Mr Chairman, Distinguished Members of the Committee, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Deputy Director-General and Officer-in-Charge of the FAO Fisheries Department, Mr David A. Harcharik, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this Second Session of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research.
At the First Session of the Committee, held in Rome in November 1997, the Committee took note of the statutes of ACFR and adopted the Committee's Rules of Procedure. You also identified a number of research topics that needed to be emphasized to fill critical scientific gaps, highlighting the need to shift the emphasis on the research programmes from one that in the past had been predominantly concerned with fishery resources, to a future programme with substantial emphasis on the human dimension of fisheries.
Your Committee also proposed the establishment of three working parties to undertake in-depth studies on implications of globalization of trade and distribution of benefits, status and trends reporting for fisheries, and lastly new research methods, traditional knowledge and approaches for capture fisheries and aquaculture.
I would like to inform you that in spite of budget difficulties, the Fisheries Department has worked to implement several of your recommendations. In this regard, two of the Working Parties established at the First Session undertook their work through E-mail Conferences. The third Working Party on Status and Trends Reporting for Fisheries met in this room last week. Your Committee will have an opportunity to review the reports of these Working Parties during the present session. I would also like to acknowledge the very valuable contribution of members of your Committee to these Working Parties.
As you are all aware, Mr Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, several important developments have taken place since the last session, which I feel will provide useful background for your deliberations during this Session. In November 1997, the FAO Conference decided that FAO should introduce an improved programming approach for Regular Programme activities. The change in approach includes the elaboration, through interactive and participatory processes, of a "Strategic Framework" with a 10-15 years time-horizon. The Strategic Framework was adopted at the Thirtieth Session of the FAO Conference in November 1999. The Strategic Framework will be complemented by a Medium-Term Plan, which will constitute the main programming document over a time horizon of six years. The Fisheries Department contributed actively to the formulation of the Strategic Framework.
Furthermore, for the second time ever, a meeting of FAO and Non-FAO Regional Fishery Bodies and Arrangements was held in February 1999. The Twenty-third Session of the Committee on Fisheries was also held in February this year. Both meetings expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the First Session of your Committee and FAO's follow-up actions to its recommendations. Discussions by COFI clarified the role of ACFR as an independent body to advise on FAO's fishery research programmes and to provide general fishery policy recommendations. I wish to take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the Fisheries Department to Mr Michael Sissenwine, your Chairman, who participated at these two meetings and also presented to the distinguished delegates and representatives the main conclusions of the First Session of ACFR.
It is also important to recall that the Twenty-third Session of COFI adopted three International Plans of Action in the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries on the Management of Fishing Capacity, the Conservation and Management of Sharks and the Reduction of Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries.
Furthermore, the Ministerial Meeting on the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries held in March 1999 was sanctioned by the Rome Declaration. Although the Declaration did not address fisheries research per se, the Declaration addressed several issues of significant relevance to fisheries research as they relate to conservation and sustainable fisheries management and the responsible utilization of fishery resources.
Lastly, the international community realizes that promoting successful fisheries research agendas is dependent on the creation of reliable and enduring partnerships between donors, governments, researchers and stakeholders. To promote such partnership, the Donor Group on Fishery Research decided to move the Support Unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research (SIFAR), previously housed at the International Development Research Centre of Canada, Ottawa, in the Fisheries Department in March 1998.
SIFAR provides a facilitating link between collaborating donors and national fishery institutions. In concert with the Fisheries Department, SIFAR plays a catalytic leadership role in agenda-setting in fisheries research and works to increase the relevance of research, to promote effective research policy and to facilitate networking and communication within the fisheries research community.
The agenda you have before you at this Session of the Committee is full and wide-ranging. The framework of your discussions falls into three main parts. First, you are invited to examine the work of your Committee since its last session. Secondly, as you requested at the First Session, you will have the opportunity to undertake a systematic appraisal of FAO's fisheries research-related programmes and contribute to strategic planning for the Organization's research activities. Lastly, you are invited to elaborate the work of the Committee during the intersessional period.
I am confident that you will address the many important aspects of capture fisheries and aquaculture in a cooperative manner. I am also sure that your experienced guidance will be offered with a sense of pragmatism and vision. I should like to assure you that your deliberations are of great importance to the Secretariat. We value your opinions and we will use your advice to guide our work in fisheries and aquaculture research-related activities.
I wish you a highly productive and useful meeting and an enjoyable stay in Rome.