This document summarizes information on the framework and process for research-related aspects of the FAO Fisheries Department's work during 1998-99 and planned for 2000-2001. The work is undertaken by the FAO core staff as well as consultants and other short-term staff in close cooperation with national and regional centres of excellence. The work is supported by a well equipped and specialized library and databases. It involves a network of nine regional fishery bodies covering almost all the major water bodies (particularly in tropical and sub-temperate regions) as well as a number of field projects where adaptive and applied research are undertaken. Priority setting is demand-led by the need for scientific input to the development, conservation and management of aquatic living resources. It is based on an interactive, democratic, transparent, continuous and cumulative process involving regional and global FAO subsidiary and governing bodies. Activities are executed in partnership with national and international institutions and organizations. The Committee is invited to review and appraise the framework and process for research-related work in the Fisheries Department and provide guidance for improvements.
I. Structure and functions of the Fisheries Department
1. The Fisheries Department is headed by an Assistant Director-General (FID) whose office supervises a Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit (FIDI) and a Management Support Unit (FFDX). The Department includes three divisions for Fishery Policy and Planning (FIP), Fishery Industries (FII) and Fishery Resources (FIR) (see Figure 1).
2. The Fisheries Department headquarters staff totals 143 of which 71 are professionals. The professional staff comprises analysts, biologists, economists, engineers, statisticians, technologists and a few other specialists. The Department has additional staff in the decentralized regional and sub-regional offices as well as in field projects. It also employs a number of retirees, academic partners, volunteers, associate professional officers, and consultants on temporary assignments. The Fisheries Department also draws upon expertise from other Departments and Units within the Organization. The resulting broad mix of expertise together with elements of other FAO Departments which interact with the Fisheries Programme is probably not available in any other national or international institution.
3. From 1978 to 1999, the numerical strength of professional staff has increased from 63 to 71 while the support staff was reduced from 93 to 72. The financial resources were reduced from US$ 25 million in 1992-93 to US$ 20 million in 1998-99, but the decrease in real terms is much more significant. As a consequence, the Department is not able to avail itself of the services of as many temporary staff as in the past.
4. In addition to its experts, the Fisheries Department has access to a well equipped and specialized library, databases and a network of nine FAO regional fishery bodies covering almost all the major water bodies particularly in the tropics. There are also a number of field projects where activities related to adaptive, basic and applied research are undertaken.
5. The Fisheries Department's mission is to promote national and international action to secure long-term sustainable fisheries management and aquaculture development, as well as responsible utilization of aquatic resources. Its programmes cover all aspects of the fisheries sector, biological, ecological, economic, social, technological, legal and institutional. It also covers capture fisheries (marine and freshwater) as well as aquaculture. These programmes usually involve some research-related activities, e.g. in relation to catching, processing, reduction of post-harvest losses, distribution and marketing and international trade.
6. The research-related activities are undertaken by the four technical components of the Department as follows:
7. The Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit (FIDI) collates, compiles and disseminates information on many aspects of world fisheries and aquaculture, striving to ensure the information is reliable and up-to-date. It also provides library services, computer support and manages information dissemination for the Department.
8. The Fishery Policy and Planning Division (FIP) coordinates the provision of advice and assistance to FAO Members on policies, plans and programmes for fishery conservation, management and development. It also coordinates global studies on the state of world fisheries and aquaculture and leads research activities on economic and social aspects of fisheries.
9. The Fishery Industries Division (FII) provides advice, assistance and technical and operational know-how to Members and to industry on all aspects of fish capture technology and the handling, processing, marketing and distribution of fish and fishery products. The Division's research-related work aims at increasing food production, minimizing waste and spoilage, and improving the distribution of safe and nutritious food to the consumer.
10. The Fishery Resources Division (FIR) is responsible for developing and disseminating technical and scientific knowledge on the resources and their environment and for providing advice and assistance to Members on all matters concerning conservation and management of fishery resources, aquaculture and their environments.
