Deep sea fish conservation must not go adrift

Source– The post is based on the article “Deep sea fish conservation must not go adrift” published in The Hindu on 17th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Conservation related issues

News- The article explains the need of deep sea fish conservation.

What is the judgement of SC on fishing in the high seas?

The Supreme Court of India has given permission to fishermen for using purse seine fishing gear to fish beyond territorial waters and within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)  of Tamil Nadu. But, they have to observe certain restrictions.

It seems to be more concerned about regulating fishing with administrative and transparency measures than about the conservation measures and obligations which a coastal state owes in its EEZ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

What are the existing conventions related to conservation?

Under Articles 56.1(a) and 56.1(b)(iii) of UNCLOS, coastal states have sovereign rights to ensure that the living and non-living resources of the EEZ are used, conserved and managed. But, they should not be subject to overexploitation.

Access to the zone by foreign fleets is also solely within the coastal state’s discretion and subject to its laws and regulations.

In order to prevent overexploitation, coastal States must determine the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the EEZ in light of the best scientific evidence available.

Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna 1993 is another instrument. It focuses onTAC and distribution of allocations among the parties to the SBT. TAC and the catch quotas are aimed at putting sustainable use into practice among fishermen.

What are the international legal efforts in this regard?

There are several regional organisations that either prohibit the use of large drift nets or at least call for their prohibition. The examples are the 1989 Tarawa Declaration of the South Pacific Forum.

The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolutions 44/225 (1989) and 46/215 (1991) supported and strengthened this development, calling for a moratorium on all large-scale pelagic drift net fishing vessels in high seas.

What needs to be looked by higher courts on fishing in the high seas?

The top court should seek guidance from the obligations arising from the multilateral and regional conventions which are meant to bring in sustainable fishing practices.

The Court’s final judgement needs to look into non-selective fishing methods by purse seiners. It results in the by-catch of other marine living species which could include endangered species.

The guidance from the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna 1993 (SBT) could have also been sourced by the top court to enable recovery of depleted fishing stocks.

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