119. The Committee noted the initiative by Japan to organize a Conference on Management and Sustainable Development of Fisheries in the Antarctic with the objective to discuss the sustainable use of the Antarctic fishery resources for the benefit of humankind. Some Members reminded the Committee that the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was the competent body and urged Japan to formally contact CCAMLR. The observer from CCAMLR informed the Committee that the Scientific Working Group of CCAMLR could address the issue at its July 2001 meeting.
120. The delegation of the United States of America expressed its serious concern on the continuing deterioration of coral reef resources which constituted important ecosystems in a large number of countries. Furthermore, destructive fishing practices had become a major threat to these resources together with land-based pollution and degradation. Additional measures for the protection of coral were necessary to prevent further decline of fish stocks and ensure food security in many small island developing States and coastal communities of some developing States, by taking into consideration particularly the interest of small-scale fisheries. FAO was invited to participate actively at the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and assist in consultations regarding fishery management practices and reef protection mechanisms. Many Members shared the concerns of the delegation of the United States of America. Some Members indicated that this was not a top priority issue for FAO to address, using scarce Regular Programme resources. Some Members informed the Committee on national actions taken to protect coral reefs. The delegation of Norway urged States first to take local actions to solve local problems before calling on FAO. The Secretariat recognized the importance of this issue. It pointed out that despite its high interest, the Fisheries Department did not have specific expertise in coral reefs and lacked the resources that would be needed to respond properly to the demand coming from ICRI and other reef-related initiatives. It stressed, however, the fact that it was nonetheless addressing coral reef fisheries through the Code of Conduct, guidelines on species identification, coastal area management projects, FAO regional fishery management organizations in the Caribbean or Asia and the Pacific areas, etc., even though these actions were not identified as "reef" activities. The Department stressed that it had made proposals for 2002-2003 and in the Medium-Term Plan for a programme on ecosystem-based management of fisheries that would certainly contribute more work on reef management, if adequate resources were allocated.
121. In this same context the delegation of the Philippines informed the Committee that the Governments of the Philippines and Sweden would co-host a Conference on Coral Reefs in Cebu, Philippines, in April 2001. It extended an invitation to the Committee and FAO.
122. The delegation of the United States of America drew the Committee's attention to the problem of sea turtle mortality due to incidental catch and noted the need for information sharing and cooperative research concerning conservation and management of these endangered species. It suggested to hold a meeting on the subject. A number of Members supported the proposal and many indicated the efforts already undertaken at national or regional level. Several delegations pointed out that incidental catch of marine turtles by certain fishing gear were not the only or even the most important source of threat to turtles and stressed that their sustainable use should be viewed within a more comprehensive context, taking into account land-based human activities, equally affecting sea turtle mortality. One Member suggested the convening of an expert consultation to deal with all these issues, with focus also on food security issues in small island countries as well as other social and economic perspectives of the problem. This proposal was also supported by a number of countries. It was generally agreed in this sense that holding an international technical meeting could be useful even if there is no specific agreement on the scope and contents of the meeting. This led to some debate as to the type of approach that would most appropriately tackle the problem and there was general agreement that an international plan of action was not to be considered at this stage. Regarding FAO's involvement in sea turtle conservation and management, some Members underlined the global character of the issue and encouraged the Organization to play a leading role. Other Members stressed that other organizations had a strong mandate in this area and that FAO's involvement should not distract from its current plans and priorities.
123. The Committee was informed of the initiative by New Zealand and Australia to organize a conference on mid- and deep-water fishery resources and management and the request to the FAO Secretariat for collaboration and participation. It was noted that this conference would be self-funded and any FAO involvement would be met out of the FAO Regular Programme.