59. The Rapporteur of the Technical Consultation and the Secretariat introduced document COFI/2003/7 which described the outcome of the Technical Consultation held in March 2002. It was recalled that the Committee on Fisheries at its Twenty-fourth Session had recommended that a technical consultation should be held to consider how fishery status and trends reporting could be improved effectively, including the possible development of a plan of action. The Consultation had unanimously agreed the text of the draft FAO Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries which set forth objectives, guiding principles, required actions and roles. The draft Strategy was designed to provide a broad framework for the long-term improvement of knowledge and understanding of fishery status and trends as a fundamental basis for fisheries policy and management for the sustainable use of fishery resources within ecosystems.
60. The Consultation had recognized that it would be necessary for FAO and its Members to elaborate programmes to implement the Strategy and suggested that COFI identify approaches to ensure the effective implementation of this Strategy. To this end, the Secretariat had developed a proposal for a project within the FishCode Programme to support implementation of the proposed Strategy. The project proposal should be made available to prospective donors for them to consider for support funding.
61. The Chairperson of the Advisory Committee for Fisheries Research (ACFR) noted that ACFR’s previous recommendations had been taken up by the Technical Consultation and expressed satisfaction with the progress made in this high priority area. It was recalled that the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research at its session in December 2002 considered that the Strategy is now even more necessary following WSSD as better information will be needed to monitor progress towards time bound goals for fisheries. ACFR had recognized that the political objectives of the WSSD Implementation Plan would need to be translated into operational objectives towards which progress can be monitored and that FAO would probably be required to report on this in relation to fisheries.
62. The Committee reaffirmed that improved data and information are of fundamental importance for effective policy-making and fisheries management, essential for implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and central to the mandate of FAO.
63. The Committee stressed that high priority should be given to capacity-building and the provision of technical assistance to developing countries, as emphasised in the draft Strategy. The particular requirements for the small-scale fisheries sector were emphasised because of its importance to food security and poverty reduction.
64. The Committee recognized the need for improved regional cooperation in improving data and information on status and trends of fisheries and the roles of regional fishery bodies and FAO as stated in the draft Strategy. In this regard, the important role of the FAO Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS) in support of the draft Strategy by facilitating the more systematic assembly of status and trends data and information from the national to the regional and global levels was noted.
65. The Committee approved the draft Strategy, attached as Appendix H, as an important framework for improving information on status and trends of fisheries and recommended its further approval by the FAO Council.
66. The Committee recognized the need for additional funding requirements for implementation of the Strategy and endorsed the proposal to seek extra-budgetary funds from donors for projects implementating the Strategy under the FishCode Programme. