Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,
Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
We are meeting at a time of great change in fisheries management and development. A decade ago, most commercially exploited fish stocks were common property. Today, practically all of the marine stocks, which together account for about 90 percent of the world catch, fall under the jurisdiction of coastal states.
Many of the basic premises on which fisheries policies and projections were based are now obsolete. We need to rethink, to replan and to restructure the use and management of all fishery resources - looking at aquaculture as well as inland and marine fisheries in the process.
The World Fisheries Conference is the first major international step to examine what the new regime that has emerged from the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea means for fisheries. This technical meeting is vital to the successful completion of the final, policy-making session next year.
FAO assists a new order in world fisheries
When I addressed COFI in 1979, I stressed that world fisheries, and FAO's involvement in their development, stood at the threshold of a new era. I informed you of a new Special Action Programme, now generally referred to as the EEZ Programme, to help coastal nations meet the challenges of changes presaged by the then continuing Law of the Sea Conference.
I can fairly claim that FAO has taken the lead in helping nations, particularly developing coastal states, bring about a new international order in the sphere of fisheries. We recognized the need for reform. Now, through the World Fisheries Conference and in partnership with our Member Governments, we must help formulate a strategy and associated plans of action for the fisheries of the future.
You are gathered here to translate the consensus of the conference hall into the practical realities of food, employment and income. But before going into more detail about what is expected of this and the final phase of the World Fisheries Conference, I would like to share our perspective of fisheries and what they mean in terms of present and future development.
Fish is a very nutritious food
First and foremost fish is food - a very nutritious one Fish and fisheries products are part of the family of high-protein foods and their biological value compares favourably with those of other animal products such as meat and milk. Fish is also an exceptionally good source of several other essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It constitutes thus an ideal supplement for improving the often poor and monotonous diet consumed in many tropical and sub-tropical countries and is especially valuable in combatting dietary deficiencies in the very young.
Fish accounts for nearly one quarter of the world's supply of animal protein, but it is in the developing regions that fish really comes into its own. To a great extent fish is the meat of the Third World. In a number of developing countries fish and fisheries products make up more than 50 percent of the total animal protein supplies and it is interesting to note the vital part fish plays in the diet of centrally-planned economies where it is often the largest single source of animal protein.
However, there is a disturbing trend in fish consumption. Increases in fish production have gone primarily to those countries that could afford to pay. As a result, the average per caput fish consumption in developing market economies has increased only marginally since 1960 while individual consumption rose by several kilogrammes in developed countries during the same period.
This trend is alarming because it could lead to a decrease in fish supplies where they are much needed - in the developing regions.
A week today we will be celebrating here at FAO and in over 150 countries, the third annual World Food Day. We wish to re-emphasize that “Food Comes First” - the essential need and right of all. In helping satisfy this need, the fisheries of the world have just as important a role to play and as serious a challenge to face as the producers of cereals or any other basic foodstuffs.
Supplies and demand for fish
Clearly, fish is not an expendable item in the check-list of the world's food supplies - a point which raises serious questions of supply and demand.
At present, the world fish catch stands at approximately 75 million tons per year. About 55 million tons of that total is fish produced for human consumption. The remainder is used to provide feed for poultry and pigs.
Now for demand. According to our best estimates this will reach about 110 million tons by the year 2000. Population increases will account for most of the growth in demand. Therefore, it will be greatest in the developing world which could account for over 60 percent of total consumption by the turn of the century.
In other words, we will have almost to double the available supplies of food fish simply to maintain per caput consumption at present world levels. This target will be difficult to meet. World production of fish is growing by about one percent per year. If present trends are allowed to continue, annual production would not reach much more than 90 million tons by the year 2000.
Simple subtraction gives a predicted gap of 20 million tons between supply and demand. It does not express, however, what the impact might be on those individuals and communities that depend on fish to maintain even the most meagre of diets.
The growing gap between supplies and demand will inevitably bring higher prices. The challenge before us, therefore, is not just to find an extra 20 million tons of fish, but to bring this vital food to market at prices that the poor can afford and which still offer a reasonable return to those who harvest it.
