Governance of high seas fisheries
Improving institutional frameworks and arrangements for the governance and management of high seas fisheries is critical for the future of those fisheries. As a country with real fishing interests in high seas fisheries New Zealand has a direct obligation to cooperate with other countries to ensure that those fisheries are managed sustainably. Access to fisheries in the high seas is of direct importance to the New Zealand fishing industry as it moves to take advantage of fisheries opportunities beyond the New Zealand EEZ. Poor governance of high seas fisheries for highly migratory and straddling fish stocks also has the potential to directly impact on New Zealand's domestic fisheries for those stocks that occur within our EEZ.
The Ministry of Fisheries is directly involved in initiatives to improve governance arrangements for high seas fisheries at both a multilateral and regional level. This work involves participation in key international forums discussing oceans and fisheries issues such as the FAO and United Nations, in regional for a such as APEC, and within regional fisheries management organisations such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
The principal international legal instrument for the conservation and management of high seas fisheries is the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) – an implementing agreement under the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) covering highly migratory and straddling fish stocks. As a State Party to UNFSA, New Zealand is actively involved in negotiations to review the effectiveness of UNFSA. This work focuses on identifying barriers to the effective implementation of UNFSA as well as gaps in the governance framework, such as for discrete high seas stocks. An outcome of this process could be negotiations on new instruments or agreements to fill identified gaps in the legal framework.
Another platform for improving governance of high seas fisheries is through the New Zealand Minister of Fisheries' membership of the High Seas Task Force. At its first meeting in March 2005, Ministers directed the Secretariat of the Task Force to conduct an assessment of the performance of high seas Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). The Ministry of Fisheries is contributing to this work that focuses on the development of objective criteria for the assessment of RFMOs based on standards that are established by the relevant instruments of international fisheries law.
Closer to home, New Zealand is taking a lead role, along with Australia and Chile, in the establishment of a new RFMO for non-highly migratory fish stocks in the high seas parts of the South Pacific Ocean. The Ministry of Fisheries and MFAT are the lead New Zealand agencies in these negotiations. The new RFMO will fill a significant gap in the governance of high seas fisheries in our region. The first intergovernmental consultation will be held in Wellington in February 2006 with all countries with an interest in the relevant fisheries invited to attend. This initiative has the potential to set a new international standard for the regional governance of high seas fisheries, and the Ministry of Fisheries will be striving to ensure that best practice fisheries management and governance frameworks are incorporated into the new organisation.