U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement and the Future of Fisheries

By Sheril Kirshenbaum

Plans have begun to review a 1995 treaty on management of migratory fish stocks because of research suggesting current yields are not sustainable.

According to Greenwire, plans have begun to review a 1995 treaty on management of migratory fish stocks because of research suggesting current yields are not sustainable. The treaty is known as the U.N. Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, otherwise known as the Fish Stocks Agreement (FSA).  It attempts to standardize conservation approaches, regional governance practice, scientific research and cooperation and enforcement of regional and international fishing laws.  Attention is back on the treaty after reports from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and the U.N. Environment Programme that most of the world’s stocks are either fully or overexploited.

There are a myriad of culprits including destructive fishing practices, illegal harvest, ineffective management, increasing global consumption, the dead zones, and beyond.  Scientists believe we face a looming food crisis.

According to the article, Western Hemisphere and South Pacific governments have been more willing to accept aggressive regulations, however Asian and European states appear less urgent to accomplish change.  Last year, the General Assembly called on states to enact strict permitting for their flagged vessels to fish in international waters and the UN is also considering drawing up a global list of vessels permitted to operate in the high seas and a “black list” of vessels suspected of illegal fishing practices.  In 2008, the focus is expected to be on illegal, unreported and unregulated high seas fishing.

The United States is not a member of the Law of the Sea convention, but was one of the first nations to sign and ratify the FSA.  However, the FSA has only gathered 68 state parties while Law of the Sea has 155 full members.  The UN Law of the Sea was designed to address territorial and navigation issues, and the FSA is often viewed as an addendum.

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