LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
It is a special privilege for me to be here today to address the opening session of the Deep-Sea 2003 International Conference held in Queenstown, New Zealand. On behalf of Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), I would like to thank the government of New Zealand for inviting FAO to attend the conference. Indeed, we are extremely pleased to collaborate with the Ministry of Fisheries, New Zealand and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia in convening this important international event.
As the Assistant Director-General of the FAO Regional Office of Asia and the Pacific, I am particularly pleased that this important conference is held in the Pacific. Indeed the Asia-Pacific region is the largest fish producer in the world. Based on current FAO statistics, the region accounts for 43 percent of the world’s capture fisheries production and 86 percent of the aquaculture production in 2001. Several recent studies have shown that these statistics, in fact, underestimate the importance of small scale fisheries in the region - especially fish coming from the vast inland waters of Asia - although production from some other fisheries may be over-stated.
The total value of the combined national exports of fish and fish products from developing countries in the region amounts to nearly 17 thousand million US Dollars, targeting markets in Europe, Japan and the USA. The fisheries sector in the region employs over 85 percent of the world’s fishers and millions of families are dependent on fish and fishery products for their livelihoods, both as a source of animal protein and overall food security, as well as for income and livelihood security.
In a recent FAO publication, trends in catches of deep-water species were analyzed at the global level and by FAO Fishing Area. Whereas in the late 1970s annual deep-water catches amounted to little more than one million tonnes, in each of the four latest years (1998-2001) for which FAO statistics are available, catches have reached over 2.8 million tonnes with a maximum of 3.25 million tonnes in 2001. The quantities caught in recent years represent over 3 percent of the global marine catches and about one third of the total catches of species that were classified as oceanic, whether epipelagic or deep-water.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
FAO leads the international effort to fight against hunger. It does this through sharing and making information and policy expertise that facilitates sustainable development accessible to all. The Organization also provides a neutral forum for nations to meet and build common understanding of major issues facing nations in building a world with food security. FAO works on behalf of its members – more than 180 – and collaborates and cooperates with thousands of partners world-wide to meet its strategic goals, also testing its knowledge through thousands of field projects right across the world.
In the field of fisheries, in addition to numerous technical cooperation programmes, FAO promotes the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries that was adopted by members in 1995. The code is an international instrument that sets out the principles and international standards of behaviour to ensure sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture. In support of the code, FAO has published a series of technical guidelines and has facilitated the development of a number of important International Plans of Action, including a plan to deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and a plan to manage excess fishing capacity.
An underlying principle of the code and of particular relevance to this conference is that, although the world’s oceans cover 70 percent of the globe, their resources are limited. FAO’s latest assessment on the status of the world’s fisheries reveals that about half of the world’s marine fisheries is already fully fished - there is no room for further production increases. Another twenty five percent over fished – meaning that their potential yields and economic benefits are not realized. It is on this assessment that we must focus our efforts for deep-sea fisheries and their future during this conference.
The deep-sea resources are often seen as the last frontier. However, this is rather an unfortunate term since it gives the impression of vast untapped resources awaiting exploitation. It also paints a picture that it is only a matter of time until these resources also become depleted as fisheries expand its area of operations. It should also be kept in mind that various technological developments are making these resources ever more accessible for fishing activities even at great depths.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This scenario underlines the need to learn from past mistakes of uncontrolled fleet expansion, open access to fishing grounds and, in particular, the general lack of specific fishing rights. There is now sufficient collective wisdom and experience to ensure that we do not make the same mistakes that were made in the past. In this regard, the last frontier could be the turning point in fisheries development and management.
To resort to drastic measures, such as banning all fishing in these waters, would be excessive, unwarranted and, in the end, counterproductive. It is possible to fish sustainably, provided lessons of the past are heeded and addressed.
How to achieve this sustainable development through better fisheries management in the deep seas is, I hope, the outcome of this meeting – an outcome that will be very important to the future management of the world’s fisheries resources. I am pleased to see so many experts and interested parties here in this wonderful part of the world and I wish the conference every success. To achieve this outcome, participants must be willing to share their experiences on the current status of the world’s deep-sea resources, the best available information on their future potential and our collective understanding of the impacts of fishing on both the fish resources and their supporting ecosystems.
Before concluding, I should like to stress that FAO offers a neutral forum for open and informed debate on fisheries analysis, assessment and planning. It will work together with its many partners to ensure that the principles of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries can be implemented effectively for deep-sea fisheries. That is how the fisheries sector can best contribute to and cooperate with development partners such as FAO for food security and balanced nutrition.
I wish you a successful conference.