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Press Release 01/54


Rome, 21 September, 2001.- Fishery resources are declining, demand for food is increasing and there is growing demand by civil society to preserve the environment and to apply sound economic rationale to their use. It is therefore of utmost importance that new management regimes be introduced that take account of marine ecosytems, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

Today the situation in world marine capture fisheries is that 50 percent of all fishery resources are fully utilized and only 25 percent hold some potential of increased fisheries. The remaining 25 percent of the stocks, however, are overfished and urgently need intervention. Without improving the management regimes in place there is concern that more fish stocks could become overfished. Therefore it is imperative that scientists, governments, policymakers and industry work together to find common solutions.

"The objective should be to conserve all our marine ecosystems so we can maintain high fishery production as well as enjoying all the other diverse benefits from the marine environment. That would be in line with the Rio Declaration of 1992," said Grimur Valdimarsson, director of the Fisheries Industries Division of FAO.

In light of the growing concern surrounding these issues, the FAO, along with the government of Iceland, will convene "The Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem" from 1-4 October in Iceland.

Top on the agenda will be how to better sustain and preserve the world's ocean fisheries, decrease the negative environmental impacts of fishing and to decrease the negative effects of fertilizer run-off and other pollution on marine life.

The overriding goal of the conference is to find ways to manage the world's fisheries in a holistic manner -- looking at the role that fisheries play within the sea's entire ecosystem and how to balance the needs of governments, whose job it is to sustain fisheries; industry, who supply the world with 78 million tonnes of fish from the ocean each year; and scientists, who are searching to stave off the environmental degradation often caused by intense fishing practices.

For the first time on an international level, these groups will meet to discuss ways to satisfy often competing demands. Over 400 delegates from 70 countries are expected to come to Reykjavik to participate in a debate on these issues. At the conclusion of the conference, FAO member countries may adopt a declaration, one that would outline a framework for future action to protect fisheries.

Until recently, fisheries have been managed by monitoring stocks of an individual fish species and not by looking at the way they function within the entire ocean ecosystem. This approach has failed to contain fishing pressure, leading to overfishing of a particular species often of high commercial value.

"Large and economically valuable predators have been depleted, as well as the prey they need as food. While fisheries institutions and use rights of ocean resources need to be further improved, ecosystem interactions including prey-predator relationships need to be taken into account if we are to have a more healthy, diverse, stable and therefore a more productive ecosystem," said Serge Garcia, director of FAO's fishery resources division.

Garcia added that, "Fisheries cannot be managed in isolation. They have a significant impact on coastal areas, as do many other economic and industrial activities. A more integrated, comprehensive and ecosystem-based approach is required that will look at the role of all sectors in an ecosystem and coordinate their development policy and management."

Scientists, government, industry and the public are becoming increasingly attuned to the fact that overfishing threatens the entire ocean environment. Participants of the conference will discuss this subject and others, during presentations and a scientific symposium. Topics include:

  • The global overview of the world's marine fisheries
  • Large and small scale industry perspectives
  • International Conventions and other legal instruments
  • Diversity and functioning of marine ecosystems
  • Challenges of governance and ways of incorporating ecosystem objectives in marine fisheries management


For media accreditation please contact Mr. Hannes Heimisson, Tel: 00354-5609965, Cell: 00354-863 6482. For more information on the conference please click on: or contact FAO Information Officer Erwin Northoff: Tel 0039-06-5705 2232/3105, mobile: (+39) 348 2523 616

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