II. Research mandate and objectives of fisheries research
11. The FAO Constitution gives FAO and ipso facto the Fisheries Department a clear mandate to undertake, promote and support technical, policy and prospective studies relating to fisheries management and sustainable development at the international, regional and national levels. The Department therefore promotes broad-based research programmes focused on developmental themes, management issues and concepts that lead to the elaboration of policy advice. This mandate was reaffirmed by the Twenty-second Session of COFI.
12. The broad objectives for research within the Fisheries Department can be summarized to include the following:
® Develop, maintain and make available proper databases; monitor and evaluate trends and status of capture fisheries and aquaculture at national, regional and global levels, to enable researchers and advisers to make appropriate recommendations on issues.III. Coordination of work within the Fisheries Department
® Develop methodology guidelines, software and other tools as well as background technical papers to assist Members in establishing and reviewing priorities, designing strategies and implementing policies with a view to improving capture fisheries and aquaculture in member countries.
® Identify emerging issues and propose new initiatives to address them.
13. Efforts to coordinate/integrate the work of the Department are made at the unit and individual level. Mechanisms include the Departmental Senior Staff Meeting (DSSM), at which all Directors and Service/Unit heads meet regularly to review and develop policy, programme and administrative arrangements of concern to the Department. More specialized topics, particularly research aspects of the programme, are dealt with by long-term Working Groups or ad hoc Task Forces, whose membership is drawn from all concerned units in the Department and other Units/Departments of the Organization. Examples include the Working Group on Aquaculture, the Working management and the Task Force on Eco-labelling.
14. Departmental seminars involving all interested Headquarters staff of the Department are organized to share information and broaden awareness of major emerging issues. Field missions also provide the opportunity for coordination of activities and for informal interactions particularly with regard to technical and research matters. The travel plans of Staff are reviewed in this context at the DSSM/Directors Meeting. Interaction on research issues at Headquarters and in the field will be greatly enhanced by the development of the Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS) to be developed between 1999 and 2004.
IV. Partnership mechanisms
15. In the execution of its research-related activities, the Fisheries Department cooperates with a diverse range of national and international institutions and organizations. Such partnership arrangements are implemented in a contractual, collaborative, cooperative or collegiate mode depending on the activity concerned, the type of relationship between FAO and the partners and their capabilities and strengths. These arrangements can be long term or ad hoc.
16. 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 partnerships, the Donors Group on Fishery Research decided to move the Support Unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research (SIFAR) to the Fisheries Department.
17. 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.
V. Priority setting of research-related activities
18. Conventionally, research priority setting aims at optimizing choice among a given portfolio of research options. However, research is not the main activity of FAO, and priorities in research are usually established indirectly, as a result of more general priority setting of the FAO programme. The task is further compounded by the fact that the programme should reflect priorities of both developed and developing countries in all climatic areas under different environmental economic welfare and food security conditions adapting to the different capacities of countries to use information. In addition to the above, the fugitive nature of fisheries resources, the highly mobile nature of some fish stocks and the lack of clearly defined property or user rights in many fisheries as well as the strong commitment by the Organization that fishery research needs to be responsive to emerging issues and management requirements of Members and other stakeholders have an impact upon both the process and substance of research work.
19. Priority setting for research-related activities in the Department is therefore demand-led but is nonetheless strongly focused by the need for appropriate scientific input to the process of rational conservation, management and utilization of aquatic resources.
20. In view of the special circumstances that influence the research-related activities of the Fisheries Department, their order of priority is not established using specific conventional priority setting methods. Priority setting for research-related work in the Fisheries Department results from the interactive, democratic, transparent, continuous and cumulative process in place to prioritize the overall FAO programme components. The process is both bottom-up and top-down. Inputs are received from diverse stakeholders at various stages in the process (COFI, Ministerial Meeting, Conference). Decisions are usually if not always reached on the basis of a compromise-oriented negotiating approach. The result is therefore usually not the "optimum" but what is "consensual".
