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International Management Regime

30.01.2014 // The 1982 Law of the Sea Convention constitutes the global legal framework for all uses of the ocean. Negotiated between 1973 and 1982, the Convention represents a major step forwards in the peaceful and sustainable use of the oceans.

From the vantage point of a coastal state, the most salient feature of the Convention is the provisions for extended coastal state jurisdiction, giving sovereign rights over natural resources in the 200 nautical miles EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) to coastal states. As for living marine resources, the Convention specifies that fisheries should be managed sustainable, that fish resources should be utilized in an optimal manner, and that states, where necessary, should cooperate in this regard.   Norway ratified the Convention in 1996.

International agreements and processes

Increased fisheries activities at the high seas during the 1980´s and 1990´s necessitated the negotiation of an additional treaty to provide a legal basis for improved control of fisheries at the high seas beyond the national jurisdictions.. The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement aims at strengthening the rules of the cooperative framework for the management of fisheries resources: the application of a precautionary approach to fisheries management becomes mandatory, the rules for enforcement of regulations are strengthened, more emphasis is given to regional cooperation, and the mechanisms for dispute resolution are enhanced. Near 50% of the parties to the 1982 Convention have ratified the 1995 UN Fish Stock Agreement. Norway ratified the agreement in 1996.

The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries is a non-binding agreement that gives guidelines for best practices for various aspects of fisheries and aquaculture from conservation to marketing. An integral part of the Code are a binding agreement aiming to enhance states control with vessels flying their flag (“the compliance agreement”) and four International Plans of Action  to remedy problems related to overcapacity in fishing fleets, Illegal Unreported and Unregulated  (IUU-fishing and by-catches of sharks and seabirds respectively,. Associated with the Code is also an FAO program for assistance to developing countries in implementing the code – the Fish Code program. IUU fishing is a global threat to sustainable fisheries and to the management and conservation of fisheries resources and marine biodiversity. As a tool to combat IUU fishing, FAO adopted in 2009  the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Norway ratified the agreement in 2011.

Fisheries and conservation of living marine resources

Following the entry into force of the Law of the Sea Convention in 1994, the UN General Assembly initiated a process to monitor its implementation and adopts annual resolutions on oceans and fisheries affairs. Since 1999 an informal consultative process on the law of the sea (ICP) has addressed a range of issues relating to the sustainable use of the oceans. Norway took the initiative to let the ICP in 2014 focus on food security.

Fisheries and conservation of living marine resources has been a recurring item on its agenda. Fisheries-related issues that have recently been addressed in General Assembly resolutions include bottom-trawling at the high seas, the protection of vulnerable ecosystems, and application of ecosystem approaches to the management of ocean resources. As a response, FAO developed in 2008 the International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas. The guidelines are to help RFMOs and states in formulating and implementing appropriate measures for the management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas.  Norwegian fisheries management continuously develop new measures in parallell with the RFMOs in order to implement the FAO guidelines.

Fisheries have become an important issue in a number of global environmental processes. The Agenda 21 emanating from the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable development contains a number of action points for fisheries management. At Rio+20 in 2012 the right to food and the role of healthy marine ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture for food security and nutrition was highlighted.

The last two decades have seen the emergence of several new principles for the management of living marine resources: The precautionary approach, the ecosystem approach, and the integrated oceans management approach are responses to problems of increasing use and pressure on the resources of the oceans and the habitats and ecosystems of which they are a part. The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement has been particularly important in this regard, by requiring states to apply a precautionary approach to fisheries management.

The adoption of such principles represents a concern on the part of the world community for the state of the oceans and their resources. It is however important to recognize that they are to be applied in very different political, cultural and natural settings, and that the question of their implementation therefore is not one of one single approach, but rather one of finding the appropriate approaches for any given context. The principles are incorporated into the Norwegian Marine and Resources Act of 2009.


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