Pacific nations, Forum Fisheries at new High Seas treaty talks




Thursday 7 April 2016, FFA HQ SOLOMON ISLANDS Pacific Small Islands Developing States are in New York closing off the first of four UN meetings over the next two years aimed at delivering a new Implementing Agreement under the framework of the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention, to govern conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

FFA legal adviser, Dr Filimon Manoni, is part of an inter-agency regional team providing technical support to the Pacific SIDS missions and delegates attending the UN’s Division for Ocean Affairs first Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly resolution 69/292, for the Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

“Pacific countries were a driving force in bringing about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, and in the decades since have   consistently acted and urged the international community to ensure that conservation and management of the high seas must be strengthened,” says FFA Director General James Movick.

Two acronyms – Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) and protecting Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) have peppered much of the conversation and discussion around what sovereign states are doing to protect the ocean areas outside of their maritime borders.  

 'What is critical to the end of all this ongoing ABNJ dialogue, is that we ensure the hard-won rights granted under the 1982 UNCLOS and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the gains that we have already achieved under the resultant regional Tuna Commission are not lost or diluted, even as we continue to press the WCPFC on improved management of the high seas fisheries of this region,” says DG Movick. He says the United Nations General Assembly itself recognizes this caveat, noting any new agreement should not undermine existing instruments and the work of regional and sectoral bodies.

“The Pacific SIDS welcome the commitment in the UN that the BBNJ process not tamper with the Law of the Sea, and other existing international and regional frameworks, and the work of sectoral bodies that have a mandate on high seas fisheries governance, and remain committed to working through this and upcoming meetings towards a final text supporting that promise,” says DG Movick.

“Pacific Island Countries have done much to ensure that the stocks of tuna in the Western Central Pacific are amongst the most well managed fisheries in the world and that the PICs themselves are able to benefit from the development and management of these resources through effective national ownership supported by an effective coordinated regional management and enforcement framework.

“As reflected in the Pacific Island Forum Leaders’ Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries, Pacific SIDS are already committed to establishing conservation and management measures for high seas tuna fisheries that are at least as stringent as those that we enforce in our own EEZs though cooperative mechanisms such as the Nauru Agreement and Tokelau Arrangement. At the moment, management of the Western and Central Pacific high seas falls far short of this goal. Until this is achieved, Pacific SIDS have agreed to seek the closure of these tropical and subtropical high seas to all distant-water fishing activity.

“This is achievable by agreement under existing mechanisms mandated by the UN Fish Stocks agreement, particularly the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and it  is important that this initiative not be shelved pending the outcome of another multi-year negotiation with far broader objectives.”

DG Movick emphasized that in the Pacific SIDS region, “tuna fisheries are not just important to a few commercial fishing companies, but to entire national economies. Like the risks posed to our small populations by climate change, the risks posed to our tuna resources from out-of-control distant water fishing have enormous proportionate significance.”

The technical support provided by the Forum Fisheries Agency to Pacific UN member nations and missions in New York is made at the direct request of the PSIDS missions and within the context of coordinated technical support with other regional organizations, stakeholders and knowledge providers through the Pacific Oceanscape framework.  

“At the agency level, we will continue supporting active and engaged participation by our members in this and other relevant UN processes dealing with Oceans and fisheries issues,” says DG Movick. “This is a multi-year, multi-sectoral, process and we will look to the leadership of our delegations and heads of missions in New York to ensure a successful outcome for the Pacific. I am certainly joined by our members in appreciating the work through the UN of our Pacific delegations, missions and ambassadors to ensure the international waters binding our oceanic states together will be better managed.”—ENDS

Further links:

Images of Pacific nations and Updates on PrepComm 1  

Link to Pacific and other country statements