The Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of the UN 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 was opened for signing on 4 December 1995 and would become legally binding after ratification by 30 countries, a process which could take two years. Four years after it takes effect, the United Nations will hold a review conference to examine implementation.
The 50-article Agreement legally binds countries to conserve and sustainably manage fish stocks and to settle peacefully any disputes that arise over fishing on the high seas. Specifically, the treaty:
* Establishes the basis for the sustainable management and conservation of the world's fisheries;
* Addresses the problem of inadequate data on fish stocks;
* Provides for the establishment of quotas;
* Calls for the setting-up of regional fishing organizations where none exists;
* Tackles problems caused by the persistence of unauthorized fishing;
* Sets out procedures for ensuring compliance with its provisions, including the right to board and inspect vessels belonging to other States; and
* Prescribes options for the compulsory and binding peaceful settlement of disputes between States.
Responsibility for regulating and enforcing sustainable fishing practices falls to the regional fishing organizations. On the basis of a periodic review of the status of fish stocks, they will allocate quotas for States fishing on the high seas.
Fishers are obliged to report through their Governments to FAO and regional fishing organizations the size of catches and the amount of fish they discard. Deliberate under-reporting, which is thought to be widespread, will be monitored by other States, which all have the right to board and inspect vessels to ensure compliance with regional agreement.
Regional organizations have the right to impose quotas or restrictions on fishing if they suspect that a stock is in danger of full exploitation. The precautionary principle, which obliges Governments to act conservatively if there is reason to suspect that serious damage is being done to the environment, underlies all of the Earth Summit agreements.
Only States that agree to adhere to the conservation and management measures adopted by the regional organizations will have access to the fishing grounds administered by those organizations, but boats of all States are subject to the Agreement...