The oceans and the seas are open access resources. This is the reason why
they are subject to overexploitation. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated
fishing activities contribute to the depletion of living marine resources and
affects the integrity of marine ecosystems. Several fisheries instruments were
developed because of these issues. One of the fisheries instruments is the FAO
Compliance Agreement 1993 that originated from Rome, Italy and entered into
force in April 24, 2003. The objective of the agreement is to improve
management of high seas fishing and fight illegal fishing for the long- term sustainable use of marine
resources. When it comes to conservation, the goal is to conserve or manage one
or more species of living marine resources that are adopted and applied in
accordance with the relevant rules of international law as reflected in the
UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas). The term “vessels” – includes “mother
ships and any other vessels directly engaged in such fishing operations”.
The agreement also defines “record of fishing vessels”. This term was
used instead of the more usual term “register” given that the primary
means of control was through the fishing authorization rather than through the
register itself (though the definition was careful to include the wider type of
register within the definition.)
The main obligation for a country accepting the FAO Compliance Agreement
will be : First is to exercise its responsibility over vessels flying its flag
(Article III) . The international and is intended to improve the regulation of
fishing vessels on the high seas by strengthening ‘flag-state responsibility.
Monitoring, control and surveillance of the fishing vessels is the
responsibility of the flag state and to make sure that the vessel is complying
with the international conservation measures. Second is to establish a record
of fishing vessels and to provide the information required under the agreement
with respect to those vessels (Article IV). Parties to the agreement must
ensure that they maintain an authorization and recording system for high seas
fishing vessels and that these vessels do not undermine International
Conservation and Management Measures (Article VI). It aims to deter the
practice of ‘re-flagging’ vessels with the flags of states that are unable or
unwilling to enforce such measures. Provisions are made for international
cooperation and exchange of information in implementing the agreement,
particularly through the FAO. Parties to the agreement must ensure that they
maintain an authorization and recording system for high seas fishing vessels
and that these vessels do not undermine International Conservation and
Management Measures (Article VI).
FAO compliance agreement and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement are
supplemented by the Code of Conduct for
Responsible Fisheries. These 3 instruments provide the framework for future
actions concerning fisheries, particularly as regards HIGH SEAS FISHING.
Furthermore, as they were negotiated over a broadly similar time frame, many of
the negotiators were the same resulting in a high level consistency among them.
FAO compliance agreement was completed prior to the UN fish stocks agreement,
and some of the provisions in the two overlap. However, there are some
The UN Fish
Stocks Agreement only addresses straddling fish stocks and highly
migratory fish stocks (with some exceptions) whereas the FAO compliance
agreement applies to all high seas fishing.
While there is a parallel obligation in
the UN Fish Stocks Agreement to establish a record of fishing vessels, and
to make the information available on request, only the compliance
agreement provides for the systematic exchange of information regarding
high seas fishing vessels to which the agreement applies.
The fisheries instruments serve as a guide in
going to the right direction when it
comes to conservation and management. However, it lacks ratification and
implementation. My recommendations on
the implementation of fisheries instruments are as follows: There should be a moratorium on new
international instruments. Adequate international legal and policy framework to
address the problem is needed. Developing countries usually lack technical and
financial capability to implement fisheries instruments. Thus, capacity
building is needed. There is a need for fresh thinking on implementation
strategies to develop a more holistic approach. Synergy between instruments and
sectors should be strengthened.