IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT FOR RESPONSIBLE FISHERIES AND RELATED INSTRUMENTS: IMPLICATIONS FOR MEMBERS OF THE OECS
David J. Doulman
Senior Fishery Liaision Officer
International Institutions and Liaison Service
Fishery Policy and Planning Division
This paper discusses the background and steps taken by FAO and other organizations to implement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. In the context of broader fisheries conservation and management, the Compliance Agreement and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement are also briefly reviewed. Monitoring and reporting requirements for the Code of Conduct are outlined and activities initiated by FAO to promote the implementation of the Code considered. Assistance to developing countries, including small island developing States, is also discussed. It is concluded that members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States should make every effort to implement the three instruments as a means of promoting long-term sustainable use of fisheries resources in the subregion.
Since 1993 three important instruments have been concluded that when implemented should directly impact the way in which fisheries are managed in the Caribbean subregion. These instruments are the 1993 Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (Compliance Agreement),1 the 1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Code of Conduct),2 and the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UN Fish Stocks Agreement).
The Code of Conduct was adopted by the Twenty-eighth Session of the FAO Conference in October 1995. Voluntary in nature, the Code covers all fisheries (including aquaculture) and related activities.3 It seeks to ensure that aquatic resources are exploited and utilized responsibly and in accordance with long-term principles of sustainability. In addition to its general principles, the Code addresses fisheries management, fishing operations, aquaculture development, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, post-harvest practices and trade and fisheries research. Guidelines covering various areas of the Code are being developed to assist States with its effective and expeditious implementation.
An important aspect of the Code is the requirement that:
"...States and subregional and regional fisheries management organizations should apply a precautionary approach widely to conservation, management and exploitation of living aquatic resources in order to protect them and preserve the aquatic environment, taking account of the best scientific evidence available. The absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take measures to conserve target species, associated or dependent species and non-target species and their environment."4
In addition, Article 7.5 of the Code provides more detailed guidance on the application of the precautionary approach in fisheries, while the implementation of the approach in practical terms is addressed in the appropriate guidelines.5 Although the concept of precaution is not new in other industries, it is a relatively new concept in fisheries management.
The Code envisages that the precautionary approach will be applied in all fisheries, in all aquatic systems, and regardless of their jurisdictional nature, recognizing that most problems affecting the sector result from insufficiency of precaution in management regimes when faced with high levels of uncertainty.6 Because uncertainty affects all elements of the fishery in varying degrees, some degree of precaution is required at all levels of the system; in development planning, management, research, technology development and transfer, legal and institutional frameworks, fish capture and processing, fisheries enhancement and aquaculture.
The Compliance Agreement is an integral component of the Code. Although approved in November 1993 by the Twenty-seventh Session of the FAO Conference, the Agreement is not yet in force. However, some of its elements are already being adopted by States as their fisheries legislation is revised and other policy changes implemented concerning national authorizations for vessels to fish on the high seas. Currently, nine States (Argentina, Canada, Georgia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sweden, and the United States of America) and the European Community have accepted the Compliance Agreement. It will enter into force on the date of receipt by the Director-General of FAO of the twenty-fifth instrument of acceptance.
Related to some aspects of the Code and the Compliance Agreement is the UN Fish Stocks Agreement which had its origins at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.7 However, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement was negotiated within the framework of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 Convention).8
The significance of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement is that it consolidates certain fisheries provisions of the 1982 Convention. In particular, the Agreement elaborates, within the context of the 1982 Convention, aspects concerning the more effective conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. Moreover, the Agreement is significant in that it provides, for the first time, concrete and innovative provisions for the coordinated management of stocks occurring in zones of national jurisdiction and on the high seas, and which are the target resources for many of the world's most important and valuable commercial fisheries. However, to implement fully the Agreement there must be a high degree of international cooperation between coastal States and high seas fishing nations on a range of fundamental technical issues.
The Code of Conduct, the Compliance Agreement and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement are essentially complementary in nature. While the latter two instruments have a more restricted focus than the Code of Conduct, these three instruments ultimately have similar goals and objectives in that they seek to achieve enhanced fisheries conservation and management in the broadest sense.
PROMOTION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT
Article 4 of the Code states that members and non-members of FAO, fishing entities and relevant sub-regional, regional and global organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and all persons concerned with the conservation, management and utilization of fisheries resources and trade in fish and fishery products should collaborate in the fulfilment and implementation of the objectives and principles contained in the Code.
To this end FAO alone, and in concert with its members and other organizations, has taken a number of steps to promote the implementation of the Code of Conduct. The issue of promotion is being addressed comprehensively at government level, through industry channels and with inter- and non-governmental organizations. In addition, some States at their own initiative, have taken measures, including national workshops, to promote the Code and to ensure that the fishing industry, for example, is well briefed on its technical aspects.
Some of the initiatives that FAO has persued in implementing the Code include:
The highly valuable role being played by non-governmental organizations in promoting and assisting with the implementation of the Code is recognized by FAO. The Organization has established sound working relations with many of these organizations and will continue to cooperate with them on fisheries matters in the context of the Code. At both the Twenty-first and Twenty-second Sessions of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) consultations were held with non-governmental organizations in respect of fisheries matters of common concern, including the implementation of the Code. To this end some of the non-governmental organizations that have taken specific action to promote and implement it by organising workshops and by translating the Code into languages other than those of FAO. Notable among this group are both national and international organizations including the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers and the National Fisheries Solidarity Committee of Sri Lanka.
MONITORING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CODE OF CONDUCT
In adopting the Code at its Twenty-eighth session in 1995, the FAO Conference called upon FAO:
"...to monitor and report on the implementation of the Code and its effects on fisheries, including action taken under other instruments and resolutions by UN organizations, and in particular, the resolution adopted by the General Assembly to give effect to the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks leading to the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. ...".
The FAO Conference further called on States, international organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and all those involved in fisheries "...to collaborate in the fulfilment and implementation of the objectives and principles contained in the Code...".11
At its Twenty-first Session COFI agreed:12
"...that a progress report on implementation of the Code should be presented every two years which would include information on FAO activities, proposed guidelines to implement the Code and on inter-regional programmes, as well as application at national level. Members would provide information on national implementation using a questionnaire to be designed by the Secretariat. ..."
The issue of monitoring, reporting and implementation of the Code was addressed again at the Twenty-second Session of COFI and it was agreed that FAO should report every two years on progress achieved with the implementation of the Code.13 FAO will compile information on implementation on the basis of information provided by its members and other organizations and interested parties.
ASSISTANCE TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES INCLUDING SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES
Resolution 4/95 of the FAO Conference, recalling Article 5 of the Code, urges that the special requirements of developing countries be taken into account in implementing its provisions. It also requests that FAO elaborate an inter-regional assistance programme for external assistance. The purpose of this programme is to upgrade the fisheries capabilities of developing countries so that they will be better placed to meet their obligations under the Code.
In 1995-96 FAO elaborated the inter-regional programme and in turn submitted it to the international donor community for consideration and possible funding. The programme involved (i) assistance for the implementation of the Compliance Agreement, (ii) assistance for the upgrading of capabilities for reporting on fishery statistics, (iii) assistance for upgrading of capabilities in monitoring, control and surveillance, (iv) assistance in the promotion of responsible fishing operations, (v) assistance for upgrading marine resource survey capabilities, (vi) assistance for improving the provision of scientific advice for fisheries management, (vii) assistance in fisheries policy, planning and management, (viii) assistance in developing and implementing fleet restructuring policies, and (ix) assistance for the implementation of post-harvest practices and trade.
In response to this initiative the Government of Norway has already agreed to support two of the areas of the inter-regional programme. These areas are assistance for the upgrading of capabilities in monitoring, control and surveillance and assistance for improving the provision of scientific advice for fisheries management. Other donors, and in particular the Government of the Netherlands, have also expressed interest in supporting other areas of the inter-regional programme.
