The United Nations on the Global Fisheries Crisis

By Sheril Kirshenbaum

This week, the United Nations is discussing whether to take action on the global fisheries crisis.

In 2006, a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report said three-quarters of global fish stocks were either overfished or fished to full capacity. Fifty-two percent of fish stocks were considered fully exploited “with no room for further expansion,” and another 25 percent were “overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion.”  It’s expected that the 2008 FAO assessment will show conditions worsening.

This week, the United Nations is discussing whether to take action on the global fisheries crisis.  Many in the NGO and coastal state community are looking to act immediately through measures such as barring vessels known for illegal and unreported fishing from entering any port, banning bottom fishing from sensitive areas, and shaming governments to enforce fisheries laws.  Some are calling for an international system of Marine Protected Areas prohibiting all commercial activities.  There is also a push for a scientific body modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to work toward a consensus on state of global fisheries.

According to Greenwire, “among the boldest proposals is a call for a new treaty on top of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea that would force governments to impose stronger controls on national vessels. The plan is backed by the European Union.”

Japan suggests fishing may not be the chief culprit in fish stock declines.  Along with other Asian nations, they are strongly resisting tighter regulations and urging more time for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations’ (RFMO) efforts to work and national enforcement capacities to catch


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