|Stone, G., L. Madin, K. Stocks, G. Hovermale, P. Hoagland, M. Schumacher, C. Steve-Sotka, H. Tausig, P. Etnoyer, Seamount biodiversity, exploitation and conservation. , In L.K. Glover and S.A. Earle, eds., Defying Ocean?s End. Washington: Island Press, pp. 43-70, 2004|
[Excerpt from policy section.] The majority of seamounts are located in the Area beneath the high seas. Commercial fishing on these seamounts is still a high seas freedom, subject to the due regard that must be accorded other nations in their exercise of high seas freedoms and a duty to cooperate with other nations to conserve high seas resources. Although many regional fishery organizations have recognized the need to manage fishery resources on an ecosystem basis rather than just species-specific approaches, there is little evidence that they recognize a need to manage the fishery resources of seamounts per se. The international law relating to the living resources of seamounts is use-oriented, implying that the focus is on the conservation and management of commercially exploitable species. Some commentators have invoked a provision UNCLOS, Article 194(5) that calls for protection or preservation of rare or fragile ecosystems and habitats, as a justification in international law for the establishment of marine protected areas at seamounts. This provision of UNCLOS relates specifically to the control of pollution, defined as the introduction of substances or energy into the environment, however, and it is unclear whether it could provide a legal basis for the conservation of seamounts where the main ecological threat is from commercial fishing. International ?soft law,??such as encouragements found in the Rio Summit?s Agenda 21 or other similar pronouncements--calls for sustainable development, integrated management and the application of precautionary and anticipatory approaches in the face of uncertainty. Broad planning, impact assessment, accounting and management tools are suggested by soft law, but specific conservation and management measures are not mandated. For the most part, these concepts are still latent with respect to the conservation of seamount species or ecosystems. Because of their remoteness, there has been little need until recently to think seriously about the conservation of living resources on high seas seamounts. As more is learned about the location and the value of seamount resources, their conservation undoubtedly will come to rely upon the effectiveness of measures implemented by regional institutions, and the most likely candidates appear to be existing regional fishing organizations. It is clear that nations are free to agree among themselves to limit their high seas freedoms in a way that conserves seamounts. The unanswered questions are how widespread such an agreement could be and whether it could be realistically enforced. Given the historical ineffectiveness of many regional organizations in fishery management, it is hard to be sanguine about the conservation of seamounts on the high seas through such measures. It is likely that the geographical remoteness of most seamounts will contribute more than international law to their conservation.