Sustainable development has been defined as “the management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such development conserves land, water, plant genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technologically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.” (FAO Council, 94th Session, 1988).
Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) states that “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall be not used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
The General Principles and Article 6.5 of the FAO International Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries adopted by the FAO Conference in 1995, prescribe a precautionary approach to all fisheries, in all aquatic systems, and regardless of their jurisdictional nature, recognizing that most problems affecting fisheries result from insufficiency of precaution in management regimes when faced with the high levels of encertainty encountered in fisheries.
The United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (New York, 1992–1995) developed a consensus on the need to introduce or strengthen the precautionary approach to fishery management, imbedding the concept in the draft text of its outcome, and outlining elements for its implementation.
Because uncertainty affects all elements of the fishery system in varying degrees, some degree of precaution is required at all levels of the system: in development planning, management, research, technology development and transfer, legal and institutional frameworks, fish capture and processing, fisheries enhancement and aquaculture.
Purpose of the Guidelines
The following guidelines have been developed by the Technical Consultation on the Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries (Lysekil, June 1995), for the governments, fisheries authorities, the fishing industry, regional fishery management bodies, NGOs, and others interested in fisheries, in order to: (a) raise their awareness about the need for precaution in fisheries, by providing them with background information on the main issues and implications, and (b) provide them with practical guidance on how to apply such precaution.
These Guidelines are preliminary and will be evaluated and revised as information accumulates through their implementation.