The FAO Aquaculture Newsletter
August 1998, No. 19
Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service, Fisheries Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome, 00100 ItalyTel: 39-6-57054795 Fax: 39-6-57053020. E-mail: Ziad.Shehadeh@fao.org
The FAO Aquaculture Newsletter (FAN) is issued three times a year by the Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service, Fishery Resources Division, of FAO's Fisheries Department, Rome, Italy. It presents articles and views from the FAO aquaculture programme and discusses various aspects of aquaculture as seen from the perspective of both Headquarters and the field programme. Articles are contributed by FAO staff from within and outside the Fisheries Department, from FAO regional offices and field projects, by FAO consultants and, occasionally, by invitation from other sources. The FAN is distributed free of charge to various institutions, scientists, planners and managers in Member Countries and has a current circulation of about 3,000 copies. It is also available on the FAO internet Home Page: http://www.fao.org/waicent/faoinfo/
Editor: Ziad H. Shehadeh
Editorial Board: Jiansan Jia, Mario Pedini, Izzat Feidi, Rohana Subasinghe
Layout and Production:
A Precautionary Approach to ________ (please fill in the blank).
The Precautionary Approach is becoming a well known and well used phrase in international fora dealing with sustainable development and conservation. It is a cornerstone for major international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. However, as common as this phrase is becoming, there are differences in perception as to what this approach really means. Conservation groups seem to think it means that the polluter pays and that the developer must prove that development activities will not harm the environment. The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) judged that it is non-fishing nations that must demonstrate that fishing does have an impact _ is this non-precautionary or simply logical? There must be some basis (hopefully scientific) for thinking there is a problem before potentially costly economic changes are made.
The Government of Sweden and FAO convened a technical meeting in 1995 to outline guidelines and the elements of a precautionary approach to fisheries management and species introduction. These elements have broad application to other areas that must balance use and conservation. The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) recently applied the elements to aquaculture of Atlantic Salmon. The elements work as a means to organize regulations, standards, management, and research for almost any development activity; they force managers or policy makers to think about what is known and unknown, what is practical and what is impractical, and then to plot a course of action accordingly.
The basic elements of a precautionary approach are:
· Lack of full scientific certainty as to the effects of development should not be used as a reason to put off management and conservation efforts.
· Reference points should be established to help determine desirable situations and undesirable impacts.
· Pre-agreed actions or contingency plans should be identified and implemented in a timely manner when limit reference points are approached, or when adverse impacts are apparent.
· Priority should be given to maintaining the productive capacity of the resource where there is uncertainty as to the impact of development.
· The impacts of a development plan should be reversible within the time frame of 2 _ 3 decades;
· The burden of proof should be placed according to the above requirements and standard of proof should be commensurate with risks and benefits.
Thus, this approach is very much a dynamic process that involves planning, monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation; it represents a partnership where everyone knows the rules and obligations. The approach should not be seen as an excuse for not addressing scientific uncertainty. The establishment of reference points is critical and will point out where much of the uncertainty lies, what to monitor, and where further study is needed. Discussions with NASCO revealed that there are no reference points for allowable levels of genetic introgression between farmed and wild stocks of Atlantic salmon. This sounds a challenge for geneticists and population biologists to get together to produce some guidelines. Since the international community is calling for a precautionary approach, it seems logical that they should help fund such work.
Try applying this approach to your favorite development activity. Are the potential impacts known? Probably. Are the reference points known? Probably not. Are mechanisms in place to monitor, evaluate and then change the system if needed? Hopefully, they can be. Let us hear from you.
Fishery Resources Officer (Genetic Conservation)
Fishery Resources Division