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These guidelines are addressed primarily to the decision-makers within fisheries management authorities and interest groups, including fishing companies, fishers' organizations, concerned non-governmental organizations (NGO) and others.

The formulation of guidelines in support of the implementation of Article 7 (Fisheries Management) of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries has been a demanding task, and one that can only be expected to provide an overall view of the key issues concerned. In fact, beginning with the Expert Consultation on this subject held in Auckland, New Zealand, 23-27 January 1995 (FAO Fish.Rep., 519), the original draft annexed to that report has gone through a number of revisions, reflecting inputs from a large number of experts in many different fields within FAO and outside, as well as from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

The key problems faced by the Organization in preparing the guidelines and by the experts who have provided input to this document fall into six main categories:

1. The highly diverse approaches to fisheries management currently adopted by States throughout the world involved in fisheries reflect their traditions, infrastructure and ecological and geographical situation, and their varied approaches to the question of individual rights to exploit national resources.

2. Management guidelines must be truly interdisciplinary, and their formulation requires agreement, not only on the technical details by local experts on resources, economics, and sociology, but also on common paradigms and objectives, before the details of a management system can be formulated. To a significant extent, this process must be accomplished in the local context and cannot be provided in the form of a 'recipe'.

3. The guidelines must have something relevant to say at all levels of the fishery process, from international commissions, national governments and local communities to fishing enterprises and fishermen.

4. The Code is intended to be general, covering freshwater, coastal and estuarine to high seas fisheries, and from small scale to sophisticated commercial fisheries. Although there are some global themes which we have tried to emphasize, a number of the relevant considerations for specific categories differ in each case.

5. A lack of confidence in some of the methods of fisheries management currently more widely used has developed. This, in practical terms, stems from the seriously depleted state of many world fisheries that have used these methods (see, for example, FAO Fish.Tech.Pap. 335, ‘Review of the state of the world marine fishery resources’, and subsequent FAO fishery reviews). This does not mean that the methodologies in question cannot be effective in certain circumstances but does means that standard recipes cannot be offered and should not be accepted without careful consideration of their relevance in the local situation.

6. The current period is, in fact, one of considerable experimentation with new approaches to fisheries management, including, inter alia, technical measures, economic and social tools for ensuring inter-generational equity, ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches, input and output control mechanisms and management frameworks involving management in partnership between the State and fishers or their communities. This search for appropriate new approaches, without abandoning the traditional measures where they have proved effective, is to be actively encouraged. Similarly, searches for more appropriate combinations of established management tools may well be fruitful in many cases. It is therefore to be expected that, in future, further additions to, revisions of or commentaries on these guidelines will be issued by FAO and others which emphasize and elaborate in much more detail specific management approaches in particular situations for specific resources.

All of these considerations make it impossible for this document to provide a single prescription of optimal management in the case of a given fishery. However, it is hoped that, in conjunction with the ‘Guidelines on the precautionary approach to capture fisheries and species introductions’ (FAO Fish.Tech.Pap., 350/1, reissued as FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No.2. Rome, FAO. 1996. 54p.), the 'Reference points for fisheries management' (FAO Fish.Tech.Pap., 347) and the other guidelines for the Code issued on ‘Integration of fisheries into coastal area management’ and on ‘Fishing operations’ (both of which are being published in the same series as the present one), these guidelines will help to focus an informed search for a management framework appropriate to the particular circumstance being considered.

Moritaka Hayashi
Assistant Director-General (Fisheries Department)

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