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1. The Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) celebrated its 50th anniversary in September 1998 at its Twenty-sixth Session in Beijing, People’s Republic of China. At that session, the Commission reviewed its achievements and discussed its future role. It was unanimously recognized that APFIC had made substantial contributions towards rational fisheries development and management by the member countries. Thus, it was agreed that APFIC should continue into the next millennium to assist its Members in attaining self-reliance in the sustainable utilization and rational management of the fishery resources in the region. To this end, the Commission was of the view that APFIC should have a strengthened mandate and enhanced responsibilities.1

2. Nevertheless, the Commission recognized that a number of constraints would have to be overcome, in particular an inherent lack of adequate funding. This has restrained progress in the implementation of the APFIC programmes of activity in compliance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and recent international instruments and initiatives adopted by the world community. In particular, the Commission noted the implications for APFIC’s future role and responsibilities as stated in Resolution13/97 of the Twenty-ninth Session of the FAO Conference in 1997. Consequently, the Commission established an ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group with the following terms of reference2:

a) To formulate programmes of action to be implemented by APFIC for the short- and medium-term;

b) To review the extent of financial contributions that could be provided by the Member States, taking into account the methods of assessment adopted by other international and regional organizations;

c) To formulate draft financial regulations for APFIC if it decides to move towards autonomy with support from its Members (either full or in part) for consideration by the Finance Committee of FAO; and

d) To review the current Agreement and Rules of Procedure, and to propose amendments necessary to facilitate the effective functioning of APFIC.

3. The Ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group held its meeting at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand, from 6 to 8 July 1999. The meeting discussed: (i) membership, structure and responsibilities of APFIC; (ii) future programmes of activity, for both the short and medium-term; (iii) financial contributions by FAO and the member countries; and (iv) legal and financial implications. However, the Working Group was not able to reach agreement on the question of financial contributions from the member countries as indicated in items b and c of its terms of reference. Nevertheless, the majority of the member countries indicated that they would consider providing voluntary contributions to support specific projects activities, rather than annual assessed contributions to APFIC.

4. The Working Group submitted eight recommendations for consideration by the Members and the Commission. In particular, Recommendation 4 thereof proposed that APFIC explore the possibility of becoming a consultative forum which would discuss emerging issues and aim to avoid the duplication of effort amongst international and intergovernmental fishery bodies in the region. Recommendation 5 requested that the Secretariat conduct a detailed study of APFIC’s future role.

5. Thus, the objectives of the present report are (i) to review major issues implicating fishery resources and environmental sustainability; (ii) to examine the roles, responsibilities and programmes of activities of regional bodies engaged in fishery research and conservation, as compared to those of APFIC, and (iii) to suggest a future role and priority programmes of work for the Commission.

1 Para. 34 of the Report of the Twenty-sixth Session of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 24-30 September 1998.

2 The terms of reference of the Ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group were approved by the Commission at its Special Session, Rome, Italy, 17 February 1999.

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