United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement
The Fish Stocks Agreement elaborates general principles concerning conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks
Courtesy of NOAA
Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, 1995
The Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement) was adopted on 4 August 1995. The Agreement entered into force on 11 December 2001, one month after the deposit of the thirtieth instrument of ratification or accession with the depository, the Secretary-General of the United Nations1.
The purpose of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement is to facilitate the implementation of certain provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 Convention) concerning the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. The Agreement complements the 1993 FAO Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (1993 FAO Compliance Agreement) and the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
Major challenges of the Stock Agreement
The implementation of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement presents major challenges for both States and subregional or regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements (RFMOs). Underpinning the implementation of the Agreement is the requirement for concerted international cooperation. States, either directly or through RFMOs, are obligated to pursue cooperation to ensure the effective conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.
Even before the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement entered into force, States individually and in cooperation with each other had been engaged in a range of initiatives designed to promote the implementation of the Agreement. Since 1995 some States have adopted new laws and/or regulations to ensure that they are in a position to exercise greater flag State control over the activities of their flag vessels when they are operating on the high seas. Moves to strengthen these controls has gathered momentum as international concerns regarding illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has mounted in international fora, including sessions of the United Nations, FAO and RFMOs. The political will of States to address these and related conservation and management problems that undermine the work and effectiveness of RFMOs has been highlighted as being essential to meet the challenges of these IUU fishing concerns.
The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement places RFMOs in a pivotal and central position in terms of its implementation; they provide the primary mechanism through which States should cooperate to achieve enhanced resources conservation and management. Some RFMOs whose mandates extend to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks have reviewed, or are in the process of reviewing, certain provisions of their respective conventions to ensure that they are consistent with the Agreement. In some cases, substantial changes to conventions have been proposed or introduced. But despite these developments, RFMOs are grappling with practical aspects of the Agreement's implementation such as how to apply the precautionary approach in fisheries management, how to implement ecosystem management, and how to address transparency.
The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement has spawned two new RFMOs: one dealing with the management of straddling fish stocks and the other with highly migratory fish stocks.
The initiatives to establish the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO) and the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Commission were taken essentially for the same reasons. The initiatives were intended to achieve two goals. These were to:
South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization
The Convention on the Conservation and Management of Fisheries Resources in the South East Atlantic Ocean, which paves the way for the establishment of SEAFO, opened for signature on 20 April 2001. Its purpose is to ensure the longterm conservation and sustainable use of the fishery resources in the Convention Area through the effective implementation of the Convention. The negotiations for the establishment of SEAFO took place over a five-year period.
When it opened for signature the Convention was signed by seven States2 and the European Union. The Convention will enter into force 60 days after the date of deposit of the third instrument of ratification, accession, acceptance or approval, at least one of which must come from a coastal State in the region. FAO is the depository for the Convention. SEAFO's Headquarters will be located in Namibia, probably in the coastal town of Swakopmund.
The Convention Area is based on FAO's Statistical Area 47. It covers high sea areas only and abuts the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of four coastal States: Angola, Namibia, South Africa and the United Kingdom (the overseas territory of Saint Helena and its dependencies of Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island).
SEAFO will manage stocks that straddle between the EEZs of the coastal States and the adjacent high seas. Species subject to management may include alfonsino, orange roughy, armourhead, wreckfish and deepwater hake. It will also manage a discrete high seas stock of red crab, even though discrete stocks are not subject to the provisions of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. The management of these latter stocks is a logical and practical consequence of the characteristics of the region's geography, stocks and their distribution, and fisheries management needs. The Convention does not address the management of highly migratory stocks as they are already subject to management by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
In negotiating the SEAFO Convention States drew not only on the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement but also on a number of other conventions including, in particular, the Conventions for the establishment of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), ICCAT, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) and the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). Some States participating in the negotiations are members of these RFMOs. Consequently, draft SEAFO Convention text could be easily agreed when it was drawn from existing Conventions.
