17. In order to facilitate the work of the Working Group, the Secretariat prepared a questionnaire on future direction of APFIC and submitted to all Member States for consideration on 9 November 1998. As of 1 June 1999, sixteen replies were received and the summary of these replies was presented to the Working Group (Appendix F). The preliminary assessment of the questionnaires returned indicated general opinion of the Member States on APFIC that was placed before the Working Group for consideration.
18. Most Members agreed that APFIC should continue to operate as an FAO Statutory Body under Article XIV of the FAO Constitution. It was also unanimously agreed that the Member States should make a collective and clear decision on the future of APFIC to ensure that the Commission is an effective regional body in Asia and the Pacific.
19. In reviewing the mandate of APFIC, there were ten Members that suggested for further amendments of the current functions of the Commission, as given in Article IV of the Agreement, in order that APFIC could serve more effectively as a regional fisheries management body. However, the proposed Article IV bis on Recommendations on Management Measures, which was pending at the Twenty-fifth Session (Appendix G), received few support from the Members as many Members were not ready for such regulatory body. After deliberation, the Working Group endorsed the present mandate as stipulated in Article IV of the Agreement.
20. Although most Member States concurred with the broad area of competence of APFIC as given in Article VI, i.e., the Asia-Pacific area, some Members felt that such area was too broad and should be defined specific sub-regional areas for fisheries management purposes. It was noted that there were a number of international organizations established in the region after APFIC, such as SEAFDEC for Southeast Asia, FFA and SPC for South Pacific. Also, a new body for western and central Pacific is being formulated. APFIC must coordinate its activities with these bodies to avoid duplication of effort.
21. As regards its Membership, the Working Group stressed the need to keep membership open to all countries in the region in order to strengthen regional cooperation on fishery matters. The Secretariat informed that, in accordance with Article I.2, the Members of the Commission would be Member Nations and Associate Members of FAO as well as Members of the United Nations and Specialized Agencies that accept the Agreement. Efforts have been made in inviting the Republic of Maldives to join APFIC as well as non-FAO Members such as Brunei Darussalam.
22. The Working Group further reviewed the current structure of the Commission. It noted the abolition of all Working Parties of APFIC in accordance with Resolution 13/97 of the FAO Conference at its Twenty-ninth Session in 1997. The Working Group was informed that the existing technical Committees, namely, the Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries Committee (AIFIC) and the Committee on Marine Fisheries (COMAF) established by the Commission at its Twenty-fourth Session in 1993, had to postpone their meetings twice due to financial constraints faced by most Member States. Although such technical Committees have a significant role in reviewing the current states of fisheries and aquaculture in the region, their problems and constraints and subsequent advice for the Member Governments on development and management, the lack of quorum due to the absence of most Members at their sessions prevented effective implementation of their functions.
23. The Working Group discussed problems related to the activities of the technical Committees of APFIC and proposed that in order to reduce financial burden of the Member States, these two technical Committees should be abolished. The technical work of the Commission would be carried out by ad hoc Working Groups of experts when and where required. It further suggested that the Secretariat should continue to perform core functions of the Commission pending reassessment of the future role of APFIC.