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37. The Ad hoc Working Group reviewed the future challenges in fisheries and aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region and the role of regional fishery bodies in assisting Member States to overcome these challenges. As most captured fishery resources in both inland and marine areas were exploited close to their maximum limit, there are urgent needs to strengthen fisheries management to maintain and promote the contribution made by fisheries to food security, employment and national economic development in the region.

38. The important roles at which regional fishery bodies were increasingly asked to play in the implementation of international instruments regarding the sustainable management of fishery resources and governance of fish stocks were discussed. It was recognized, however, that there is little facility for APFIC to take effective measures to conserve and manage marine capture fisheries unless its roles and functions are strengthened.

39. The Working Group reviewed the current functions and structure of APFIC as well as its future programmes of work. The Working Group considered that the current membership, area of competence, and functions of the Commission, as stipulated in Articles I, VI and IV of the Agreement, remain valid. However, if the Commission were to effectively address the challenges arising from emerging issues in the fishery and aquaculture sectors relevant to international instruments, these matters would need to be reviewed.

40. Although APFIC was established as the only FAO regional fishery body in the Asia-Pacific region, there are presently a number of intergovernmental organizations concerning with fisheries and aquaculture. Closer collaboration and cooperation were stressed to avoid duplication of efforts among these regional organizations.

41. The Working Group discussed the need for subsidiary bodies of APFIC. It noted the abolition of all Working Parties in accordance with Resolution 13/97 of the Twenty-ninth FAO Conference. The Working Group was informed that the existing technical Committees of APFIC, namely, the Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries Committee (AIFIC) and the Committee on Marine Fisheries (COMAF), had to postpone their meetings twice due to financial constraints faced by the Member States. The Working Group proposed that, in order to reduce financial burden, these two Technical Committees should also be abolished. The technical work of the Commission could then 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.

42. The Working Group discussed the priority areas identified by the Executive Committee at its Sixty-seventh Session. It agreed that the priority areas identified remain valid. However, on the regional basis, it suggested the following categorization:

a) Short-term:
i) Harmonization of fishery policies toward attending the sustainability of fisheries and fishery resources; and

ii) Development and standardization of fishery statistical systems and promotion of fishery information exchanges;

b) Medium-term:
i) Promotion of effective marine fishery management and related marine resource research;

ii) Development of sustainable aquaculture; and

iii) Acceleration of the transfer of appropriate technology and capacity building in the fishery sector.

43. The Working Group agreed that the more appropriate role that APFIC could play, in view of the existence of many regional and subregional fishery bodies in the region, is that of a regional consultative forum to facilitate discussions of approaches to address capture fishery and aquaculture issues among the Member States, FAO, other regional bodies as well as donor agencies interested in fisheries management and development programmes in the region. The Working Group noted a proposal whereby this regional consultative forum meeting on a biannual basis could provide inputs and guidance to a regional programming workshop involving all concerned states, partners and donor agencies. While welcoming this proposal, the Secretariat pointed out that FAO may not be able to finance this activity.

44. The Working Group was informed by FAO that FAO shall continue to provide support to the APFIC Secretariat in carrying out its functions. However, as APFIC belongs to the Members and FAO’s role is that of a facilitator and coordinator, the Member States of APFIC were requested to seriously consider the possibility of providing contributions to support the activities of the Commission in fulfilling its mandate.

45. The majority of the Member States indicated that they could consider providing voluntary contributions to support the project activities of their interest but not annual assessed contributions to APFIC. As the voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund and the provisions of expenses for the attendance of delegates at the sessions of the Commission were clearly indicated in Article VIII of the Agreement, no further amendment of the Agreement and the establishment of the Financial Regulations were required at this stage.

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