27. In accordance with the recommendation of the Ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group, the Secretariat conducted a study on future role of APFIC by examining activities that could be performed by APFIC in an effective manner, taking into consideration the programmes of activities being conducted by other fishery organizations in the region. The report of the study, entitled APFIC: Its Changing Role, was presented to the Committee as document APFIC:ExCo/68/4.
28. The review of major issues concerning fishery resources and environmental sustainability in the Asia-Pacific region revealed that the current pattern of resource use and environmental degradation will not lead to sustainability of fisheries nor to the environment. There is an urgent need to rehabilitate coastal fish stocks through effective fisheries management schemes. The rapid change in the state of fisheries and aquaculture in the region and the new order of ocean governance as adopted by the world community also posed major challenges for the countries in their efforts to attain fisheries and environmental sustainability. These would require a structural change in the fishery sector in the States concerned. Similarly, regional bodies concerned with fisheries and marine affairs had to improve services to their members. Regional cooperation should be strengthened to facilitate the implementation of global instruments and initiatives related to fisheries as well as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries as agreed upon at the Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries in March 1999.
29. The programmes activities of the existing thirteen international and regional bodies and arrangements concerning fisheries development and management in the Asia-Pacific region were reviewed. Although the main role of these bodies is similar, i.e., to promote cooperation amongst their individual members in the conservation and rational development of fisheries and aquaculture in the region, each body has its own specific responsibilities and some overlapping in the activities amongst these bodies was noted. The wide-ranging activities of APEC, ASEAN and SEAFDEC may duplicate those of APFIC in some areas. It was therefore recommended that there is a need for regular consultation amongst the key organizations in the region to reduce the duplication of effort and rationalization of the use of the limited funds available for the fishery sector.
30. The study further suggested that APFIC, due to its continued financial constraint and lack of human resource, should concentrate its activities on three subregions of the Asia-Pacific. Similarly, its future programmes of activities should be scaled down to three priority areas that have a regional focus: marine fisheries management; fisheries information and data management; and fisheries policy and planning. In addition, APFIC should maintain close liaison on a regular basis with other regional bodies and arrangements in the region through the creation of a regional consultative forum. This forum could discuss regional fisheries and aquaculture issues of interest to the countries in the region and to donor agencies as well as gaps or possible areas on which all of the bodies and arrangements might focus in order to strengthen their efficiency and promote closer regional cooperation in fisheries.
31. The Committee recognized that countries bordering the Yellow Sea already concluded bilateral agreements on fisheries, thus there is no need for any APFIC programme. Nonetheless, APFIC could assist in providing information on fisheries in this sub-region as and when required. Similarly arrangements are being made by countries bordering the South China Sea. Only the Bay of Bengal remains without regional mechanism. The Committee agreed that the Bay of Bengal should be a priority geographical area for the activities of APFIC. In this connection, the Committee noted that, in accordance with FAO Council Resolution 1/116 entitled Abolition of the Indian Ocean Fishery Commission and its Subsidiary Bodies, the functions of the former Committee for the Development and Management of Fisheries in the Bay of Bengal would be performed in future by APFIC. The Committee requested that the matter be formally brought to the attention of the Commission.
32. The Executive Committee reviewed the proposed priority areas of work and agreed that there are urgent needs in strengthening the collection and dissemination of fishery statistics at both national and regional levels to support fishery management and aquaculture development programmes. APFIC should assist the Member States in the development and standardization of their fishery statistical systems and data management and promote data and information exchanges in the region as recommended by the Ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group.
33. The Committee recognized the needs to strengthen legal and institutional frameworks in response to recent international instruments and initiatives. The implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries would also require structural changes in the fishery sector. The success of the FAO Regional Workshop on the Code of Conduct held in Western Africa in 1997 was cited as an example at which APFIC should pursue, if fund permits. Legal assistance in harmonizing fishery legislation in line with other international initiatives was also needed. The Committee agreed that APFIC should assist its Member States, upon request, in harmonizing their fishery policies and programmes to meet these new challenges.
34. It was further recommended that the activities related to the development and management of inland fisheries, aquaculture and post-harvest technology be referred to other competent regional fishery bodies such as NACA, SEAFDEC and INFOFISH.
35. In order to promote closer cooperation amongst the fishery bodies and arrangements in the region, the Committee fully supported the proposal that APFIC should function as the Regional Consultative Forum at which the Member States, regional fishery bodies and the donor agencies could exchange views on emerging issues in the region and actions to be undertaken, bilaterally or collectively. This forum could discuss and identify the gaps and needs for fishery programmes that could be performed by the relevant bodies, in cooperation with others, and avoid duplication of efforts. The APFIC Secretariat should initiate action to solicit possible financial support from interested donors to that effect.
36. The Committee recognized that the amendments of the APFIC Agreement in 1993 and 1996 have equipped the Commission to cope with new challenges confronting the sustainable development of the fishery sector in the new millennium. However, the continued financial constraints have prevented APFIC to fulfil its mandates. As APFIC was established by FAO under Article XIV of the Constitution and was thus expected to rely on financial contribution from its Members, FAO called on the members of the Commission to increase their support to the Commission. The Resolution 13/97 of the FAO Conference invited the Contracting Parties to Conventions and Agreements establishing regional bodies under Article XIV to provide the Bodies with their own financial resources, whether through cooperative programmes or other voluntary contributions, or through the establishment of autonomous budgets financed from mandatory contributions. The Committee was further informed that the Commission had proposed for the establishment of both mandatory and voluntary funds to support its expanded activities since 1978. To date, however, the APFIC Members were not able to reach a conclusion on these financial issues.
37. The Committee recalled the current economic recession in Asia which resulted in financial difficulties experienced by many developing Members of the Commission. Among the present twenty Members, nine are low-income food-deficit countries that need assistance from the world community. Only six Members are classified by the World Bank as high-income countries. The reluctance of many delegations to discuss the mandatory contribution to APFIC at present was therefore well understood. The Committee, however, stressed the need for increased support by the Member States to the Commission and requested this matter be considered at the next session of the Commission.
38. It was also agreed that the Member States should provide support such as providing travel expenses for their representatives to participate in the APFIC sessions and in hosting the biannual sessions of APFIC. In this connection, the Committee expressed appreciation and gratitude to the Governments of China and the Philippines in hosting the Twenty-sixth and the Twenty-seventh sessions of the Commission in 1998 and 2000 respectively.
39. The Committee noted decline in support from FAO in recent years which resulted in the lack of some activities such as APFIC fishery information project which has been approved by the Commission since its Twenty-fifth Session. Bearing in mind that APFIC is the only FAO regional fishery body in the Asia-Pacific region, the Committee requested that FAO should consider the possibility of providing necessary funding to support the Commission.
40. In addition to the funding support under the regular programmes of FAO, the Committee advised that the APFIC Secretariat and the Member States should be more pro-active in developing pilot projects of common interest for the Member States to participate and to provide some financial support as well as by donors. The formulation of such projects should reflect specific characteristics of APFIC that are different from those of other regional fishery bodies and should cover the gaps in the existing regional programmes to avoid duplication of efforts. As example, the need for regional review on fishery resources and their potentials in the region, strengthening of legislation required for management of fisheries in the exclusive economic zones (EEZ), management of transboundary fish stocks, the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other international instruments/initiatives were cited for further consideration by APFIC.