Senior Liaison Officer (International Fisheries)
FAO, Rome Italy
Allow me to express my satisfaction for the opportunity to continuing and strengthen the fruitful dialogue started two years ago in Cebu, Philippines, at the June 1994, Conference of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers entitled The Struggle of Fishworkers: New Concerns for Support. I had then the opportunity to present the elaboration of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the importance for your involvement in the process of its formulation. During this period of intensive and collaborative work, several meetings were held in Rome in which NGOs played a very active role. FAO was much reworded by the recognition of the participants, of the transparency of the process which facilitated the dialogue and building up of confidence among State members, IGO, NGO to reach agreement on a text of a Code which, though not perfect, has all necessary tools to contribute to ensure responsible fisheries.
The FAO Conference, at its Twenty-eighth Session, adopted on 31 October 1995 the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. It also adopted Resolution 4/95 and 5/95 recalling FAO, States and international organizations whether governmental or non governmental, and all those involved in fisheries to implement the Code, including relevant actions to achieve responsible fisheries.
In this regard, let me share with you the analysis of relevant parts of the Code in order to reiterate the importance of your decisive involvement in its implementation. I would also provide information regarding the steps which FAO Secretariat has undertaken to fulfil its obligations regarding implementation of the Code.
The introductory paragraph, clearly shows the broad scope and the sectoral nature of the Code, and explains why this instrument had to be formulated as a non-compulsory binding agreement. It states that "Fisheries, including aquaculture, provide a vital source of food, employment, recreation, trade and economic wellbeing for people throughout the world, both for present and future generations and should therefore be conducted in a responsible manner. The Code sets out principles and international standards of behaviour for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The Code recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fisheries, and the interests of all those concerned with the fishery sector. The Code takes into account the biological characteristics of the resources and their environment and the interests of consumers and other users".
The Code is voluntary. However, certain parts of it are based on relevant rules of international law. It therefore, constitutes an important contribution to the implementation of relevant international instruments, because it was formulated to be interpreted and applied in conformity with such relevant rules of international law, as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 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, and in the light of, inter alia, the 1992 Declaration of Cancún, the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and, in particular, Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Code of conduct consists of five introductory articles: Nature and Scope; objectives; Relationship with Other International Instruments; Implementation, Monitoring and Updating; and Special Requirements of Developing Countries. These introductory articles are followed by an article on General Principles which precede the six thematic articles on: Fisheries Management, Fishing Operations, Aquaculture Development, integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area Management, Post-harvest Practices and Trade and Fisheries Research. The Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas, forms an integral part of the Code.
Up to now, I have briefly described the importance of the first three introductory articles of the Code, this is to say that article 1 sets the Scope and Nature of the Code which shows the sectoral character because it addresses all fisheries and those involved in the sector, the overall objectives, which are directed to request a change of behaviour to ensure the sustainable use of the resources for present and future generations, including social and economic considerations. Finally, the relationship with other international instruments which give a legal frame, recalling that the Code is voluntary but it also contains binding provisions. Now, I would like to focus on the General Principles and the thematic articles of the Code.
With regard to the General Principles contained in Article 6 of the Code, the FAO Conference decided that these had to be formulated, as a first step, to orientate the further development of the thematic articles. This gives an indication of the character and the weight of each of the eighteen general principles. The first of these general principles 6.1 states that "the right to fish carries with it the obligation to do so in a responsible manner so as to ensure effective conservation of the living aquatic resources". The same principles clearly address such responsibility stating, in its first part "States and users of living aquatic resources should conserve aquatic ecosystems".
There has been some discussion, on whether the focus of the Code was mainly addressed to States, but it has to be recognized that governments are directly responsible for the application of laws and regulations, the Code thus recalls the principle of stewardship through governments. However, throughout the Code, and in particular as stated in Article 1.2, the Code is global in scope and is directed towards Members and Non-members of FAO, fishing entities, sub-regional, regional and global organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and all persons concerned with the conservation of the fishery resources and management and development of fisheries, such as fishers, those engaged in processing and marketing o fish and fishery products and other users of the aquatic environment in relation to fisheries. This provision sets the frame for the entire Code. Obviously, throughout the process of negotiation, it was felt convenient to reiterate certain assertions in the provisions of the Code.