Under Article 5 of the Code special mention is made of small island developing countries (SIDS). By virtue of their physical characteristics and membership of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, all of the members of Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are SIDS. While assistance will be available to all developing States under the inter-regional programme for the implementation of the Code, an important facet of the FAO Programme of Fisheries Assistance for Small Island Developing States, when implemented, will also be the support for the Code and other important initiatives such as the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.14
IMPORTANCE OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT, COMPLIANCE AGREEMENT AND THE UN FISH STOCKS AGREEMENT FOR MEMBERS OF THE OECS
The Code of Conduct and the Compliance Agreement have particular relevance for members of OECS. The SIDS of the region are highly dependent on their fisheries resources for national food security and for the promotion of social and economic development, including tourism. The Code seeks to ensure that both high seas and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) fisheries are managed in a rational and responsible manner since they "...provide a vital source of food, employment, recreation, trade and economic well-being for people throughout the world, both for present and future generations...".15 The inter-temporal consideration concerning resource sustainability and inter-generational equity concerning access to resource use is a central aspect of the Code and these considerations underscore the need for effective fisheries management arrangements to be put in place.
In taking these considerations into account members of the OECS are urged to initiate national measures to implement the spirit and intent of the Code and to accept the Compliance Agreement and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. Moreover, as appropriate, where common fisheries issues need to be addressed, members are further urged to initiate and participate in subregional and regional activities that will serve to strengthen the implementation of these three instruments, thereby enhancing sustainable fisheries conservation and management in the Caribbean subregion.
The Compliance Agreement, the Code of Conduct and the UN Fish
Stocks Agreement seek to enhance the manner in which fisheries
resources are managed and in particular to ensure that the utilization
of these resources is based on principles of long-term sustainability.
It is therefore imperative that all States take measures to implement
the three instruments. In the Caribbean subregion, members of
the OECS have a major stake in promoting sustainable resources
use in fisheries, given the importance of the fisheries sector
as a primary source of food for island populations and for economic
development. The implementation of the three instruments addressed
in this paper should assist members of the OECS facilitate long-term
sustainability in their fisheries, thereby ensuring that future
generations will not be deprived of the use of these resources.
|1||FAO. 1995. Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas. FAO. Rome.|
|2||FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. FAO. Rome. 41p.|
|3||This means that, as a voluntary instrument, the Code of Conduct does not have to be formally accepted by States.|
|4||Article 6.5 General principles of the Code of Conduct. The text of this Article closely parallels relevant text of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (Article 6).|
|5||FAO. 1996. Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries 2: Precautionary approach to capture fisheries and species introductions. FAO. Rome. 52p. plus appendix.|
|6||The precautionary approach is also addressed in substantive terms in Article 6 and Annex II of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement.|
|7||United Nations. 1992. Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development. United Nations Department of Public Information. New York. 294p.|
|8||The UN Fish Stocks Agreement has not yet entered into force. It will do so 30 days after the date of the thirtieth instrument of ratification or accession is received by the depository, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. As at 23 May 1997 the Agreement had 59 signatures and 14 ratifications or accessions.|
|9||In addition, the Governments of Italy and Poland have translated and disseminated the Code in the Italian and Polish languages, respectively, and a non-governmental organization in Sri Lanka is translating and distributing the Code in the Sinhala language. Other governments and organizations are also expected to facilitate the translation of the Code into other languages and more popular presentational formats (e.g. comic strips) for small-scale fishermen.|
|10||Additionally, the Fisheries Department has prepared a directory of fisheries organizations, including more than 3 800 mailing addresses, to which the Code has been distributed. It was also disseminated through well known fisheries magazines and newspapers.|
|11||FAO Conference Resolution 4/95.|
|12||FAO. 1995. "Report of the Twenty-first Session of the Committee on Fisheries". FAO Fisheries Report No. 524. FAO. Rome. 61p.|
|13||For the Report of the Twenty-second Session of the Committee on Fisheries see FAO Council document CL 112/7. 1997.|
|14||The FAO Programme of Fisheries Assistance for Small Island Developing States will cover six areas of assistance including institutional strengthening and national capacity building, enhanced conservation and management of EEZ fisheries, improved post-harvest fish management and marketing, safety at sea, strengthening the economic role of national fisheries industries and the privatisation of fisheries investments, and aquaculture and inland fisheries conservation, management and development.|
|15||See Code of Conduct p.1.|