We need strong action plans that will compel nations to work together to conserve the oceans precious living resources said Michael Sutton, Director of WWFs Endangered Seas Campaign and Head of WWFs delegation. At the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meeting, governments are expected to finalize global action plans on these issues, to be adopted early next year.
WWF believes that global action plans -- drafted by the fishing nations themselves -- represent the best opportunity to reverse the escalating crisis in marine fisheries. Countries need to adopt responsible measures to remedy uncontrolled growth in fishing fleets, which is often promoted by government subsidies and flags of convenience, he said.
According to a new WWF report, the fishing crisis is being exacerbated by a global failure to rein in the power of fishing fleets around the world. The report shows that thirteen of the worlds largest fishing nations, including the European Union, have a fleet capacity that is two and half times greater than necessary for a sustainable harvest. The report estimates that the worlds fishing nations need to reduce the size of their fishing fleets by two-thirds in order to ensure that catches are sustainable.
Important issues to be decided at this weeks meeting include: a proposal for a moratorium on additional fleet capacity on the high seas, at least until appropriate regional fishing organizations or states assess the status of fish stocks concerned; a requirement to develop national capacity reduction plans and plans for high seas fisheries within three years; and, controls on exports of fishing vessels.
WWF is urging nations to identify fishing subsidies and take steps to phase them out. Flags of convenience, another serious problem, currently allow fishing nations to circumvent conservation regulations. The draft plan of action only encourages high seas fishing nations to join regional fishing organizations. But WWF believes stricter measures should be adopted to curb uncontrolled fishing on the high seas.
In addition, WWF is calling for conservation and management measures to be implemented for priority shark fisheries by December 2000. WWF also wants each fishing nation to develop conservation measures to avoid the killing of seabirds in longline fisheries. Sharks have declined by as much as 80 percent during the past decade and a half due to overfishing, and similarly, each year thousands of seabirds, such as albatrosses, are unintended victims of longline fisheries.
For more information, please contact Leigh Ann Hurt at (44) 468- 336-398 or Someshwar Singh at (41) 22-364-9553, or call the Endangered Seas Campaign office at (44) (1483) 419-294.