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Press Release 01/08

ILLEGAL FISHING TOPS THE AGENDA AS WORLD FISHERIES AUTHORITIES MEET IN ROME


Rome, 22 February 2001 - Urgent measures to tackle the growing problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated and fishing (IUU) will top the agenda at a series of meetings involving world fisheries authorities and experts at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome over the next two weeks.

IUU is widely recognised as a major threat to the sustainability of the world's fisheries, and FAO has been working with its member countries on measures to be incorporated into the International Plan of Action to deter and eventually eliminate IUU fishing.

The world's Regional Fishery Bodies, met in Rome on 20 and 21 February to discuss key international fisheries issues that are affecting their work and performance, and today the Second FAO Technical Consultation on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) opens. High on the agenda of this meeting is the finalization of a draft International Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate the IUU fishing which, if finalized, will be submitted to the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), for consideration and eventual adoption.

According to Mr. Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director General of the Fisheries Department, "the sustainability of the world's fisheries and its ecosystem is a fundamental part of a global food strategy for the new century". He continued: "In a world that has to feed a growing population and that is failing to achieve the goal of the World Food Summit, fisheries and aquaculture have a big potential to contribute to sustainable food security, providing self and paid employment for fishing communities, contributing to national and international trade, and generating national income. Underpinning these basic social and economic objectives is the requirement for fisheries and aquaculture to be responsibly managed".

FAO has been informed that, in some important fisheries, IUU fishing accounts for up to 30 percent of total catches, and in one instance it has been indicated that IUU catches could be as high as three times the permitted catch level.

The latest figures provided by FAO show that, among the major marine fish stocks or groups of stocks for which information is available, about 47 to 50 percent of stocks are fully exploited and are, therefore, producing catches that have either reached or are very close to their maximum limits. Another 15 to 18 percent are overexploited and evidentely have no potential for further increase. Moreover, there is an increasing likelihood that catches from these stocks will decrease if remedial action is not taken to reduce overfishing, whether legal or illegal.

Total catches from the Northwest and the Southeast Atlantic declined after reaching their maximum levels a decade or two ago. In the Eastern Central Atlantic and the Northwest Pacific, total catches are increasing again, after a short decline following their maximum production levels of a decade ago. In the Northeast Atlantic, the Western Central Atlantic, the Northeast Pacific, the Mediterranean and Black Sea, the Eastern Central Pacific and the Southwest Pacific, annual catches have stabilized or are declining slightly, having reached their maximum potentials a few years ago.

In the Southwest Atlantic, catches have been increasing and in the Southeast Pacific, catches fluctuate according to El Niño conditions.

The areas where total catches are still tending to grow, and where - at least in principle - there is the highest potential for production increases, are the Eastern and Western Indian Ocean and the Western Central Pacific.

The Twenty-fourth Session of FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI) will take place from 26 February until 2 March, concluding this important series of meetings. The Committee meets every two years and it is the primary fisheries policy-making forum within FAO. COFI is expected to consider the International Plan of Action on IUU and its eventual endorsment.

The main focus of discussion this year will be a review of the achievements in fisheries and aquaculture over the past two years, a comprehensive progress report on measures being taken by countries to implement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its related International Plans of Action, the outcomes of the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade which met in Germany in March 2000 and a proposal for the establishment of a sub-committee on aquaculture.

The Committee will also address a set of CITES (Convention on International trade in Endagered Species of Wilde Fauna and Flora) criteria for commercially exploited aquatic species, a proposal for improving global reporting on the state and trends in fisheries and the consideration of conclusions and recommendations of an expert consultation on economic incentives and responsible fisheries.

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All the Information on the FAO Fisheries Department on the following Web Site address: http://www.fao.org/fi/default.asp

For further information please contact Lucia D'Aleo, Media Relations Office, tel: 0039-06-570 52520, e-mail: lucia.daleo@fao.org


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