The general principles, in fact, address all the elements embodied in the scope of the Code regarding the resources and the environment focusing in an ecosystem approach. It also addresses the problem of overfishing, excess fishing capacity, selectivity, the importance of fisheries in food security and welfare including provisions regarding economic and social factors. In summary, it lists all the elements which will be further developed in the respective thematic articles.
The thematic articles of the Code were structured in a way to set the general institutional frame at the beginning, and thematic subtitles framing relevant groupings of principles according to the nature of each of these. For example, Article 7 "Fisheries Management" includes 7.1 General, 7.2 Management Objectives, 7.3 Management Framework and Procedures, 7.4 Data Gathering and Management Advice, 7.5 Precautionary Approach and 7.6 Management Measures. In most cases, the first provision is also drafted as an introductory "chapeau", "States and all those engaged in fisheries management should, through an appropriate policy, legal and institutional framework, adopt measures for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources. Conservation and management measures, whether at local, national, sub-regional or regional levels, should be based on the best scientific evidence available and be designed to ensure the long-term sustainability of fishery resources at levels which promote the objective of their optimum utilization and maintain their availability for present and future generations; shortterm considerations should not compromise these objectives". However, throughout the text of the article, all the elements to be considered including the recognition to traditional knowledge, consultation with users, etc. are developed.
I will not describe all thematic articles of the Code, since it would be too long and boring. What I have tried to show you is the flexibility of the Code and the practicality for its different users, which could accordingly focus in a thematic article relevant to their activities, this is to say that aquaculturists will refer to Article 9 "Aquaculture Development", also recalling the various general principles, such as 6.1, 6.7, 6.8, 6.9, 6.13, 6.16, 6.181 and in particular 6.19 "States should consider aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, as a means to promote diversification of income and diet. In so doing, States should ensure that resources are used responsibly and adverse impacts on the environment and on local communities are minimized". Finally, aquaculturists will also take into account the frame provided in the introductory articles. Obviously, governments will have to take into account the Code in its totality.
After having analyzed the general features of the Code, I would like to stress the importance of Article 5 which is devoted to special requirements of developing countries. Article 5.2 states that "In order to achieve the objectives of this Code and to support its effective implementation, countries, relevant international organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and financial institutions should give full recognition to the special circumstances and requirements of developing countries, including in particular the least-developed among them, and small island developing countries". The Article further recalls on the necessity to provide the necessary technical and financial support to enhance developing countries' ability to develop their own fisheries.
FAO, in compliance with Article 5 of the Code, and the Conference Resolution (C 4/95), included, in the Programme of Work and Budget of the Fisheries Department, a series of elements devoted to the implementation of the Code in the current biennium. FAO is also engaged in the elaboration of technical guidelines in support of relevant thematic articles of the Code and is also taking actions to strengthen regional fishery bodies in order to ensure closer and more effective regional cooperation and coordination in the implementation of the Code and other relevant international instruments.
A circular letter promoting implementation of the Code has also been circulated through the FAO representatives, addressed to Governments and relevant IGOs and NGOs suggesting that activities that countries/organizations would normally undertake in the promotion and development of fisheries should highlight the importance of implementing the Code by focusing on the importance of ensuring the sustainability of fisheries through responsible fishing and emphasizing the vital contribution which fisheries makes to food security and welfare in their fisheries, countries and regions. It also calls on owners of fishing boats and plants, fishermen and fishworkers as well as trade or research and management authorities, etc., the contribution of fisheries to food production and the adoption of responsible harvesting, post-harvest practices and aquaculture which are key elements in the observance of the Code.
This Circular Letter also indicated that while promotional activities may vary a great deal according to the country or region in which they take place, it provides a number of suggestions that could be undertaken including i.e.:
It is further suggested that these activities should highlight the need for actions to eliminate overfishing, rebuild and enhance fish stocks, minimize wasteful fishing practices, develop sustainable aquaculture, rehabilitate fish habitats, develop fisheries for new and alternative species based on principles of scientific sustainability and responsible management, and to adopt responsible fishing practices.
