The European Union and its 15 member states have ratified the United Nations treaty on straddling fish stocks. The member states deposited their respective legal instruments with the UN Secretary-General on 19 December 2003, following a meeting of the European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries, which met in Brussels in December.

Adopted in New York in August 1995, the treaty is officially known as the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of December 10, 1982, Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The treaty spells out the rights and obligations of coastal states and of states whose vessels fish on the high seas to ensure the conservation and management of fish stocks through international cooperation. It also
encourages cooperation among regional fisheries organizations and underlines the fundamental role that they have to play in this area in terms of observation, control and inspection of fisheries activities. In addition, the agreement also contributes to the fight
against illegal fishing and flags of convenience vessels by introducing in the international legal framework procedures for the control of fishing activities on the high seas.

In addition to agreeing to ratify the UN treaty, EU member states also decided at the Council meeting on the establishment of recovery plans for cod and Northern hake stocks, and on 2004 quotas for all fish species. The decision to freeze the quotas for cod and hake at the previous year's levels while almost doubling the amount of haddock that fishermen are allowed to catch has brought about mixed feelings.
European fishing industry officials say 200,000 people could be deeply affected by the new regulations, while World Wide Fund for Nature Fisheries officer voiced concern that “Europe’s common long-term interest in saving fish stocks and fishing communities has been sacrificed for short-term gain.”

Links to further information EU press release, 19 December 2003 |0|RAPID&lg=EN&display= 

UN Wire press release, 19 December 2003 

UN Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea news 

Full Text of the UN Treaty