The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the centrepiece of international law governing states' rights and duties in relation to fisheries outside the territorial sea. The 1995 United Nations Agreement on the Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement) came into force on 11 December 2001. It provides a framework for implementing articles of the 1982 UN Convention relating to straddling stocks and highly migratory stocks. The agreement sets out conservation and management objectives for these stocks and clarifies the rights and duties of coastal States in their EEZs and the rights and duties of other States fishing on the high seas. It affirms the role of regional fisheries management organisations as the means for co-operation to bring about conservation and management of these stocks.
Almost all other international fisheries arrangements acknowledge and are subordinate to the 1982 UN Convention and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. Both provide a framework for regional fisheries arrangements. New Zealand is party to several such arrangements: Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; the Arrangement Between the Government of New Zealand and the Government of Australia for the Conservation of Orange Roughy on the South Tasman Rise (STR); Convention for the Conservation of Southen Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), and the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC).
New Zealand fishers are involved in three distinct international fisheries; deep water and middle depth trawling; deepwater long lining; and tuna purse seining and long lining. These have been developed, initially at least, on the basis of the proximity of New Zealand to the resources concerned. New Zealand is close to the Ross Sea and sits on the doorstep to the largest tuna fishery in the world (Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery). New Zealand middle-depth and deepwater high seas fisheries development has also been based on the stocks found in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, as well as closer to New Zealand in the Challenger Plateau, Lord Howe Rise, Louisville Ridge and South Tasman Rise.
As a consequence of this evolving international legal architecture, we expect opportunities for access to high seas resources will largely disappear over the next five to 10 years. The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement has strengthened regional fisheries management organisations and access to high seas resources will be subject to the measures they establish. In addition to the agreements mentioned above, already there are organisations covering the management of highly migratory stocks in the Atlantic Ocean, Eastern Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean. For demersal species, organisations cover the Northwest Atlantic, Northeast Atlantic, and Southeast Atlantic oceans. Negotiations have recently been completed on an Agreement to cover non-tuna species in the southern Indian Ocean, and for non-tuna species in the South Pacific negotiations will begin in early 2006.
New Zealand government's involvement in these arrangements is twofold - enhancing economic opportunities while ensuring sustainability. We have a responsibility to prevent Southern Hemisphere fisheries undergoing the intense exploitation that is occurring with many Northern Hemisphere fisheries. At the same time, New Zealand must secure its economic interests in the fisheries covered by such arrangements to safeguard the availability of current and future economic opportunities.
New Zealand controls the high seas activities of our fishers using the Fisheries Act 1996. The Act sets out, among a range of things, a high seas fishing permit regime, a regime for the control of nationals, provisions that cover the discharge of monitoring and control requirements in the context of regional fisheries management organisations (e.g., boarding and inspection provisions), and a system of offences and penalties. High seas fishing permits are currently authorising the activities of about 50 New Zealand flagged vessels.
The New Zealand fishing industry is heavily dependent on world markets for its financial viability. Improved access to overseas markets will therefore improve industry's economic performance. New Zealand stands to make significant gains from multilateral trade liberalisation negotiations taking place under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). New Zealand is currently contributing to a study in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that will contribute to the WTO negotiations for the trade liberalisation for fish and fish products.
With 88% of seafood by value being exported, trade initiatives represent an important focus for the New Zealand Government as a means of increasing the value New Zealand obtains from its fisheries resource. Efforts to liberalise trade through the development of Closer Economic Partnership agreements (CEPs) and the negotiation of new disciplines around fisheries subsidies will benefit the New Zealand fishing industry. These efforts present exciting opportunities to further develop export markets, add value to exports and balance the economic playing field of the international fisheries market.