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Agreement Improves Prospect For Sustainability

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE 22 JUNE 1999

UN Fish Stocks Agreement Improves Prospect For Global Sustainability

The Fisheries Amendment Bill (No.2) will enable New Zealand to ratify the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement said the Minister of Food and Fibre Hon John Luxton. New Zealand's ratification of the Agreement would:

- maintain New Zealand's international credibility as a responsible fishing nation;

- assist in ensuring that the harvesting of fish stocks by vessels of other nations in waters beyond New Zealand's EEZ does not undermine our domestic management of such fisheries within our waters; and

- improve opportunities for the New Zealand fishing industry to undertake high seas fishing operations.

"New Zealand has the fourth largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world and with a growing interest by our fishing industry in fishing beyond our EEZ, New Zealand stands to benefit from widespread adherence to this Agreement," Mr Luxton said.

"The Agreement seeks to strike a balance between the interests of coastal States in protecting their fisheries resources and those of States whose fishing vessels operate on the high seas."

If widely ratified and properly implemented, the Agreement should: - significantly improve the prospects for sustainable global fisheries management; - protect the environment through greater regulation of high seas fishing and its potential impacts on bycatch species including seabirds and sharks; - promote responsible high seas fishing practices; and - decrease the number and gravity of disputes over high seas fisheries.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), States have had a duty to take measures to ensure the conservation of the living resources of the high seas.

"The lack of an international framework has previously hindered the co-operation required to implement effective conservation measures. This has led to depletion of numerous high seas fisheries and conflict between nations."

To address this problem, and particularly the adverse impact on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, negotiations on a new international fisheries agreement were concluded in 1995 with the adoption by consensus of what has become known as the UN Fish Stocks Agreement.

"New Zealand played a leading role in the formulation and conclusion of the agreement and was one of the first States to sign in December 1995," Mr Luxton said.

The Agreement comes into force when 30 States have ratified it. To date 19 have. Other countries working closely with New Zealand including Australia, Canada and a number of South Pacific countries, expect to ratify the Agreement in 1999.

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