Bridging the gap in supply …
Success in this undertaking will require much more than an improvement in present fishery practices. Specifically, we will have to advance on two parallel fronts. Ways must be found of increasing the fisheries resource base. At the same time, we must make better use of fish once it has been harvested.
It is not for me to lecture such a prestigious gathering on how this twin challenge might be met, but I would like to touch upon some basic possibilities starting with the potential of fishery resources.
… by better management …
Despite the decline in growth rate of the world catch from around seven percent in the fifties and sixties to about one percent now, the potential to increase the production from conventional fish stocks is by no means exhausted. We estimate that with proper management marine stocks could eventually yield close to 100 million tons annually.
If we add to this the potential of species presently under- or unexploited by the fishing industry, such as mesopelagics and Antarctic krill, the figure could be substantially higher. Preliminary assessments and exploratory fishing of mesopelagic fish off the northeast coast of Africa suggest that this resource alone could one day yield millions of tons annually.
Inland fisheries and aquaculture offer another route to increased production. Furthermore, they can often be developed in localities where there is a pressing need to add a rich protein savoury to an otherwise inadequate diet. In fact, both can increase not only food supplies but earning and employment.
In our efforts to increase supplies we should be wary of relying exclusively on market forces. History shows that therein can lie the road to over-capitalization and a headlong chase in pursuit of greater harvests. This will lead to the collapse of fisheries and fish stocks just as surely under the present regime as that of the past.
… and reducing wastage
To make more effective use of existing catches, no better start can be recommended than to declare an all-out war on waste.
Some 10 percent of the world fish catch is lost through spoilage. In some developing countries, losses run as high as 40 percent. Fish discarded over the side by fishing boats harvesting more valuable species such as shrimp is another tragic source of waste.
By reducing both forms of waste we could make great gains without catching one extra fish. They would be relatively cheap gains made, for the most part, in regions where the need to increase food supplies is most urgent.
No great technical “break-through” is required. No social revolution is indicated. The reduction could be achieved essentially through training, extension and technology transfer - giving the people who catch, process, transport and sell these products the means and the motivation to do a better job.
From a war on waste, it is an easy step to making better final use of the fish once landed. Apart from wasteful processing techniques, one outstanding challenge exists: to find ways of diverting to the human consumer a major part of the 20 million tons of fish that each year is converted into animal feed. It would increase food supplies. It would improve the earnings of the fishermen.
Vital role of the small-scale fisheries
In the search for greater food production, we must not neglect the social dimensions of fisheries. Small-scale or artisanal fisheries are, and seem likely to remain, a vital part of the scene. They account for about 25 percent of the world catch and they provide about 40 percent of the total supply of food fish.
The figures are even more telling if one looks at the developing regions. Small-scale fisheries, although probably supplying less than a quarter of the catch in Latin America, account for two thirds of the fish landed in Asia and about five sixths of the total in Africa. In the least developed countries of Asia and Africa, they provide over three quarters of domestic fish supplies.
Despite their vital role, small-scale fisherman generally occupy the lowest stratum in society. Located in isolated areas, often lacking the most basic amenities, they form one of the poorest and most neglected of rural communities.
Assisting the small-scale fisheries
Close parallels obviously exist between the small-scale fisherman and the poor farmer and landless labourer. In fact, the guidelines prepared to follow up the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development apply equally to these poor fishing communities.
The drive to produce fish supplies beyond immediate needs must be generated by the prospect of a reasonable financial return. All too often planners have neglected the social and economic expectations of the people involved in small-scale fisheries.
The management challenge is to satisfy these expectations. For example, those engaged in these fisheries must enjoy adequate access to resources, financial as well as biological, and to markets. It may also be necessary to use subsidies and other devices so that the burden of feeding poor consumers is not laid on the shoulders of even poorer fishermen.
