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1. Introduction

Mountains of the world cover about one-fifth of the land surface, are home to one-tenth of the world's population, and provide livelihood to some of the poorest communities in the world. Mountain lakes and streams are a source of freshwater for countless riparian human communities, support industries, provide water for storages for irrigation and hydropower electricity production and for fish. Some countries situated in mountain areas are landlocked, with no access to marine fishery resources, hence the fish of lakes, streams, rivers and reservoirs are an important source of animal protein, always in short supply in mountain countries.

The World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development, held in Rome in June 1984, adopted among its Programmes of Action the development of special fisheries programmes for landlocked countries and areas of the world with a view to help them benefit from their fishery resources. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, adopted Sustainable Mountain Development as Chapter 13 of Agenda 21.

To draw the world's attention to mountains, their importance and problems, and stimulate long-term action, the United Nations General Assembly, at its Fifty-third session, adopted a resolution proclaiming 2002 the International Year of Mountains (IYM). The resolution encouraged all governments, the United Nations agencies and all other agencies to take advantage of the IYM in order to increase awareness of the importance of sustainable mountain development. The International Year of Mountains is seen as an opportunity to take steps to protect mountain ecosystems, to promote peace and stability in mountain regions and to help mountain people attain their goals and aspirations. Governments, national and international organisations, non-government organisations and the private sector have been asked to contribute to the success of this important activity. By early December 2002, more than 70 countries in all continents had established, or were planning to establish, an International Year of Mountains national committee. FAO, the UN's lead agency for the IYM, is working closely with other organisations to ensure that a wide range of expertise is focused on sustainable mountain development.

On a global level, mountains are the world's largest repositories of biological diversity. They are a major source of freshwater, home to diverse cultures, and places for recreation and renewal. But they are also one of the poorest areas of the world, being home for a disproportionate number of the world's poorest peoples. The UN, being aware of the importance of mountains for ecological integrity, has identified several major objectives of the International Year of Mountains:

Activities to achieve these objectives have included those which are relevant for improving food security through enhancement of fish stocks and fisheries in impoverished mountain areas of the world:

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