Maguire, J.-J.; Sissenwine, M.; Csirke, J.; Grainger, R.; Garcia, S.
The state of world highly migratory, straddling and other high seas fishery resources and associated species. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 495. Rome: FAO. 2006. 84p.
This document describes highly migratory fish stocks, straddling fish stocks, and stocks of other high seas fishery resources and the fisheries for them, including information on their state of exploitation. About 200 species have been identified as being fished on the high seas either as highly migratory, straddling or other high seas fishery resources and this paper reports on around 230 species (or species group) statistical area combinations. Fisheries for highly migratory species are important in all oceans and semi-enclosed seas, except for polar regions. Fisheries for straddling fish stocks are much more localized, primarily occurring in a few regions where continental shelves extend beyond the 200 miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) limit or where the high productivity of the coastal area favor a more expanded distribution of coastal stocks into the high seas, or attracts high seas resources into the EEZ. Most fisheries for other high seas fishery resources are deep-water fisheries (being conducted at depths of the order of 1 000 m, or more).
Formal assessments are lacking for most of the stocks examined. Nevertheless, the compilation of available assessments and FAO's analyses indicate that about 30 percent of the stocks of highly migratory tuna and tuna-like species, more than 50 percent of the highly migratory oceanic sharks and nearly two-thirds of the straddling stocks and the stocks of other high seas fishery resources are overexploited or depleted. The stocks concerned represent only a small fraction of the world fishery resources upon which millions of people are critically dependant for food and livelihood, but these fish stocks are key indicators of the state of an overwhelming part of the ocean ecosystem which appears to be more overexploited than EEZs.
The adoption of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (FSA) in 1995 and its entering into force in 2001 has led to the implementation of measures that are expected to be beneficial in the medium to long term to species fished on the high seas. The scarcity of the information available and the short time elapsed since the entering into force of the FSA does not allow for a realistic assessment of the impact the FSA may have had on the state of the various fish stocks being exploited in the high seas. The slow recovery of several straddling fish stocks in the northwest Atlantic after more than 10 years of very stringent fishery limitations illustrates the intergenerational nature of the rebuilding process and the potential importance of ecosystem changes.
While the performance of the Agreement cannot yet be evaluated directly from the response of fisheries and fishery resources, it is possible to identify the issues upon which the success of the FSA is predicated and about which decisive progress must be achieved. In particular, improvements are needed regarding: (i) the information on fisheries, resources and ecosystems; (ii) the implementation of the precautionary approach and the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF); and (iii) the reduction and control of fishing capacity to levels commensurate with resources productivity. Another issue is the applicability of the FSA to fisheries in the high seas for resources other than straddling stocks and highly migratory species. While this document does not take any position on this issue, it does discuss some options to improve governance in areas where it is deemed to be inadequate. In concluding it is also stressed that deteriorating public opinion about the state of fisheries is a threat even to well-managed fisheries and that it is urgent to both improve fisheries management, and communication.