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Subject: E-Link: Fishing Countries Agree on Conservation
From: "Sergey Ju.Anatsky" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Academic forum on fisheries ecology and related topics <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 1 Apr 1997 13:27:01 +0300

text/plain (117 lines)

This news story is from the Environment News Service:


ROME, Italy, Mar. 31, 1997 (ENS) - Delegates from 91 countries and
observers from 15 other states and from 29 intergovernmental and
international non-government organizations met here March 17-20 at the
biennial United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee
on Fisheries.

The delegates came to agreement on implementation of two important global
fishing conservation agreements. An ambitious agenda for tackling other
problems, including the sensitive issue of too many boats catching too few
fish was adopted.

Moritaka Hayashi, FAO Assistant Director-General and Head of the Fisheries
Department, told the delegates that threats to the long-term capacity of
fisheries to supply food and livelihood cannot be solved solely by market
forces. "In the particular issue of overfishing, history shows that therein
lies the road to overcapitalization in industrial fisheries and excessive
pressure in the case of small scale fisheries and a headlong chase in
pursuit of greater harvests. This has led to the collapse of some fisheries
and fish stocks."

There was wide support at the meeting for quick ratification and
implementation of the 1995 U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement, which provides for
conserving "straddling" and highly migratory fish, such as tuna, on the
high seas. The agreement deals particularly with fish which migrate across
national boundaries, in other words, their movements "straddle" the
borders. The agreement requires 30 ratifications to enter into force. The
United States ratified it in August 1996.

According to Mary Beth West, the deputy assistant secretary of state who
led the United States delegation, the U.S. received widespread support for
its proposed February 1998 meeting of technical experts to suggest
guidelines for measuring and managing fishing overcapacity.

The experts' meeting will be followed by a meeting of policy makers, who
would report on progress and consider the need for further initiatives. "My
sense is there's general agreement that we need to look at capacity," West
said, though she recognized that discussion of overcapacity makes countries
and their fishermen anxious.

West said management of overcapacity poses difficulties for many countries
including the United States, which has not generally regulated its domestic
fisheries by regulating capacity.

In its State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report, 1996, the FAO
reported record fish production, mainly pushed by aquaculture. The report
said increasing demand for fish could be met through better management
despite pressure on top marine fish resources.

The report, presented to the biennial meeting of the Organization's
Committee on Fisheries, also urged rehabilitation of degraded resources,
further exploitation of under-developed resources, reducing discarding and
wastage and avoiding overfishing of resources already at their highest
level of sustainable exploitation. Through such measures, the FAO report
said, an additional 20 million tons of landings might be obtainable.

Delegates indicated support also for quick implementation of the 1995 FAO
Code of Conduct for responsible management of fisheries. It includes a
binding part, a compliance agreement, that sets out obligations for
countries that have boats fishing on the high seas, including the
obligation not to undermine any international fishery conservation regime
once the agreement comes into force.

Earlier in March the U.S. Commerce Department published its most-recent
draft of proposed regulations for implementing the FAO Code of Conduct,
which is now open for public comment through April 28.

The FAO Committee on Fisheries also accepted U.S. initiatives for two more
1998 technical experts meetings, one on reducing unintended bycatch of
seabirds and one on conserving sharks. Japan offered to host both meetings
with the United States providing technical support to both.

"Sharks are hurting, and there is no global plan, or really even any
regional plan, for shark conservation and management," West said. "We
also need a lot more data."

Reports on the plans of action from the proposed technical experts meetings
will be due at the next Committee on Fisheries meeting in 1999.

The members also discussed a proposal for a meeting on ecolabelling, but
came to no consensus.

The State of the World Fisheries Report said fish production might still be
increased to meet rising demand. "For the resources which are presently
below their historical peak levels of production, it might be possible to
return to these levels, by reducing fishing effort and, in most cases,
simultaneously improving yield-per-recruit," said the report. "This can be
achieved by increasing significantly the age at first capture, prohibiting
the exploitation of juveniles, increasing mesh sizes, and closing
temporarily or permanently areas of concentration of young fish."

Further increases in production, according to the FAO report, will come
from aquaculture and "from further fisheries expansion on those resources
which are apparently still increasing their contribution to world
landings." About 40% of major fish resources are classified as still
developing in this study.

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