The role of women in these fisheries should be emphasized. In some parts of the developing world, women are responsible for almost all the local trade in food fish. They usually also play a key part in processing the catch. Any development plan should take into account their essential contribution.
Our introduction of community-centred fisheries development involving a regional team working in association with parallel national units offers one workable solution to small-scale fisheries development. One such project has now been established in West Africa. Plans for several others are underway.
With local participation, access to resources and a sympathetic government, considerable opportunities exist to encourage self-help and progress in small-scale fisheries at comparatively little financial cost. The results will be to increase fish production and, at the same time, help relieve the social and economic distress of millions of people.
Redefining fisheries management
More generally, we need to reassess what fisheries management and development involve.
In FAO, because membership of our regional fishery bodies is drawn mainly from Third World countries, we have always placed emphasis on promoting and assisting fisheries development. Several of these bodies have had or still have technical assistance programmes or projects associated with them.
This commitment to development, combined with the key role played by small-scale fisheries, have made the FAO fishery bodies sensitive to the social and economic dimensions of fishery management.
Against such a background, I believe we are well placed to appreciate the need for a new approach to fisheries management. This approach, I suggest, should put more emphasis on the social and economic importance of fisheries and should not be restricted simply to maintaining fish stocks and improving their physical yields.
Fisheries management should no longer consist largely of endorsing or rejecting the advice of fisheries scientists. We must bring into the main plot all the actors. In the past, there have been too many sub-plots, and too many potentially vital dramatis personnae have been left to heckle from the audience.
Fisheries management and development must be brought on to the central stage of government planning, policy-making and allocation of resources.
This is true for the poor coastal state or the small island nation that now finds itself richly endowed with fishery resources. It is equally true for the landlocked country where fisheries and aquaculture, although not prominent in the national economy, provide essential food and employment in poor and depressed rural areas.
International collaboration in fisheries
On a broader scale, we need to reassess the needs and the opportunities for collaboration between nations in fishery matters. Extended jurisdiction over fisheries gives rights and responsibilites to coastal states, creating, at the same time, new requirements for management and collaboration.
Greater collaboration may also be called for in the inland fisheries setting where river systems involve many riparian states. We are also becoming much more aware of the environmental impact that actions by nations upstream may have on those below extending even as far as major ocean fisheries.
If fish stocks are to be managed efficiently, they must be managed as a whole and not in parts. And in the case of stocks which cross one or more frontiers this means cooperative bilateral and regional management.
A wide range of support activities can benefit from collaboration - research, stock assessment and similar tasks. Collaboration is also in order because, whether stocks are shared or not, some aspects of fisheries management and development are too burdensome to be borne by countries acting alone.
Regional and national cooperation through FAO
Through its fishery bodies and associated programmes, FAO has played an important part in fomenting cooperation between nations in fisheries management. There is not time, nor is this the place, to give an exhaustive list. I will give just a few examples to emphasize the spread of our involvement.
Coastal nations bordering the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and East Atlantic have joined in a very ambitious study of fishery resources. For almost a decade, the Norwegian research ship, DR. FRIDTJOF NANSEN, has been engaged in surveys of the pelagic fish stocks off their shores, providing first estimates for planning national fisheries development.
At the other end of the fisheries spectrum, FAO has a number of cooperative projects to improve or develop new fish products. In Asia, for example, 14 countries including three from the developed world, have joined forces in the search for ways of using for human consumption the small pelagic fish that are now converted mainly into fish meal.
FAO's work in aquaculture provides many examples of cooperation between countries. An inter-regional network of aquaculture centres is being established with, at present, four centres in Asia, one in Africa and one in Latin America. A Caribbean centre is at the planning stage.
Because quite a number of developing countries, especially those of Southeast Asia, have considerable expertise in aquaculture, it is a fertile area for technical cooperation among developing countries - TCDC. In fact, 28 of the 57 aquaculture experts presently employed by FAO are from ten Third World countries.
Cooperation in trade
Far-reaching prospects for cooperation lie in the area of trade in fish and fish products. The ultimate object must be to redress imbalances between north and south in world trade.
