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73. The Secretariat and the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR) introduced document COFI/2001/8 which contained an Annex entitled "Draft International Plan of Action for Status and Trends Reporting on Fisheries" and highlighted the process through which the proposal had been elaborated.

74. The Committee was invited to discuss the proposed approach to improve the information available globally on status and trends of fisheries and consider whether an international plan of action would be an effective means in this regard.

75. The Committee unanimously recognized that status and trend studies were fundamental to the FAO mandate and also recognized the leading role of FAO in bringing about improvements to fishery data and information on status and trends of fisheries and fishery resources. It agreed that reporting on fishery status and trends had shortcomings which required attention.

76. It was noted that basic data of good quality were often lacking at the national level and that particular attention needed to be directed to multi-species fisheries and small-scale fisheries which prevailed in many tropical developing countries.

77. Recognizing that reliable fishery statistical data collection was a national responsibility and that adequate financial and other resources were often lacking for methodologically-sound statistical activities, some Members stated that an international plan of action might serve as a possible framework for the donor community to help countries in need. In this regard many Members stressed the importance of national capacity-building, especially in developing countries, in fishery statistics through Regular Programme activities and the direct assistance of FAO.

78. Some Members commended FAO on its development of an improved fishery information system, partially funded from extra-budgetary sources, and based on advanced technological tools for the international community.

79. Many Members supported the development of an IPOA and some stated that the draft IPOA presented in Annex 1 of document COFI/2001/8 represented a realistic approach. Some Members, however, did not agree that an IPOA was the best instrument at this moment to achieve long-term goals and flexibility, and that alternative approaches be sought. Some Members and observers stated that improvements to trend studies might come from a better networking between FAO and regional fishery bodies.

80. Noting the significant contribution of aquaculture to world fish production and the recommendations by the Committee for the establishment of a COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture, one delegation expressed concern that the draft IPOA presented in Annex 1 of the document did not include aquaculture.

81. The Committee emphasized the need for all States to have an opportunity to shape any future initiative in relation to status and trends reporting on fisheries, as well as in the drafting of the IPOA, if there were agreement to do this. To this effect the Committee recommended that a technical consultation be called by FAO to consider how fishery status and trends reporting could be improved effectively, including the possible development of an IPOA. The technical consultation should consider data and information collection and analysis and needs at the national, regional and global levels. Particular attention should be given to the needs of developing countries for capacity building. The proposals elaborated by the technical consultation should be presented to the Committee at its Twenty-fifth Session.

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