Key aspects of the SEAFO Convention are the establishment of a Commission, a Secretariat and Compliance and Scientific Committees, the application of the precautionary approach, contracting party obligations3, flag State duties, port State duties and measures taken by a port State, observation, inspection, compliance and enforcement, decision making, cooperation with other organizations, compatibility on conservation and management measures, fishing opportunities, recognition of the special requirements of developing States in the region, non-parties to the Convention, implementation, and the final clauses.
The Government of Namibia has established an Interim Secretariat to facilitate the implementation of the Convention. It will fulfil this role pending the entry into force of the Convention and the full implementation of administrative arrangements. The Interim Secretariat will implement interim arrangements relating to the authorization and notification of fishing vessels, vessel requirements and scientific observation and collection of information to support stock assessment.
Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean
The Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean opened for signature on 5 September 2000 following four years of complex and intense negotiations. In the period that the Convention was open for signature (12 months from 5 September 2000) 19 States signed the Convention4. In addition, a representative of Chinese Taipei signed on 5 September 2000 an Arrangement for the Participation of Fishing Entities5. The Government of New Zealand is the depositary for the Convention.
The Convention provides a balance between coastal State and DWFN interests in a number of important areas (e.g. entry into force of the Convention and decision making). It will enter into force 30 days after the deposit of instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by three States situated north of the 20° parallel of north latitude (i.e. coastal status from the region) and seven States situated south of the 20° parallel of north latitude (i.e. DWFNs). The Convention entered into force 19 June 2004.
The purpose of the Convention is to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, in accordance with the provisions of the 1982 Convention and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. The Convention applies to the management of all highly migratory fish stocks in the region, but principally the highly valuable and extensive tuna species in the Convention Area and most notably skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and Southern albacore tunas.
The Convention Area is extensive, covering a tract of the Pacific Ocean. The Convention Area is defined by geographic coordinates in the south and the east. In the west and north, because of a number of difficult and sensitive political issues, boundaries are defined by reference to the migratory range of the stocks. In this way the Commission, based on its cooperative arrangements with other relevant RFMOs, will define the area of applicability of conservation and management measures for particular species.
The Convention mirrors closely the structure of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. In elaborating the Convention negotiators drew on regional and international instruments including the multilateral fisheries treaty between the United States of America and the members of the Forum Fisheries Agency, the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement and the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The negotiators took a pragmatic approach in elaborating the Convention and sought to address specific issues of regional importance (e.g. the participation of territories in the Commission and transparency) to fisheries management, especially where such issues could be problematic and undermine management efforts (e.g. transhipment of catches at sea). Furthermore, States recognized the need to accommodate Chinese Taipei, a key tuna fisheries actor in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, in the negotiations and in the future work of the Commission.
Furthermore, the Convention sought to build on established regional arrangements that are tried and tested (e.g. the regional observer scheme) and to minimise costs and avoid duplication through the use of existing regional organizations (e.g. the scientific expertise of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Oceanic Fisheries Programme).
The Convention provides, inter alia, for the establishment of a Commission, a Secretariat and Scientific and Technical and Compliance Committees, decision making, transparency and cooperation with other organizations, obligations of members of the Commission, duties of the flag State, compliance and enforcement, regional observer programme and regulation of transhipment, requirements of developing States, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-parties to the Convention and the final clauses.
In order to prepare for entry into force of the Convention, the final session of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean Tuna Conference agreed to establish a Preparatory Conference, which commenced its work in April 2002. Its purpose was to establish the organizational and financial framework for the new Commission and its subsidiary bodies in order to ensure that the Commission could commence operations effectively and with minimum delay. The Conference also began the process of collecting and analyzing data on the status of the fish stocks and, if necessary, recommend conservation and management measures. The next Preparatory Conference is planned for December 2004.
1 see the UN Fish Stocks Web site for the most up-to-date list.