21. To ensure the success of the process, FAO often takes steps to facilitate the prioritization of activities within the Organization by broadening consensus about the primary goals of the Organization. Examples of recent initiatives in this regard include the World Food Summit of 1996, the Ministerial Meetings on Fisheries in 1995 and 1999, meetings of the High Level Panel of External Experts in Fisheries in 1994 and 1998, the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR) established in 1995, and presently through the development of a Strategic Framework for the years 2000-2015. Although consensus may not be reached on all issues, these meetings and the development processes assist in clarifying the rationale for the diversity of views - views that are progressively refined by the Organization's Governing Bodies.
22. The Strategic Framework highlights inter alia the strategic vision of FAO, an analysis of trends and global perspectives, a set of core corporate strategies and objectives, strategies to address cross-organizational issues and an implementation programme. In elaborating the Strategic Framework, the views of FAO Members on the goals and priorities of the Organization were sought through questionnaires. The Strategic Framework was also reviewed at the various stages of its development by the Council and all the subsidiary bodies of the Council.
23. The priority setting process officially starts by taking into account the policy and programming directives of FAO Governing Bodies and the recommendations of specialized advisory mechanisms. It is complemented by information about budgetary resource from the Programme, Budget and Evaluation Unit (PBE) to the Department/Divisions and Services/Units. In response, the Units/Services/Divisions provide proposals and ideas about future directions of the programme.
24. In practice, based on directives and resources available, individual staff suggest activities for the biennial Programme of Work. The proposals are discussed and prioritized by ranking within the Service/Unit and later at the DSSM/Directors Meeting (based on priorities criteria given below in paragraph 26). Proposals are presented as the Programme of Work - Major Programme 2.3 Fisheries, for review by the FAO Committee on Fisheries and subsequently by the Programme Committee, Finance Committee, the Council and the Conference.
25. It is important to note that the Fisheries Department has a number of ongoing programmes with budgets linked to them. As the Programme is chronically underfunded, the introduction of new research themes/activities in the Programme of Work usually requires that other activities be reduced or terminated. With a continuous shrinkage of budget, the Fisheries Department is usually expected to do better with less. The Department is facing the typical knapsack problem: how to fit desirable research activities into the capability and resources of the Organization.
26. The introduction of a project-based structure and output-orientated programme of work, from 2000 onwards, has established a new prioritizing process. The following criteria are used in identifying priority activities:
® The directives of FAO Governing Bodies and recommendations of other specialized advisory mechanisms.27. The involvement of all stakeholders in the prioritizing process has implications for the nature of the programme as well as its funding. It strengthens the identification of high priority problems, provides a more accurate sense of "ownership" and fosters collaboration among Members and FAO. Unfortunately, the large participation in the process also reduces the possibility of swift changes in the programme. It also highlights the disparity between national priorities. The consensus-making decision process, on the other hand, implies that no research priority can be turned down if requested forcefully by one or a few Members. As a consequence, focusing on a limited programme has been difficult. In addition, some delegations are better informed of the needs and likely responses of their stakeholders to particular issues. It thus may happen (at times) that the priorities retained may be those of the most articulate delegations.
® Issues that conform to the interest/usefulness to broad segments of FAO Members or special groups.
® Issues for which the Fisheries Department has a direct mandate and responsibility.
® Issues of direct relevance to the sustainable use of fishery resources.
® Issues where FAO intervention is likely to have the greatest impact in terms of positive changes in the fisheries sector.
® The historical track record and/or comparative advantage of the Fisheries Department in undertaking such work.
® Issues where FAO involvement could have a catalytic effect in promoting such change.
® The contribution of the activity to FAO corporate medium-term objectives.
® The cost efficiency of the programme entity in terms of mode of operation and obtaining the maximum from partnerships.
® The concerns of the international community as expressed by FAO Members and at international fora.
VI. Monitoring and assessing performance
28. Monitoring and assessing performance usually requires the assessment of research impact in order to strengthen corporate effectiveness, transparency and accountability, particularly at a time of financial austerity. This is, however, particularly difficult in a global context in which research performance depends largely on countries' capacity and willingness to implement. While FAO Members regularly reflect on the performance of FAO in executing its programme, no formal assessment of research activities is regularly conducted.
