Under international law, nations have a duty to protect and conserve the
high seas marine environment for the present and for the future. High seas
fishing resources are sustainable resources held in trust and in common
for the benefit of mankind. It has become a rule of customary international
law that such resources may not be squandered so that a few may profit while
ecosystems are destroyed and people go hungry. An effective, workable fisheries
management regime requires that all participants fully, fairly and openly
participate and cooperate. Current information indicates that this is still
not happening. Cheating and illegal activity abound. In addition, no management
scheme proposed to date shows any promise in being able to reduce significantly
the enormous by-catch and waste associated with this method of fishing.
A total ban on large-scale driftnet fishing is required and pirate driftnetters
should be subject to universal jurisdiction.
Even if a total ban on large-scale, high seas driftnet fishing should be
declared by the United Nations, implementation and enforcement remain a
major problem. The driftnet fishing States have demonstrated time and time
again that they are not willing to uphold their international agreements.
They say one thing, and their nationals do another. High seas driftnetting,
both legal and illegal, has been labeled as "piracy" by many States.
It is time for the United Nations to declare that the large scale rape of
the global commons by driftnetters is indeed piracy under international
In 1992 Japan declared that the unilateral conservation and management measures
undertaken by its fishing industry met the conditions laid out in the 1989
United Nations Driftnet Resolution. However, international law professor
Jon Van Dyke has noted, "These procedures can't be developed unilaterally,
but only through cooperation. And no one nation can unilaterally determine
that it has proper conservation approaches. This is something that must
be done with the entire world community." (Van Dyke pers. comm. 1991)
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