Agenda 21 - Chapter 17
Protection of the Oceans, All Kinds of Seas, including Enclosed and Semi-enclosed Seas, and Coastal Areas and the Protection, Rational Use and Development of their Living Resources


The marine environment - including the oceans and all seas and adjacent coastal areas - forms an integrated whole that is an essential component of the global life-support system and a positive asset that presents opportunities for sustainable development. International law, as reflected in the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea referred to in this chapter of Agenda 21, sets forth rights and obligations of States and provides the international basis upon which to pursue the protection and sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment and its resources. This requires new approaches to marine and coastal area management and development, at the national, subregional, regional and global levels, approaches that are integrated in content and are precautionary and anticipatory in ambit, as reflected in the following programme areas:

  1. Integrated management and sustainable development of coastal areas, including exclusive economic zones;
  2. Marine environmental protection;
  3. Sustainable use and conservation of marine living resources of the high seas;
  4. Sustainable use and conservation of marine living resources under national jurisdiction;
  5. Addressing critical uncertainties for the management of the marine environment and climate change;
  6. Strengthening international, including regional, cooperation and coordination;
  7. Sustainable development of small islands.

Programme Area C – Sustainable use and conservation of marine living resources of the high seas

Management of high seas fisheries, including the adoption, monitoring and enforcement of effective conservation measures, is inadequate in many areas and some resources are overutilized. There are problems of unregulated fishing, overcapitalization, excessive fleet size, vessel reflagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases and lack of sufficient cooperation between States. Action by States whose nationals and vessels fish on the high seas, as well as cooperation at the bilateral, subregional, regional and global levels, is essential particularly for highly migratory species and straddling stocks.

States should commit themselves to the conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources on the high seas. To this end, it is necessary to:

  1. Develop and increase the potential of marine living resources to meet human nutritional needs, as well as social, economic and development goals;
  2. Maintain or restore populations of marine species at levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors, taking into consideration relationships among species;
  3. Promote the development and use of selective fishing gear and practices that minimize waste in the catch of target species and minimize by-catch of non-target species;
  4. Ensure effective monitoring and enforcement with respect to fishing activities;
  5. Protect and restore endangered marine species;
  6. Preserve habitats and other ecologically sensitive areas;
  7. Promote scientific research with respect to the marine living resources in the high seas.



Date / journal vol no.
23 April 1993