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Summit: Restoration of Fisheries by 2015 Agreed

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, August 28, 2002 (ENS)

Restoration of the world's depleted fisheries not later than 2015 was agreed by negotiators at the World Summit on Sustainable Development Tuesday.

Considered a breakthrough by summit organizers, agreement on the target date in the Johannesburg Summit's Plan of Implementation requires countries to marshal resources and political will to ensure the responsible management of fisheries.

"This agreement provides us with the crucial underpinning
for government action," according to Summit
Secretary-General Nitin Desai. "Overfishing cannot continue.
The depletion of fisheries poses a major threat to the food
supply of millions of people."

Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai briefs
reporters at the Sandton Convention Centre,
Johannesburg (Photo courtesy UN)

United Nations studies show that three-quarters of the world's fisheries are now fished to their sustainable levels or beyond.

"This agreement recognizes that we need coordinated action between governments on an urgent basis to manage the oceans responsibly, to meet the needs of people now and in the future," Desai said.

Delegates agreed on a section of the Plan that urges countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international agreements that promote maritime safety and protect the environment from marine pollution and environmental damage by ships.

Completing the remaining outstanding provisions on oceans, agreement was also reached on a section that asks regional fisheries management organizations to consider the needs of developing countries when allocating fish quotas. Developing countries have maintained that existing fisheries regimes do not reflect their interests.
These agreements come as Oceana, a non-profit international ocean conservation organization, and the Wildlife Conservation Society issued an Oceans Scorecard to measure progress by the summit on protecting and sustaining the world's oceans. The groups are exhibiting at the Water Dome which opened today at Northgate.

The Scorecard initially gave the summit a rating of 60 points out of 100, so now that agreement has been reached on a target date, the Law of the Sea convention, and the needs of developing countries, the score is likely to rise.

Dawn Martin of the new
international oceans organization,
Oceana (Photo courtesy Oceana)

Dawn Martin, Oceana's chief operating officer said, "This important and ground-breaking Plan carries no weight unless countries adopt the document and pass their own laws to implement these strategies. Moreover, national laws cannot protect the global oceans commons unless strong international treaties are enforced over the High Seas."

A senior member of the United States delegation, briefing reporters on background Tuesday said there is a U.S. initiative underway to restore and protect the oceans, dealing with such issues as coral reefs, fish stocks, land based pollution and watershed management.

"We will do our initiatives with partners - partners that have already signed up with us. And that's only the beginning of the process," said the official who did not want to be identified by name. "This is a journey - whether it's hunger or restoring depleted ocean resources - this is a journey. But it's got to start here in Johannesburg. So that's our expectation."

Oceana cited figures that show 25 percent of the world's fish catch - 44 billion pounds of fish and
thousands of ocean animals - are unintentionally caught and discarded, dead and dying, each year.
Such wasted catch and other destructive
fishing practices are a large part of the reason
why more than 70 percent of marine fish
species worldwide need urgent action to prevent
population declines, the group said.

Pollution from ships, including oil, toxic
chemicals, garbage, and sewage, is a major
threat to ocean wildlife. Toxic air pollution that
falls into the oceans also seriously harms sea
life, said Oceana, which merged in May with
the American Oceans Campaign to build an
international movement to save the oceans
through public policy advocacy, science,
economics, legal action, grassroots mobilization,
and public education.

Pollack trawler off Kodiak, Alaska (Photo courtesy NOAA)

Desai said it is "absolutely necessary" that government commitments to implement sustainable fishing be complemented through partnerships by and between governments, fishermen, communities, and industry. "We have no choice but to work together on this," he said.

Countries have now agreed to more than 40 paragraphs since negotiations resumed in Johannesburg on Monday.

At the start of negotiations, countries had agreed on three-quarters of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.