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Panel Wants New Sea Watchdog Global Efforts Needed To Protect Oceans, Fish Commission Says

Dire threats facing the world’s oceans, including the precipitous decline in species of fish, call for stepped-up protection efforts, an international commission said Friday.

“The resources of the oceans are not unlimited,” warned Mario Soares, the former president of Portugal who heads the Independent World Commission of the Oceans.

Six of the eleven major fishing regions in the world are in danger, said members of the commission, who concluded a four-day meeting Friday in Cape Town. Populations of haddock, tuna, flounder, shrimp and other common fish species have been seriously depleted in recent years, they noted.

The commission’s final report for the United Nations is due next year and will probably recommend the formation of a Public Trust for the High Seas to monitor developments affecting the oceans, Soares said.

Its composition and scope will be left up to the world body, he added.

A draft of the commission’s final report compiled during this week stressed the need for better management of fishing rights and access to the sea for the world’s landlocked countries, Soares said.

It also called for balancing the interests of rich and poor nations regarding ocean resources, and tighter controls for the transport of nuclear waste, he said.

Soares also appealed for countries to sign the U.N. Convention on Laws of the Sea, which lays down guidelines for international maritime law.

He said the convention had been ratified by 122 nations, but still lacked the backing of some key powers, notably the United States.

Soares and Portugal are the driving force behind the commission, launched in Japan in 1995. The final report of the panel, which is made up of scientists and politicians, will be used to mark 1998 as the U.N. International Year of the Ocean.


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