From: Irwin Arieff, Reuters
Published May 28, 2006 12:00 AM

U.N. Conference Backs Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

UNITED NATIONS — Delegates to a U.N. conference reviewing a 1995 treaty aimed at protecting dwindling ocean fish stocks urged governments and regional fisheries managers Friday to intensify their efforts to crack down on illegal and unregulated catches.


The 57 nations that have ratified the pact agreed all fishing vessels on the high seas should carry equipment enabling them to be tracked by satellite.


They also said governments should put more independent observers on boats and take steps to ensure that fish unloaded at their ports had been legally caught.


But the weeklong meeting came to no conclusions on how to deal with a significant global oversupply of commercial fishing vessels, said U.S. Ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries David Balton, who chaired the conference.


The conference was due to end late Friday with a vote to adopt a final declaration. The vote was delayed while delegates discussed the timing of the next review conference.


Fishing nations generally agree there is an overcapacity that threatens ocean stocks. But rich and poor countries are divided over how to cut back on the number of boats.


Developing nations accuse industrialized countries of overexploiting sea life and want to be able to build up their own fleets even as the rich nations are required to cut back.


The treaty, while approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 1995, entered into force just five years ago.


With the pact in effect for so short a period, Balton said delegates felt it was too soon to consider revisions. Instead, they concentrated on improving its enforcement and implementation, he said.


The treaty aims to conserve and manage stocks of fish that swim through the high seas and areas under national jurisdiction. The treaty does not cover the practices of fleets fishing strictly within their own coastal waters, which stretch out 200 miles from national shores.


Most regulation of fishing on the high seas is carried out by regional fisheries management organizations, and environmental groups argue they are more interested in dividing up the catch than ensuring long-term sustainable stocks.


One problem with the treaty has been the small number of fishing countries to have ratified it so far. Balton said 14 more countries announced during the conference their intention to join the pact in the near future.


They were Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Palau, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and eight European Union member-states that recently joined the EU bloc, he said.


Source: Reuters


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