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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - December 21, 2001: UN Fishing Treaty - 2001-12-20

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

An international treaty to deal with overfishing in the world’s oceans went into effect last week. The treaty establishes new rules for managing the world’s supply of fish. It is expected to reduce conflicts about overfishing in the world’s oceans.

The idea for the treaty came about during the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in Nineteen-Ninety-Two. During that meeting, delegates expressed concerns that nations were disobeying international fishing rules.

After the Rio meeting, the U-N General Assembly organized a conference to negotiate an international agreement on fishing rules. Delegates at the conference officially accepted the agreement in Nineteen-Ninety-Five. Negotiators have been working for several years to put the treaty into effect.

Malta became the thirtieth country to approve the agreement last month. Its approval brought the treaty into effect December Eleventh.

Experts say the problem of overfishing has become severe in the past fifteen years. The United Nations Agriculture Organization estimates that overfishing threatens more than two-thirds of the world’s fish populations. Some groups blame illegal fishing and weak law enforcement. Improved fishing technology also is having a harmful effect.

International agreements governing the management of the world’s fish supply often have been ineffective in protecting fish populations.Under the new treaty, a nation’s enforcement officials will be permitted to inspect fishing boats from another nation. This is the first time this has been permitted under international law. The treaty also permits countries to take action against those countries that violate agreements on overfishing.

The thirty nations that signed the treaty will jointly collect and exchange information about fish populations. Countries also must cooperate with local fisheries management groups. And they must settle disputes peacefully.

Environmental groups say the agreement could help restore fish populations if it is quickly put into effect. However, many of the nations whose economies depend on ocean fishing have not yet accepted the treaty. Some countries that have approved the treaty include the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.