Fishing quotas to be curtailed

Fishing quotas to be curtailed THE depleting fish stock of the world may yet not take a headlong plunge with the first international treaty to curtail overfishing in the open seas being approved by governments of more than 100 countries last month, at the UN headquarters in New York.

The protocol marks the end of 3 years of protracted and acerbic negotiations among the world's fishing nations. Fierce battles which became common between various nations over fishing rights, should now end with the deal which provides for protecting "straddling" or "migratory" fish which swim in and out of national maritime bound- aries. These fish, which account for 20 per cent of the fish population, include cod, pollack, tuna and swordfish.

The treaty calls for the right to set fishing quotas by the regional regulatory organizations and the countries who sign the treaty. Other enforcement procedures give the inspectors the right to board and search vessels. Fishing boats will now have to report the size of their catches and if they are found to be carrying illegal fishing gear which does not fish 'selectively' and nets other sea creatures like sea turtles or porpoises, they can be booked. The accord also establishes that in the case of conflict over fishing rights in the absence of a regional agreement, a third party would be given compulsory and binding authority to settle the dispuie. The treaty also addresses the waste generated by the fishing fleets which annually dump millions of dead fish which are caught alongwith the required catch at sea.

The primary responsibility will lie with the country whose vessel is plying. This has been opposed by certain non- governmental organizations who feel that this clause will prove to be disadvantageous to the developing nations as the developed nations, with their superior resources would shift to waters near these nations. Further, the treaty does not cover the issue of fishing in territorial waters within each country's 200- mile "exclusive economic zone". In-fact, it is in these waters that maximum fishing takes place. Six countries mainly account for 90 per cent of the global fishing figure on the world's shared waters, and these include Japan, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan.

According to Satya Nandan, chairman of the UN conference, "The freedom to fish on the high seas no longFr exists as it once did." Added Brian Tobin, Canada's minister of fisheries and oceans, "We have made clear that the desire to harvest fish must take a backseat to the need to sustain fish."

Meanwhile, the UN Food and AgricaltuTiz.Organization has warned that 70 per cent of the world's fish stocks are either fully exploited, overfished or depleted.

For the treaty to become a legally binding agreement, it has to be ratified by 30 nations. It will be opened for signature on December 4 this year.

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