Involvement of the fishing communities, cooperatives and private sector to adopt responsible fishing and aquaculture practices in producing more and better quality fish and food could have a tremendous impact upon food and nutrition as well as in their post-harvest and trade sector towards achieving responsible fisheries as requested by the Code.
It is also noted that the institutional and legal frame including appropriate research to be related to the decision-making process was a key element considering that governments are accountable for the long-term sustainability of the natural/fisheries resources and their environment.
In this context, FAO through its regional fishery bodies is examining the implementation of the Code by States and different users of fisheries resources and fisheries. An instrument, in fact, can only be evaluated if we have the proof that its application works or not. Currently, we have information on the implementation of the Code by some States like Canada or Mexico, which have incorporated the Code in their national plans for fisheries. Furthermore, Canada has undertaken a number of activities, in particular in the area of fishing operations. We are also being informed of the use of the Code by different NGOs and the private sector which have taken some initiative inter alia the use of the Code in promoting responsible fisheries agreements and recently the joint initiative of WWF and Uniliver on the establishment of the Marine Stewardship Council.
Article 4 is devoted to Implementation, Monitoring and Reporting. It states that All 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. They are also requested to actively cooperate with FAO in monitoring the application and implementation of the Code and its effects on fisheries, since the Secretariat is requested to report accordingly to the Committee on Fisheries.
Article 4.3 of the Code states that "FAO through its competent bodies, may revise the Code, taking into account developments in fisheries as well as reports to COFI on the implementation of the Code.
This is in particular important because, notwithstanding that the Code would be implemented by States on a voluntary basis. However due to the special features contained in the provisions which may be given, or which have already been given, binding effect, and the provisions established in Article 4.3 which states that "FAO, through its competent bodies, may revise the Code, taking into account developments in fisheries as well as reports to COFI on the implementation of the Code". This makes the Code to be a flexible instrument capable to be revised as necessary to ensure the requested results for which the Code was developed.
I hope that this analysis has been clear and convenient enough to encourage all of you to implement the Code in your areas of activity as well as in promoting its implementation by other users in order to ensure that fisheries continue to contribute to food security and welfare of present and future generations.
6.1 States and users of living aquatic resources should conserve aquatic ecosystems. The right to fish carries with it the obligation to do so in a responsible manner so as to ensure effective conservation and management of the living aquatic resources.
6.7 The harvesting, handling, processing and distribution of fish and fishery products should be carried out in a manner which will maintain the nutritional value, quality and safety of the products, reduce waste and minimize negative impacts on the environment.
6.8 All critical fisheries habitats in marine and fresh water ecosystems, such as wetlands, mangroves, reefs, lagoons, nursery and spawning areas, should be protected and rehabilitated as far as possible and where necessary. Particular effort should be made to protect such habitats from destruction, degradation, pollution and other significant impacts resulting from human activities that threaten the health and viability of the fishery resources.
6.9 States should ensure that their fisheries interests, including the need for conservation of the resources, are taken into account in the multiple uses of the coastal zone and are integrated into coastal area management, planning and development.
6.13 States should, to the extent permitted by national laws and regulations, ensure that decision making processes are transparent and achieve timely solutions to urgent matters. States, in accordance with appropriate procedures, should facilitate consultation and the effective participation of industry, fishworkers, environmental and other interested organizations in decision making with respect to the development of laws and policies related to fisheries management, development, international lending and aid.
6.16 States, recognising the paramount importance to fishers and fishfarmers of understanding the conservation and management of the fishery resources on which they depend, should promote awareness of responsible fisheries through education and training. They should ensure that fishers and fishfarmers are involved in the policy formulation and implementation process, also with a view to facilitating the implementation of the Code.
6.18 Recognizing the important contributions of artisanal and
small-scale fisheries to employment, income and food security,
States should appropriately protect the rights of fishers and
fishworkers, particularly those engaged in subsistence, small-scale
and artisanal fisheries, to a secure and just livelihood, as well
as preferential access, where appropriate, to traditional fishing
grounds and resources in the waters under their national jurisdiction.
|1||See Annex 1.|
|2||The code can be reproduced as a whole or the relevant articles quoting FAO and in full respect of the text as adopted|