Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Delivered at the

FAO Expert Consultation on Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas

Bangkok, Thailand, 21-23 November 2006

Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to Bangkok.

I would like to welcome all of you, on behalf of the Organization, to this Expert Consultation and thank you for providing your expertise in the upcoming days of this Consultation on the important topic of deep-sea fisheries.

As you may know, there has been increasing concern on the part of many Member Nations and related international organizations over the conservation and management, and governance of deep-sea fisheries. This concern stems largely from the recognition that deepwater fisheries, as a result of technological development and market demand, are, in many areas, being exploited at increasingly unsustainable rates and in some cases with considerable damage to benthic habitats. In addition, there has been emerging recognition that existing regulatory regimes, based primarily on the 1982 Law of the Sea Agreement, are proving incapable of effectively regulating these fisheries. This is especially the case for deep-sea fisheries which concern high-seas stocks.

The FAO Committee on Fisheries, COFI, first raised the issue of management and governance of deep-sea fisheries and related issues at its 25th Session, in February 2003. On this occasion, "several Members referred to the need for the improved management of deep-sea fisheries, especially those that are discrete high-seas stocks and noted that international law requires further development in this regard”. The concept for a Conference on the management and governance of deep-sea fisheries was brought to the floor of the Session and supported by the Committee. The DEEP SEA 2003 Conference was then initiated and hosted by Australia and New Zealand. This conference began to address the paucity of information available and insufficient management and governance regimes of deep-sea fisheries.

Again, at the 26th meeting of COFI in March 2005, the issue of deep-sea fisheries was raised. There the Committee recommended that FAO undertake further work on deep-seas through the following activities to:

a)      collect and collate information concerning past and present deepwater fishing activities;

b)     undertake an inventory of deepwater stocks and an assessment of the effects of fishing  on deepwater fish populations and their ecosystems;

c)      convene technical meetings to develop a code of practice/technical guidelines; and

d)      review the legal framework needed to support conservation and management of deepwater fisheries.

With the financial support of the Government of Japan, FAO initiated a new project in late 2005 which, inter alia, aims at addressing some of these issues. This Expert Consultation constitutes the first major activity under the deep-sea fisheries component of this project. Future activities will include further reviews and analyses of deep-sea fisheries and their ecosystems, a technical consultation on deep-sea fisheries, and finally the development of technical guidelines for the conservation and management of deep-sea fisheries and ecosystems.

The overall objective of the current project, of which this Expert Consultation is an important component, is to provide benefits to FAO members in the form of enhanced information, methodologies and guidelines for better management of deep-sea fisheries.

Your task in the coming days will be to participate in and add to the objective of this Expert Consultation by furthering information available on management aspects of deepwater fisheries. As such, the Consultation will address and analyze four main aspects of deep-sea fisheries management:

  • Initially, options for management, including the creation of protected areas, will be discussed.
  • Later sessions will focus on issues related to regulation and compliance, and guidance for compatible options within EEZs.

I would like to thank you all for taking the time to assist FAO with this task and for providing your wisdom and insights. I wish you a productive experience in the coming days and look forward with interest to the results of your work. For those of you who are not familiar with FAO rules and procedures, I should perhaps clarify your role in this Expert Consultation. Each of you is attending this Consultation in your individual capacity, and not as a representative of your government or organization. In this line, there is no difference in status between those of you who work with government and those of you who work with a private or non-governmental entity; more importantly, all of you are encouraged to freely share your frank views and comments, as well as provide your intellectual inputs to the various subject matters identified for this consultation.

I finally wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Organization and of the Fisheries Department, to thank the Government of Japan for their support of this important work and for providing the funds necessary for convening this Expert Consultation.

Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your attention.