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25. The Meeting was presented with document RFB/II/2001/4. It noted that information on status and trends of fisheries was one of the priority areas identified by the First Session of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR) which had been endorsed by COFI at its Twenty-third Session in 1999. A Working Party on Status and Trends in Fisheries, established by ACFR at its first meeting in November 1999, reviewed the analysis and dissemination processes for information on status and trends of fisheries and identified shortcomings and constraints. It recommended the development of an international plan of action on status and trends of fisheries (IPOA-STATUS&TRENDS) for consideration by COFI. The recommendation was endorsed by the Second Session of ACFR in December 1999, which agreed that the Working Party should continue its work in the preparation of a draft International Plan of Action for review at its Third Session in December 2000. At its Third Session, ACFR refined the draft IPOA and recommended that it be submitted to the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI in February 2001, for consideration and guidance on further action. The Meeting was informed that the proposal for improved status and trends reporting in fisheries was in line with its view and recommendations from its First Meeting (Rome, 11-12 February 1999) regarding the roles of RFBs in information exchange and dissemination.

26. The ultimate goal of the draft IPOA was to provide a framework, strategy and plan at the national, regional and global levels for improving information and knowledge of fishery status and trends as a basis for fisheries policy-making and management for the conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources. With this overall objective, the actions required in the short, medium and long terms were outlined.

27. The Chairperson of ACFR pointed out that status and trends analysis and dissemination were fundamental, underpinning activities of RFBs and FAO, as well as many national institutions. He highlighted the importance of FAO’s reports on the status and trends of fisheries, while also noting inherent limitations of the internalized process used by the Secretariat for preparing these reports. In addition, in many instances, such analyses were often seriously hampered by a lack of reliable data and insufficient analytical capacity at the national level. The draft IPOA would seek to enhance the collection and analysis of basic data at the national level. It would further seek to share responsibility for the assembly and synthesis of status and trends information from the national to the regional and global levels in a more comprehensive and systematic way through RFBs and FAO.

28. The Meeting recognized that there were increasing demands for transparent processes for the analysis and dissemination of information on status and trends at the national, regional and global levels. The draft IPOA was intended to increase transparency and to make analyses more explicit, including identifying uncertainties.

29. It was suggested that the quality of data needed to be addressed and that consideration should be given to systematically indicating the quality of data in databases. It was further suggested that the process that had been employed in the analysis should be described.

30. At the request of participants, details on the present status of the FAO project "Fisheries Global Information System" (FIGIS) were provided. It was explained that FIGIS was a tool for dissemination of fishery information through a collaborative partnership involving FAO, RFBs and national centres of excellence. As such, it could also facilitate the implementation of the IPOA-STATUS&TRENDS. The roles and responsibilities of FIGIS partner organizations would be clearly stated in partner agreements, and so far memoranda of understanding had been agreed between FAO and six RFBs. In response to concerns expressed about the dissemination of confidential information, it was clearly stated that FIGIS would only disseminate public domain information which partner RFBs agreed to contribute according to their mandates, and that information contributed by RFBs would be clearly attributed to them and be completely under their control.

31. The Meeting expressed support for the development of FIGIS independent of IPOA-STATUS&TRENDS. The Meeting also agreed that FIGIS would provide a good facilitating mechanism for improved collation, analysis and dissemination of information on status and trends of fisheries through evolving cooperative initiatives among FIGIS partners.

32. The Meeting recognized the essential need to improve data collection and the analysis in some cases and dissemination of information on status and trends of fisheries and fishery resources. Participants saw merit in the concept of an IPOA on status and trends reporting and suggested that the draft of the IPOA-STATUS&TRENDS be carefully considered.

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