Confronted with extensive evidence regarding the significant impact by the
driftnet fishery on the resources of the high seas the United Nations General
Assembly unanimously adopted UNGA Resolution 44/225 in December 1989.
Resolution 44/225 called for:
-immediate action to reduce large scale pelagic driftnet fishing
activities in the South Pacific with a cessation by 1 July 1991.
- immediate cessation of further expansion of large scale pelagic driftnet
fishing to other high seas outside the Pacific Ocean.
-moratorium on all large scale pelagic driftnet fishing on the high seas
by 30 June 1992...with the understanding the measure will not be imposed...should
effective conservation and management measures be taken...to ensure the
conservation of the living marine resources.
Over thirty years of research, studies, and observer reports had shown that
driftnetting was not a sustainable fishery. The data indicated that the
waste of valuable marine protein by driftnet fishing was enormous. Discarded
by-catch and spoiled catch reached as high as 55% of the total catch. Hundreds
of thousands of marine mammals and reptiles and millions of seabirds died
needlessly in the nets. The impact on the oceanic ecosystem was immeasurable.
Although some argued, and continue to argue, that more studies were needed
and that the fishery was manageable, the world community was not convinced.
In December, 1991, the United Nations General Assembly passed UNGA Resolution
46/215 that called on the international community to implement resolutions
44/225 and 45/197. States were asked to reduce fishing effort in existing
large-scale pelagic high seas drift-net fisheries by fifty percent by 30
June 1992, ensure that large-scale pelagic high seas drift-net fishing not
be expanded and ensure that a global moratorium on all large-scale pelagic
driftnet fishing be fully implemented on the high seas of the world's oceans
and seas, including enclosed seas and semi-enclosed seas, by 31 December
For the most part the nations of the world have responded in a positive
and supportive fashion. Enforcement remains the critical issue, however.
A few States continue to push for exemptions to the moratorium for their
driftnet fleets. If this practice continues, it could undermine the UN moratorium.
In addition, pirate driftnet fishing continues, particularly in the Indian
Ocean, and several States are seriously concerned about the growing practice
of reflagging vessels to avoid enforcement. With fishing stocks around the
world at all time lows, it is important that the moratorium become a permanent,
universally enforced ban.
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