The law which applies to the high seas is founded on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994. An important element of UNCLOS was the undertaking by all signatory countries to promote sustainable fishing.
Since the adoption of UNCLOS, a number of agreements have been developed to deal specifically with how to bring about sustainable fishing on the high seas. One of them is the Agreement on straddling stocks and highly migratory fish stocks (1995).
The UN system also has a key role to play in combating destructive fishing practices, which damage fragile habitats, in particular seamounts and cold-water corals.
Under the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the following agreements have been adopted:
- Agreement on compliance with conservation and management measures (1993)
- Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995)
In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/105 on sustainable fisheries.
The EU has also entered other international agreements and conventions that have a bearing on fisheries. Among them is the commitment made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to reduce fishing to the level which gives the highest yield in the long run (maximum sustainable yield) by 2015 and to use an ecosystem approach in fisheries management. The EU is party to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- 2011 EU Report to the UN on the implementation of measures for the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems from the impact of bottom fishing on the high seas [63 KB]
- Council Regulation on the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from the adverse impacts of bottom fishing gears
- Commission report on the implementation of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the viability of fisheries (30.4.2009) [41 KB]