At present, Third World countries account for about 40 percent of fish exports and 15 percent of imports. Nearly half the countries with annual exports valued above U.S.$ 100 million come from the Third World.
Developing countries operate under serious constraints in their efforts to improve their position in world trade. A lack of technical information, for example, translates often into quality defects. These, in turn, result in the rejection of products worth millions of dollars by importers every year.
Great gains can be made, at relatively little cost, simply by setting up lines of communications, putting exporters in touch with importers both in their respective regions and throughout the world.
We have two markedly successful examples from the developing regions of this kind of cooperation: INFOFISH in the Asian/Pacific area and INFOPESCA in Latin America. Between them, these fish marketing services have stimulated considerable new trade in their areas. We plan to expand our coverage to include West African nations and Arab countries.
Aside from market information, many other opportunities for collaboration can be found. Product standardization, quality control and inspection, transport arrangements, negotiation of insurance rates - these are all areas in which developing countries can achieve more together than alone.
Cooperation in training
Training provides fertile ground for cooperation. It is the seed of development. Without training, without access to facilities and skilled instructors, without extension support for “on the job” experience, any sustained effort to raise fisheries productivity is, in my view, destined to fail.
Of course, I could have introduced the topic of training at practically any point in my address. As many of you will know, FAO offers a wide range of training opportunities. It is an integral part of practically all of our field projects. We also provide training through formal courses, as well as by work experience, here at Headquarters.
I have chosen to highlight training at this point, however, because FAO has been at the forefront of making fisheries training at national and regional levels truly work. For many years, the Fisheries Department has provided efficient, cost-effective training by drawing upon the widest possible catchment area for both trainees and instructors.
An important feature and one that I believe is directly relevant here is our encouragement of self-reliance and cooperation in training among developing countries. We have modified that old Chinese adage “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat every day”. Even more can be gained, in our view, by first teaching a man to fish, and then helping him to pass that experience on to others.
FAO's cooperation with other agencies and institutions
Before leaving the subject of cooperation, I must stress that FAO collaborates closely with the United Nations and our sister agencies.
In fact, most of the agencies took part in consultations and workshops held in preparation for the World Fisheries Conference. Let me mention Unesco and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Law of the Sea Secretariat of the United Nations, and the International Labour Organization.
I should mention that we have also benefited greatly from advice from many other sources, particularly FAO's own regional conferences and Member Governments.
FAO also enjoys a high degree of cooperation with the many intergovernmental fishery bodies set up outside the framework of FAO. This cooperation, which should be seen in the context of the work of FAO's own fishery bodies, varies according to regional needs and levels of fishery development.
In concluding, we must ask ourselves: Can we muster the financial support to meet the technical assistance and investment needs for fisheries management and development?
In common with other UN agencies we have seen a dramatic decline in multilateral support. The impact can be seen in the reduced number of technical assitance projects. It is also reflected in the reduced levels of technical support given to our regional fishery bodies and in the lengthening lead time between planning and implementing projects.
Fortunately, the interests of bilateral funding sources have coincided remarkably with the priorities of our fisheries programme. If this had not been so, we would be facing considerable difficulties in meeting, at least partly, our responsibilities to Member Nations.
I am fully aware of the economic difficulties facing both developed and developing countries today. But I sincerely hope that increased resources will be made available to us both to help achieve the target of self-reliance for developing countries and to secure and sustain development of world fisheries.
Technical phase of the World Fisheries Conference
You are here to discuss in depth the technical aspect of fisheries management and development and to advise us on approaches to the formulation of a world fisheries Strategy and associated Action Programmes.
When elaborated fully, in consultation with Member Nations and donor agencies, the Strategy and Action Programmes will be submitted to the policy phase of the World Fisheries Conference in June next year.
We must, of course, approach world fisheries management and development with a sense of vision. After all, the Law of the Sea Conference created numerous precedents for the imaginative conduct of international negotiations. It is beholden upon us, therefore, to devise a Strategy and a Programme that are equal to the promises.