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Wrap-up of the sixteenth session of FAO’s COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade

The Sixteenth session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade was held in Busan, Republic of Korea.

The Republic of Korea’s second largest city, Busan, played host to FAO’s sixteenth session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade during the week of 4-8 September 2017. 

To see the blog post about the opening day of the sub-committee, click here.

The COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade has been meeting every two years, beginning in 1986. According to FAO statistics presented at the meeting, trends in the first half of 2017 indicate that exports of fish and fishery products – excluding aquatic plants – are set to reach an all-time high for 2017 exceeding 150 billion USD.

With developing countries representing a full 60% of volume of international fish trade, trade continues to be an important driver for economic growth and socioeconomic development around the world.

During the week-long discussions, Sub-Committee delegates stressed this important role of fish trade as an engine of economic growth, especially for many developing countries.

The skyline of the seaside city of Busan, Republic of Korea.
The COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade Drafting Committee hard at work.

However, the participants also noted with concern, the numerous measures that could jeopardize developing countries’ roles as major players in the international fish trade environment.

While it is important to support better tools and measures that will guarantee the sustainability of seafood products reaching consumers’ plates, it is also crucial to ensure that measures do not create unnecessary barriers to trade.

The Sub-Committee also supported the important work FAO undertakes in helping developing countries to adopt measures and instruments related to promoting sustainable fisheries, to improve their standards for food safety and hygiene, and to build important capacity in the fisheries sector, thereby allowing these countries to strengthen their role in international fish trade and to gain access to the world’s largest fish trade markets.

According to COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade Secretary, Audun Lem, ”This session saw the first instance of social and labour issues in the fisheries sector on the official agenda. The Sub-Committee reconfirmed its support for the closer collaboration between FAO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on these important issues. There’s a growing interest in the international community to look beyond the environmental sustainability of fisheries, which has been our primary focus over the past two decades, to concentrate new efforts on ensuring that our fish is being caught, farmed and processed in a manner in keeping with the socioeconomic sustainability of all those employed in the sector.”

The Sub-Committee also provides information about the important role the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) play in fostering robust regional fisheries management programmes.

The Sub-Committee voiced strong support for the work of the joint FAO- World Health Organization (WHO) CODEX Alimentarius food safety and standards. This work is especially crucial for developing countries working to strengthen their fisheries and aquaculture sectors, and aiming to export into major global markets. FAO has an important role to play in developing capacity in these countries.

COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade delegates.

Since the last Sub-Committee meeting took place, new FAO instruments have come into effect to curb illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

These include the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, which went into effect on 5 June 2016, and the FAO Catch Documentation Schemes, which were approved by FAO Conference in July 2017.

Delegations expressed support for these instruments, alongside FAO’s Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport and Supply Vessels, which – working together – provide an excellent opportunity to end IUU fishing around the world. 

Following a week of active discussions, the work of the COFI Sub-Committee came to an end, but not before electing the Chair and Vice-Chair of the next COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade – the Seventeenth Session.

FAO is pleased to announce, that for the first time, a Session of the COFI Sub-Committee will be chaired by an all-women team. Aurora de Blas of Spain will serve as Chair, while Reina Sotillo de Galagano of Argentina will provide support as Vice-Chair.

FAO congratulates the capable leadership of the forthcoming meeting, and looks forward to welcoming delegates to the Seventeenth session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade in Vigo, Spain!

FAO’s Audun Lem alongside Spain’s Aurora de Blas, the new Chair of the 17th session of COFI-FT, to be held in Vigo, Spain.
At work at the Sub-Committee meeting.
Special thanks to our talented and hard-working Drafting Committee for their important contribution.
The presence of a mermaid always bodes well for a FAO Fisheries meeting, and Busan was no exception…


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