a whole range of species within their areas of competence such as the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
25. There are other fishery organizations which do not have conservation and management functions but provide scientific advice relating to conservation and management such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). In addition, there are a number of regional economic and other organizations that have intensified their activities in the field of fisheries such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Community (EC), the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference (PECC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Although regional economic groupings are, in most cases, based upon linguistic, economic interests or political affinities which might not always coincide with fisheries natural conservation and management areas, they represent, however, strong links among their members. Regional fishery bodies should be encouraged to increase further their cooperation with these groupings since they could provide the necessary political will for implementing conservation and management measures
26. The FAO Technical Consultation on High Seas Fishing, held in Rome in September 1992, discussed the role of regional fisheries organizations and outlined a number of measures required to make regional fisheries organizations more effective. These requirements should form an integral part of any fishery management organization whose main objective is the effective conservation and management of the fisheries resources of the high seas.
27. It is of paramount importance that the membership of a regional or subregional fisheries organization or arrangement include all the countries in the region as well as those which have a legitimate interest in the conservation and management of the resources covered by that body. Membership should entail active participation in the work of the fishery organization as well as a clear commitment towards achieving its objectives.
28. To be effective in the conservation and management of the resources, regional and subregional fisheries organizations must have a clear mandate to discharge their management duties. In addition, they should have mechanisms through which they receive scientific advice related to management issues. Whether such advice is provided by internal sources or external organizations, they should be conceived by the organizations' members as fair and neutral and free from national interests, politics and economics.
29. The effectiveness of fisheries management organizations depend on the commitment of their members to implement the regulatory measures adopted by them. Annual reports of many fisheries management organizations bear witness to the number of regulatory measures adopted by them and which have not been implemented by their members. One of the existing problems for many fisheries organizations with management powers is the inclusion of the objection procedure in the conventions or agreements establishing them. Many contracting parties have used this to avoid the implementation of management measures. Members States of a fisheries management organization should promptly and without delay give effect to the management measures adopted by that organization. Any objection should be settled in accordance with provisions of disputes settlement incorporated in the conventions or agreements.
30. A major problem faced by many fisheries management organizations is the undermining of their regulatory and other conservation measures by countries not parties to the conventions or agreements who allow their flag vessels to be used for fishing on the high seas. The Provisions of the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas are designed to tackle this problem. The FAO Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries also addresses this problem.
31. Regional and subregional fisheries organizations or arrangements must have a mechanism through which their conservation and management measures are enforced. Thus, control, surveillance and enforcement must be part of the activities of any fisheries organization whose mandate includes the conservation and management of fisheries resources.
32. Accountability of the regional or subregional fisheries organizations concerning their functions is a new concept. The FAO Technical Consultation on the High Seas Fishing acknowledged that fisheries organizations were accountable to their members. The UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks provides (Article 36) for a review conference, to be held four years after entry into force of the Agreement, to assess the adequacy of the Agreement and, if necessary, to propose means of strengthening the substance and methods of implementation of those provisions in order better to address any continuing problems in the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.
33. Most conventions and Agreements establishing fisheries organizations do not include any provision concerning the settlement of disputes. Articles 27 to 32 of the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks require that regional and subregional fisheries management organizations or arrangements dealing with straddling and highly migratory fish stocks adopt procedures for compulsory settlement of disputes to ensure the expeditious resolution of disputes relating to the conservation and management of these stocks. The adoption of settlement disputes procedures is indispensable if the decisions of the fisheries management organizations or arrangements concerning the conservation and management measures are to be applied without delay.
34. A regional or subregional fisheries organization needs adequate funding to be able to function properly. Many requirements by the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks mean that most existing bodies will need a budget which could meet those requirements. To have a mandate for conservation and management without the financial means to execute them will not improve the effectiveness of the fisheries organizations. Member States of a regional or subregional fisheries organization or arrangement should agree among themselves as to how the financial needs of their organization should be secured.
35. Cooperation between fisheries organizations operating in the same area or overlapping areas as well as those dealing with highly migratory and straddling fish stocks, is essential. At the FAO Technical Consultation on High Seas Fishing (Rome, 1992), I-ATTC reported that "there is a high degree of overlap among the extant tuna organizations and this will increase as more regional bodies are created". Greater efficiency could be achieved if the regional bodies worked together more closely through for example, an "umbrella mechanism". The management issues related to straddling stocks depend on their biological characteristics and, in particular, on the degree of mixing between the EEZ and high Seas compartments of stocks. In many instances where mixing is considerable because of random dispersion, ontogenic or seasonal migrations, the stock should be managed as one single unit and management measures must be harmonized over the entire range of distribution of the stock. In this context, cooperation is seen as an essential part of conservation and management functions of fisheries organizations.