35. The item was introduced by the Chairperson of the Eighth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and the Secretariat and discussed on the basis of documents COFI/2003/5 and COFI/2003/Inf.10.
36. The Committee expressed its satisfaction with the work of the Sub-Committee and the important role played by FAO in the field of fish trade.
37. The Committee endorsed the report of the Eighth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and provided a number of pertinent observations.
38. The increasing role of labelling and traceability of fishery products in international fish trade was highlighted and many countries requested FAO to further work on this topic.
39. Many Members underlined that on the basis of scientific information and with the coordination of governments, FAO should develop guidelines on ecolabelling. This work should advance through the holding of an expert consultation, which will report to the next meeting of the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade to be possibly followed by a technical consultation on this issue. Many Members stressed that ecolabelling should be voluntary, non-discriminatory and transparent. Some Members expressed their deep concern that private ecolabelling schemes and associated traceability schemes, if any, could become a barrier to trade especially if not based on scientific, objective and consistent criteria.
40. Members from developing countries expressed their need for capacity building and institutional strengthening in the field of WTO multilateral trade negotiations. Fish safety and quality in fish trade was highlighted and the countries requested FAO to pursue its work in this field, with particular mention of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), dioxins, residues and fishmeal. The role of the FISH INFOnetwork in this field as well as in marketing was highlighted. The Sub-Committee on Fish Trade was requested to avoid duplication and coordinate with the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture, especially with regard to safety and trade of aquaculture products.
41. Many Members expressed serious concern regarding the maintaining of restrictions on trade and use of fishmeal for animal feed, on the grounds of alleged link to the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) since a study on the issue carried out by FAO and resolutely endorsed by the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade indicate that there are no epidemological data linking it to BSE. One Member stated that there was good news and that the said restrictions would be removed as of 1 May 2003. The Committee decided to include this item on the Ninth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and called on the Secretariat to prepare a report on this matter for the meeting.
42. Members underlined the need for collaboration between FAO and the World Customs Organization (WCO) in order to improve the customs classification codes for fish and fishery products. This will include, inter alia, improved specification for species from the Southern hemisphere. The development of some form of a unified bar code system, which would help traceability, was mentioned as an interesting option for improving the trade registration system.
43. The Committee indicated that FAO should continue the work on harmonization of catch certification schemes, and this should be put on the agenda of the next COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade. However, the need was noted for careful consideration of differences of fisheries covered by the schemes so as not to hinder normal trade of fish products legally caught.
44. The need was also expressed that, in discussing the issue of trade in fish and fishery products, proper attention be given to the sustainability of the resources.
45. The Committee expressed its appreciation for the generosity of the Hanseatic City of Bremen for hosting the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and welcomed its offer to host the next Session of the Sub-Committee.
46. The open-ended Friends of the Chair Group (the Group) met over seven seatings of the COFI meeting to discuss i) a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for negotiation with CITES, ii) a workplan for the Fisheries Department on CITES and commercially-exploited aquatic species and iii) the terms of reference for an ad hoc Expert Advisory Panel for the assessment of proposals to CITES for such species. The Group agreed on the texts for the terms of reference and the FAO work plan, but there was no consensus on some paragraphs of the draft MOU.
47. In the plenary discussion, the Committee acknowledged the work undertaken by the open-ended Friends of the Chair Group and expressed disappointment that consensus could not be reached on the draft MOU. Many Members expressed their strongly held view that CITES listings of commercially exploited marine species should be limited to exceptional case only since in their view such listings have potentially serious negative consequences for normal fishing activities, particularly those of developing coastal States including small island States and their economies. Other Members noted that any attempt to limit CITES authority to list commercially exploited aquatic species was inappropriate and that CITES has a legitimate role in the regulation of trade in such species while also recognizing FAO’s primary role in fisheries management. Some Members also expressed the view that FAO should produce a draft MOU containing a process for increased cooperation without policy pronouncements.
48. The Committee adopted the Terms of Reference for the Ad Hoc Expert Advisory Panel for Assessment of Proposals to CITES, and the Work Plan as reproduced in Appendixes E and F. It was unable to reach consensus on the text of draft Memorandum of Understanding between FAO and CITES (Appendix G). It was agreed that an open-ended informal group should continue work on the MOU at opportune times including at the Ninth Session of COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade in 2004, and to delegate the authority to finalize a MOU to the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade.
49. The FAO Secretariat pointed out that the work requested from FAO in relation with CITES will bring with it additional financial obligations that are not covered in the Regular Programme, and that the MOU should have a clause reflecting this and that any role for FAO to negotiate with CITES should be mandated by COFI. The Committee has agreed in its list of priorities in paragraph 104 to persue collaboration with CITES. It also stated its understanding that negotiations with CITES might necessitate changes to an agreed upon draft MOU to accommodate their specific concerns and requirements.
50. The Committee acknowledged the offer by the delegations of Norway and Japan to provide extra-budgetary resources to organize the expert consultations on the “Look alike clause”, the application of the phrase “introduction from the sea” listing criteria, and other matters described in Appendix F.