16. The Secretariat introduced documents COFI/2003/3 Rev.1, 4, Inf.7, 8 and 9. The Secretariat also referred to its global partnership programme for the implementation of the Code of Conduct, noting the important roles played by the FishCode and the Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programmes.
17. The Secretariat drew the attention of the Committee to paragraphs 63 to 66 of document COFI/2003/3 Rev.1 relating to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 57/143 of 12 December 2002. This Resolution, inter alia, creates a programme of assistance (a voluntary Part VII trust fund within the UN system) to support developing States Parties in their efforts to implement the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. The Resolution notes the role of FAO and its responsibility for fisheries in the United Nations system and requests the FAO Committee on Fisheries to consider FAO’s participation in the development and management of the trust fund. The Secretariat added that subject to the views and guidance of the Committee, through the FAO Council, the Director-General would be prepared to enter into consultations with the United Nations Secretary-General with a view to defining practical modalities for the implementation of the relevant provisions of the Resolution relating to the trust fund.
18. The Committee recognized the crucial importance of the Code of Conduct and its related IPOAs in promoting long-term sustainable development in fisheries and aquaculture. Members highlighted national activities being undertaken to implement these instruments. Many Members from developing countries indicated that a lack of capacity constrained implementation and they appealed to FAO to continue to provide technical assistance to facilitate implementation, especially for the development of national plans of action to implement the IPOA–IUU. The Committee urged FAO to broaden and deepen its efforts to promote the implementation of the Code of Conduct and its IPOAs, building on positive past experience as a means of enhancing management and utilization in the fisheries sector, strengthening food security and contributing to poverty alleviation in developing countries. The Committee noted the first analysis based on sixteen case studies of Code of Conduct implementation, allowing a more substantive analysis of the challenges being faced in its implementation.
19. Some Members informed the Committee that their efforts to develop national plans of action to implement the IPOAs on sharks and seabirds had not progressed to a significant extent. Several Members indicated that a lack of technical assistance from FAO had been partly the cause for this lack of progress with implementation, while others noted that they did not yet have enough data to complete their assessements. The Committee encouraged Members to establish and implement national plans of action on sharks and seabirds.
20. The Committee agreed that strenuous efforts should be made to control fleet capacity, particularly that of large-scale fishing vessels, and, as appropriate, implement measures to reduce overcapacity and prevent it from migrating to other fully exploited or overexploited fisheries. Such capacity and migration control is essential if fish stocks are to be managed responsibly and if overexploited stocks are to be rehabilitated. The Comitttee also noted the need to monitor fleet capacity of large scale vessels on a global basis.
21. The Committee expressed concern about the continuing high and growing incidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the lack of effective implementation of the IPOA–IUU. Some Members noted that a lack of political will by some Governments to deal with IUU fishing and to meet their international obligations encouraged the proliferation of IUU fishing and related activities. Many Members pointed out that such IUU fishing, often by displaced vessels, undermined efforts to sustainably manage fisheries at both national and regional levels. Many Members agreed that measures of positive listing for fishing vessels should be adopted by regional fishery bodies (RFBs). The Committee reaffirmed the need for the global implementation of measures against IUU fishing.
22. Many Members proposed a range of initiatives to more effectively address IUU fishing including strengthening the functions of RFBs, encouraging the early entry into force of the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement, exercising control over nationals involved in fishing activities, enhancing port State measures, improving and extending catch documentation schemes to permit the traceability of fish after capture, decommissioning and scrapping vessels rather than deregistering them and reviewing hard and soft law fishery instruments relating to IUU fishing to assess their effectiveness and to close gaps that might exist. Many Members made specific reference to the importance of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. Several Members explained the steps they have taken to tighten fishing vessel registration procedures, including changes to national legislation and the deregistration of vessels that have engaged in IUU fishing.
23. The Committee agreed that there is a linkage between fleet overcapacity and IUU fishing. Some Members also stated that this relationship was exacerbated by the payment of government subsidies to industry. A proposal by Japan that FAO should convene a Technical Consultation at FAO Headquarters in Rome in early 2004 to review progress and promote the full implementation of the IPOA–IUU and the IPOA–Capacity was endorsed by the Committee. Japan advised that it would financially support the Consultation. The Committee agreed that this Consultation should not lead to the re-negotiation of the IPOAs on capacity and IUU fishing.
24. Recognizing the important role that port States play in preventing, deterring and eliminating IUU fishing, many Members welcomed the outcome of the Expert Consultation to Review Port State Measures to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The Committee endorsed the proposal of the Expert Consultation to convene a technical consultation to address substantive issues relating to the role of the port State and, as appropriate, principles and guidelines for the establishment of regional memoranda of understanding on port State measures to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. Some Members suggested that such a Technical Consultation address the establishment of international instruments on port State measures to combat IUU fishing.