29. Each staff member monitors the implementation of the work under his/her responsibility. Monitoring is also undertaken at the Service/Unit level and eventually by DSSM. Such monitoring is reinforced through the involvement of external experts in working groups and technical consultations. The primary objective of working groups and technical consultations is to enable the Fisheries Department to maintain a high level of inputs in its expanded science structure while maintaining control and independence from external influences. They are not to monitor the activities, but their involvement enables the Fisheries Department to appraise its work intuitively, a good example is the contribution of the Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics to the work of the Department in this area.
30. FAO Governing and regional fishery bodies monitor and assess FAO's execution of the Programme. Such assessment is essentially subjective and based as much as possible on objective information provided by the Secretariat. Although the monitoring/review process implicitly looks at the relevance of the work, its outputs and management efficiency, no clear defined performance criteria or indicators are used.
31. In each Conference year, the Evaluation Service of PBE provides the Governing Bodies and senior management of FAO with an in-depth evaluation assessment of selected programmes and activities of the Organization. PBE uses a comprehensive framework that permits the monitoring team to analyse how inputs are transformed into outputs and impacts. For each biennium only a few Programmes and activities can be studied in such detail. In the 1996/97 biennium, the Fishery Resources and Aquaculture Programme was reviewed (ACFR/99/Inf.4). In 1998/99 no specific programme of the Fisheries Department was extensively reviewed by PBE, but a cross-departmental research related activity was reviewed, namely Participatory Approaches to Development in FAO (ACFR/99/Inf.5).
VII Suggested action by the Committee
32. The Committee is invited to note the existing structure, processes, prioritization mechanism, and performance assessment and suggest ways and means to improve them.
LIST OF RESEARCH-RELATED ACTIVITIES 1998-2001
I. Fishery Information
1. Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (continuous)II. Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture
2. Library and Information Services in Support of Fisheries Research (continuous)
3. Development of a Fisheries Global Information System - FIGIS (continuous)
4. Global Fishery Statistics for Research Purposes (continuous)
1. Aquaculture Networks for the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM (continuous)III. Fishing Technology
2. Promotion of Radio Telemetry for Assessment of Inland Fisheries Resources (1999-2002)
3. Aquaculture for Sustainable Rural Livelihood Development - ASRLD - (1999-2002)
4. Rapid Appraisal Methodologies (RRA and PRA) Applied to Aquaculture (1999-2000)
5. Identification of Appropriate Technologies for Fisheries Enhancement
6. Standardization and Validation of DNA-based Molecular Diagnostic Techniques for the detection of Aquatic Animal Pathogens and Diseases (new)
7. Shark identification by DNA Analysis (1997-2000).
1. Reduction of the Environmental Impacts from Tropical Shrimp Trawl Fisheries (1999-2000)IV. Fish Utilization
2. Study/Monitoring of Economic Viability and Techno-Economic Efficiency of Marine Capture Fisheries (1998-2001)
3. Demographic change in Coastal Fishing Communities and its implications for Sustainable Use of Fisheries Resources (1998-2004)
4. Analysis of Global Fleet Trends (1998-2001)
1. Market Research in Fish and Fishery Products (continuous)V. Development Planning
2. Improving the Safety of Fish and Fishery Products from the Asia-Pacific Region (1999-2002)
3. Pregnancy Outcome and Fish Oil Consumption (new)
4. Evaluation of the Economic Impact of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) in Fish Industry (1995-1998)
5. Technical and Economic Evaluation of Cleaning and Disinfecting (1998-1999)
6. Support to National Research in Fish Utilization (including by-catch) (continuous)
1. Elaboration of Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity and Related Guidelines (1998-1999)Fig.1 The Structure of FAO Fisheries Department
2. Development of guidelines on the Measurement of Fishing Capacity (1999-2000)
3. Study on the Economic and Social Implications of Transition to Responsible Marine Capture Fisheries and on Related Investment Needs (1999-2000).