Mr. Bruce Halliday (Oxford):
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to join this debate on the Law of the Sea and address it from the problem of overfishing on the high seas and the Canadian legal initiative that responds to this crisis.
This is a global problem that has a severe impact on fisheries subject to the jurisdiction of coastal states through the harvesting of both straddling and highly migratory stocks on the high seas.
Although the overfishing of straddling stocks on the high seas has caused particular concern to Canada, this cannot be dismissed as merely a local problem. It is world-wide. It affects groundfish stocks like hake in the southwest Atlantic on Argentina's Patagonian Shelf, the orange roughy stocks on the Challenger Plateau off New Zealand, the blue whiting and jack mackerel in the east central and southeast Pacific off Chile and Peru, and the pollock in the so-called donut hole in the central Bering Sea between Russia and the United States and the pollock in the so-called peanut hole in the centre of the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia's Pacific coast.
The problem of overfishing on the high seas is increasingly being recognized by the international community as an important environmental issue that threatens ecological disaster, both on the high seas and in waters subject to national jurisdiction.
For example, the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development warned of the threat to living marine resources posed by over-exploitation, pollution and land-based development.
More recently, in 1991, the heads of government of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada met in London as the G-7, and at
Canada's insistence issued a declaration urging compliance with the regimes established by regional fisheries organizations through effective monitoring and enforcement measures.
In a report that was released in 1991 the Secretary-General of the United Nations underlined in eloquent terms the dimension of the problem of overfishing by distant water fishing fleets. I quote from that report:
The elaboration of the Law of the Sea regime for the rational management and conservation of high seas living resources is now firmly inscribed in the international agenda. While this may be in large part attributable to the large-scale drift-net fishing issue, it is to be emphasized that this issue is but one symptom of the larger problems confronting world fisheries, within national jurisdiction and beyond. Another symptom is the report of problems of overfishing by distant water fishing fleets in the proximity of EEZs.
Again, in a report issued last May, entitled World Fisheries Situation, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization said:
Legal aspects of high seas fishing are not addressed comprehensively in the Law of the Sea Convention and where high seas fishing issues are concerned there is a general lack of clarity with respect to important matters such as enforcement of conservation and management measures. There is a pressing need for these issues to be considered further and conceptually developed so that a framework for international management of high seas fisheries might be agreed.
The United Nations General Assembly took up this issue for the first time in 1989 when, in response to the problem of overfishing in the northwest Atlantic outside Canada's 200-mile limit, it expressed concern regarding the use of fishing methods and practices on the high seas that could have an adverse impact on the conservation and management of the living resources of the marine environment.
The concern was elaborated on by the General Assembly in a resolution adopted in 1990.
Canada and like-minded countries built on these resolutions at the 1991 session of the General Assembly. As a result of these efforts the General Assembly adopted a resolution that:
(1) criticized fishing methods and practices, such as vessel reflagging and inadequate surveillance, control and enforcement, aimed at evading the regulation and control of high seas fishing;
December 3, 1992
(2) recognized that the measures now in place to conserve and manage the living resources of the high seas are not effective and that they do not adequately implement the provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention;
(3) called on states to prohibit fishing methods and practices which can have an adverse impact on the conservation and management of the living resources of the high seas, and to take the measures required to give full effect to the applicable provisions of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention; and
(4) called on states to comply with the regimes established by regional fisheries organizations through effective monitoring and enforcement measures.
It is against this background of developing international concern with respect to problems caused by overfishing by distant water fleets that Canada launched its legal initiative to resolve the problem of overfishing on the high seas.
The Canadian initiative sought to develop specific principles and measures consistent with the Law of the Sea Convention with a view to giving full implementation to the provisions of that convention, strengthening regional organizations and ensuring the recognition of the special interest of coastal states with respect to straddling stocks.
This would provide an effective legal regime governing activities on the high seas.
The first steps in the elaboration of the principles and measures were taken at a conference held in St. John's, Newfoundland in September 1990. The conference recognized the need for such measures and agreed on a set of conclusions reflecting an increasingly shared view on how the rules of international law should be interpreted and applied.
This document was further developed at a meeting of Latin American states, New Zealand and Canada in May in Santiago, Chile. The document, dubbed "the Santiago paper", set the guidelines for participation by Canada and like-minded states at three major international conferences in the first half of 1992. The first was the International Conference on Responsible Fishing, held in Cancun, Mexico in May. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans led that Canadian delegation.
Private Members' Business
At the urging of Canada and like-minded countries, the 66 participants at Cancun declared that:
(1) states should co-operate on bilateral, regional and multilateral levels to establish, reinforce and implement effective means and mechanisms to ensure responsible fishing on the high seas, in accordance with relevant provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention;
(2) the freedom of states to fish on the high seas must be balanced with the obligation to co-operate with other states to ensure conservation and rational management of living resources, in accordance with relevant provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention; and
(3) states should take effective action, consistent with international law, to deter reflagging of vessels as a means of avoiding compliance with applicable conservation and management rules for fishing activities on the high seas.
Also in May, the Organization of American States met and unanimously adopted a strong resolution on the protection of fisheries. The Secretary of State for External Affairs led that Canadian delegation. The resolution expressed alarm at the environmental degradation caused by overfishing on the high seas, particularly in the waters adjacent to the areas subject to the national jurisdiction of American states.
It also for the first time supported the convening, on an urgent basis, of an inter-governmental conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, following the Rio summit to deal with high seas fishing problems through the effective conservation and management of high seas fish stocks. The most important conference that took place in this period was the UN Conference on the Environment and Development convened in Rio de Janeiro at the head of government level at the beginning of June. The Prime Minister led the Canadian delegation and made the management of straddling stocks on the high seas a priority.
The conference adopted a number of measures of great importance to Canada. One could go on and list several of these but my time is running out. I should conclude by saying that Canada intends to work closely with like-minded states to ensure that the conference adopts rules to protect straddling and highly migratory stocks from being harmed by overfishing on the high seas.
December 3, 1992
Private Members' Business
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has already announced that representatives of like-minded states will be invited to meet in St. John's in January to review developments and co-ordinate strategy. We are determined to bring overfishing of straddling stocks off Canada's 200-mile zone to an end and to do so quickly.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic: INTERNATIONAL LAW OF THE SEA