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Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning! And welcome to this Twenty-fourth Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries. It is encouraging to see such a large turnout for this session of the Committee. I believe it reflects the importance that you attach to COFI and to the work of FAO on fisheries. I can assure you that we in FAO share your view that this Organization be a leader in the field of fisheries and that our work be guided by COFI.

(Congratulated Chairman, Mr Komatsu)

Mr Chairman, before turning to your agenda I should like to update the Committee on a few important changes that have taken place in FAO since your last session.

First, as you can see from the head table, the leadership of the Fisheries Department has changed some. I should like to take this opportunity in particular to introduce to the Committee, Mr Ichiro Nomura, the new Assistant Director-General and head of the Fisheries Department, who comes to us from the Japanese Fisheries Agency, where he enjoyed a very successful career in international fisheries.

Also, some members of the Committee will remember Mr Steve Karnicki, who was formerly with our Fisheries Industries Division and then moved to Budapest to establish our Sub-regional Office there. He has returned to Rome to assume the post of Director of the Fisheries Policy and Planning Division.

You will remember our other two Directors from past meetings - Mr Garcia of the Fisheries Resource Division and Mr Valdimarsson of the Fisheries Industries Division. (Also introduced Messrs Satia, Wade and Edeson.)

Mr Chairman, many members of the Committee will recall that this Organization has been on a path of dynamic change and continual managerial improvement for several years. We have, for example, reorganized, decentralized, and down-sized. We have increased our administrative efficiency and have cut costs of travel, meetings and publications, while at the same time protecting our priority technical programmes and modernizing and improving our communication systems.

Perhaps even more importantly, recently we finished a complete overhaul of our planning process, culminating in the adoption of a Strategic Framework by the Conference in 1999, which sets the course of the Organization over the coming 15 years. For the medium term, the Council last June approved a new Medium-Term Plan for the years 2002-07. The Strategic Framework and Medium-Term Plan together are the foundations on which the two-year Programme of Work and Budget is based, about which I will speak more later. This is the best strategic and planning process that has ever been in place in this Organization.

As you would expect, the Organization also continues to work very hard to assist countries in meeting the target set at the 1996 World Food Summit to cut the number of undernourished to 400 million by 2015. Sadly, too little progress is being made in bringing about significant reductions in the number of the world's hungry and, unless more determined efforts are made to speed up progress, the targets of the World Food Summit will not be reached. We had estimated, for example, that the number of undernourished would need to be reduced by 20 million per year, when in fact the number is declining at best at the rate of about 8 million annually.

It is for this reason that the Director-General proposed to the Council, and the Council agreed, that a high-level review be carried out within the context of the FAO Conference this year and that Heads of State and Government be invited. Hopefully, this review of the World Food Summit: Five Years Later will give new impetus and momentum to the process of implementing the Summit Plan of Action.

Most of you will have also noticed the major improvements in the FAO infrastructure over the last few years. The most recent of these is the Atrium, which you have seen develop in various stages and which is now available for use for exhibits. We also have a new, modern Registration Centre, which unfortunately is not available today because of the major renovations taking place to the David Lubin Library. In addition, there is a new media centre, several new or renovated meeting rooms, and we will soon have a modern business centre. These structural improvements, which have been financed through special contributions of many member countries, especially Italy, and private sponsors, are turning FAO into one of the most modern facilities in the UN system.

Mr Chairman, let me now turn to your agenda for this session of the Committee. I note that it has been designed to permit the Committee to fulfil its two main constitutional functions. Firstly to review the Programme of Work of FAO in the fields of capture fisheries and aquaculture and their implementation and, secondly, to review issues of an international character and to identify remedial actions which could be taken by nations, FAO, intergovernmental bodies and civil society.