25. The incidental catch of some species of sea turtles in some regions was a matter of concern for many Members. The Committee agreed that while taking into consideration existing work on sea turtle interactions and conservation, a Technical Consultation as proposed by Japan should be held in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2004. Japan indicated its willingness to financially support the Consultation. The scope of the meeting is to: i) review the available information on the current status of sea turtle conservation including both incidental and direct catches, their impacts on the populations and other factors affecting the mortality of sea turtles; ii) review the new development of fishing gears and techniques to reduce sea turtles mortality by incidental catches and other techniques to improve sea turtle conservation; iii) produce, if appropriate, guidelines to reduce sea turtle mortality in fishing operations, and iv) consider desirable assistance to Members of developing countries for the conservation of sea turtles.
26. Several Members referred to the need for the improved management of deep sea fisheries, especially those that are discrete high seas stocks and noted that international law requires further development in this regard. Several Members invited FAO to play a disseminating role for the measures adopted by RFBs relating to deep sea fisheries. Members welcomed the convening of the Deep Sea Conference by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, in cooperation with FAO, in Queenstown, New Zealand, in December 2003. Members noted that this Conference should, inter alia, address management issues. Members also requested that the next session of COFI be informed of the results of the Conference.
27. Some Members expressed support for FAO’s involvement in the voluntary Part VII trust fund to be established within the UN system to support developing States Parties in their efforts to implement the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. It was stressed that the creation of such a trust fund would constitute one means among others of assisting developing countries to participate in the implementation of the Agreement. The Committee agreed that the Director-General of FAO should enter into consultation with the United Nations Secretary-General with a view to defining practical modalities for the implementation of the trust fund. Members also welcomed the announcement by Canada that it would convene an international Conference in 2004 or 2005 concerning the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. The primary purposes of the Conference would be to encourage ratification of or accession to the Agreement, review its implementation to date and prepare for the Review Conference mandated by Article 36 of the Agreement.
28. The Committee reviewed the current status of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) and vessel monitoring systems (VMS) as tools for responsible fisheries management. Many Members commended initiatives undertaken by FAO and the FishCode Programme to promote human resources development and institutional strengthening to achieve more effective use of MCS and VMS. Particular acknowledgement was given for the provision of technical and legal advisory services to developing countries through the FishCode Programme, and it was urged that such assistance be continued and expanded.
29. The Committee recognized the need for international cooperation in making VMS more effective as part of the MCS toolkit and particularly for dealing with the serious and growing problems of IUU fishing. Members called for the standardization of data formats and procedures, and spoke of the desirability of FAO’s study or FAO convening an Expert Consultation on such standardization which Norway offered to host. Some Members noted the need to minimize the burden to fishers, confidentiality considerations and cost efficiency with regards to MCS measures.
30. The Secretariat explained that the proposed meetings as referred to in paragraphs 23, 24, 25 and 29 would require additional financial resources for these activities, with the possibility of financing the participation of developing countries in the proposed meetings. One Member stressed that as these meetings and the facilitation of the implementation of the Code of Conduct in general are one of the major tasks of FAO, these costs have to be taken account of when finalizing the Programme of Work and Budget.
31. The Committee noted the activities of the International MCS Network and encouraged Members to join in this voluntary effort. The Network has an important role to play in promoting international cooperation including information exchange in order to promote more effective MCS for sustainable fisheries. The Committee further agreed that FAO should continue to be closely involved with the work of the Network, including provision of strengthened technical support for the coordination of communications and facilitation of awareness raising among Members for Network activities depending on the availability of resources to do so.
32. The Committee welcomed advice by the ILO Representative that a convention on labour conditions on fishing vessels would be elaborated by ILO, commencing in 2003. The convention would support the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and consolidate and update six ILO instruments relating to employment conditions on fishing vessels. In developing the convention, ILO would consult broadly.
33. Some Members expressed their appreciation for the outcome of the Expert Consultation on the Management of Shared Stocks, noting that valuable information had been presented and exchanged. The results of the Consultation could be used to enhance the management of shared stocks. Some Members suggested that FAO undertake further work in this area.
34. The Committee noted that developing countries face difficulties with regard to capital and technical expertise and have often recourse to the establishment of joint ventures. When established on a sound basis, these enterprises constitute an efficient tool for deriving social and economic benefits from the utilization of the fishery resources of the countries involved. Some Members proposed that FAO carry out a comparative study, based on the contributions of experts from different regions, highlighting their experience with respect to the establishment and operation of the different types of enterprises and evaluating their outcomes and effects on the development of fisheries in the relevant States.