GEO-6 Chapter 14: Oceans and Coastal Policy

Table 14.6: International cooperation resolutions





Rogers and Gianni 2010

Success of failure

Where VMEs have been identified and fishing vessels with bottom-contacting gears have been effectively excluded, the outcome of no further damage of the VMEs from fishing is likely to be occurring. UNGA adopts resolutions on sustainable fisheries annually. As part of this process, following the adoption of Resolution 61/105 in 2006 (UNGA 2006), UNGA conducted dedicated reviews of the implementation of the provisions of the Resolution, as well as subsequent resolutions, addressing the impacts of bottom fishing on VMEs and the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2016. Each of these reviews resulted in the adoption of additional provisions in UNGA Resolutions 63/112, 66/68, 69/109 and 71/123. A further review is planned for 2020. In 2014 and 2016, the reviews were preceded by two-day informal multi-stakeholder workshops. In addition, bottom fishing is also addressed in the context of the Review Conference on the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, which was held in 2006 and resumed in 2010 and 2016. Other than States, FAO and RFMO/As are the principal bodies involved in the implementation of the provisions of Resolution 61/105 et seq. Discussions regarding the implementation of the resolutions have involved representatives of these intergovernmental organizations, as well as representatives of environmental NGOs, the fishing industry and academia. The Resolution was based on historical records of stock status and fish-processing plants’ operating costs and revenues. Both sources are reliable for the last 15 years. It took two years for the VME identification criteria to be developed by FAO, and another two years for some RFMOs to identify their VMEs. Most RFMOs identified their VMEs within the time frame established in the Resolution. The capacity of some RFMOs to identify VMEs and develop protective measures is limited – for example, in parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Protecting biodiversity in the high seas had been part of UNGA’s agenda for several years, and it had accordingly adopted a series of pre-resolutions (e.g. Resolution 59/25). Improved technologies for distant-water surveillance, such as vessel monitoring systems and satellite tracking, have made the detection of illegal fishing more feasible. Video technologies also allow the automated and less costly monitoring of on-board operations. Increased scientific study of deep-sea habitats and the use of on-board observers also seem to be important factors. The Resolution affects national and corporate interests large enough to have the technology to fish the high seas. However, it may entail a uniform burden on countries with different capacity to comply. There is potential for improved fishing practices beyond VMEs; more active collaboration between RFMOs and other authorities (seabed mining, shipping and the Convention on Biodiversity) to coordinate conservation efforts; and increased participation of scientific experts in RFMOs and national assessment and advisory bodies. The Resolution applies to multiple jurisdictions and overlaps with other international efforts such as the Convention for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas. In this regard, CBD and FAO cooperate to harmonize the outcomes of these efforts. Cooperation between Canada and the United States, where federal fisheries management agencies identify VMEs or ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) that straddle national boundaries, illustrates such bilateral efforts. Regional seas conventions also engage in identifying transboundary and/or high-seas EBSAs and can be considered a transboundary issue within a multilateral effort. Disseminating this type of policy at the national level would be important, given the role of the Resolution as a springboard for more meaningful negotiations in the context of the Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) process. The Secretary- General, in his 2016 report (A/71/351), concluded that “[o]verall, while a number of actions have been taken, implementation of resolutions 64/72 and 66/68 on a global scale continues to be uneven and further efforts are needed (UNGA 2016). Unless timely actions are taken by all the stakeholders concerned, overfishing of deep-sea species is likely to continue and some VMEs will not be adequately protected from significant adverse impacts”. No information on cost-effectiveness is available.

Independence of evaluation

Key actors


FAO (2009; FAO 2010)

Time frame

Constraining factors

UNGA 2004

Enabling factors

Cost- effectiveness



Transboundary issues

Possible improvements

Oceans and Coasts Policy


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