With regard to the review of the Programme of Work of FAO, we have, in spite of limited resources, been able to successfully implement the programme of work for the 1998-1999 biennium as reported in document COFI/2001/2. We have also taken action, in collaboration with members, to address the principal recommendations and requests directed by your Committee's last session. The actions taken in this context are summarized in document COFI/2001/Inf. 5.

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries remains the over-arching tool and reference point for the activities of the FAO Fisheries Department, as well as for a number of governments, international organizations and regional fishery bodies. I note with satisfaction that many countries have taken steps to implement the provisions of the Code. Still, overall progress has been slow, particularly in developing countries. It is important for your Committee to consider the possible reasons for such slow progress and to identify actions to accelerate the judicious implementation of the Code.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Sub-Committee on Fish Trade has become the rallying force for the improvement of fish quality and fish trade, especially in developing countries, as well as an important forum for debating the central issues relating to trade and environment. Your Committee will be appraised of the main decisions and recommendations made at the Seventh Session of that Sub-Committee, held in Bremen, Germany, in March 2000. You may wish to provide further guidance to improve the work of the Sub-Committee.

During your last two sessions, COFI has indicated broad support for the establishment of a Sub-Committee on Aquaculture. Under Agenda item 7, you will be invited to review the raison d'être for such a Sub-Committee, define its membership, possible terms of reference and major areas of activities as well as the administrative, operational and financial implications for FAO and participating members. It is important to note that the establishment and functioning of this Sub-Committee would imply additional resources for the Organization. It will, accordingly, be included in the PWB proposals for the next biennium which, I hope, will receive the approval of the Conference.

Under items 8 through 11, your Committee will also address four emerging issues of international character, namely: criteria for listing marine species under CITES; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU); improvements in global reporting on status and trends of fisheries; and economic incentives and subsidies in fisheries.

In this context, you will have an opportunity to review the extent to which the Secretariat carried out its instructions on listing criteria for marine species under CITES. You might also wish to advise us further on whether to express opinions and recommendations to CITES on the existing listing criteria and, if so, their nature and content.

Mr Chairman,

You will recall that at your last session, COFI requested FAO to develop an international plan of action to combat IUU fishing. This issue was considered further by the FAO Ministerial Meeting on the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries held in Rome in March 1999. The Ministers and their representatives issued a declaration in which they committed themselves to develop a global plan of action to deal effectively with all forms of IUU fishing. I should like to urge your Committee to review the steps that have been undertaken to develop the International Plan of Action (IPOA) and, as appropriate, adopt it and recommend for endorsement to the FAO Council.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture require informed decisions and actions at all levels, from policy-makers to individual fishers as well as environmental organizations, consumers and the public. The FAO Fisheries Department, in collaboration with the FAO Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR) and other parties, has elaborated a proposal for improving global reporting on status and trends in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The guidance of your Committee is sought on the proposed approach to improve such information and reporting.

Lastly, the role of subsidies in relation to trade in fish and fish products and to fishery resources sustainability has interested your Committee for over a decade. You will have the opportunity to review the main conclusions of an Expert Consultation on Economic Incentives and Subsidies in Fisheries and advise on whether it would be useful to continue investigations on the impact of subsidies and, if so, also advise on how to proceed.

Mr Chairman,

Earlier, I mentioned the new Strategic Framework and the Medium-Term Plan. The first Programme of Work and Budget to be formulated on the basis of these planning documents will cover the biennium 2002-2003. It will provide a more detailed description of the outputs planned for this two-year period and the required resources. The Programme of Work and Budget will be presented to the FAO Conference for approval in November 2001. An extract from the Medium-Term Plan document dealing with Major Programme on Fisheries will be presented to your Committee to review and to make recommendations on the fisheries programme priorities, which will then be taken into account in finalizing the Programme of Work and Budget 2002-2003.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

From the above, it is evident that your Committee has not only a heavy task but also great responsibility. I hope you find in the documents placed at your disposal for this session, the satisfactory background you require, and that your meetings will meet with every success.

Thank you.

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