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During the past two years, the international fisheries community has achieved many important developments: the International Plan of Action on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing was adopted by FAO members during the first months of 2001; in October of the same year, the Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem called on the world community to promote an effective ecosystems framework for fisheries management; in November 2001, the World Trade Organization's (WTO's) Ministerial Conference in Doha paid special attention to fisheries subsidies and decided that participants in the next round of trade negotiations should aim to clarify and improve WTO disciplines on such subsidies, taking into account the importance of this sector to developing countries; at about the same time, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement came into force; and, in September 2002, the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) adopted a Plan of Implementation that is clearly focused on improving the sustainability of world fisheries. Aquaculture has received increasing attention during the past two years, as illustrated by the fact that the world's first inter-governmental body to specialize in this field, the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, met in Beijing in the spring of 2002.

In many countries, these international developments have been accompanied by actions aimed at broadening and strengthening fisheries management for the purpose of achieving sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. However, results are slow to arrive, particularly in terms of rebuilding stocks or increasing fishers' incomes. This should be no surprise. Scientists have warned repeatedly that most heavily exploited stocks will take time to recover - if they can do so at all. Patience and perseverance are therefore essential, and fisheries management should foster such attitudes among all those concerned.

One of the important contributions of FAO in this regard is the biennial publication of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), the purpose of which is to provide some of the knowledge required for understanding the fisheries sector.

As in the past, in Part 1 of SOFIA 2002 the situation in China is reported separately whenever doing otherwise might hide significant differences between developments in China and developments in the rest of the world. Part 2 highlights important issues, some of which are not new, such as the difficulty and importance of obtaining reliable fishery statistics and the plight of small-scale and artisanal fishers, while others have emerged more recently, including catch certification, antibiotics and aquaculture and an ecosystems framework for fisheries management. Part 3 contains reports on three studies that have been published recently by FAO. Part 4 reports on the findings of studies on future fish consumption and speculates about the future implications of the rising costs of capture fisheries.

It is the hope of FAO and its Fisheries Department that this new edition of SOFIA will prove to be a useful tool for facilitating a balanced and comprehensive understanding of the fisheries sector, particularly its international aspects.

Ichiro Nomura
Assistant Director-General
FAO Fisheries Department

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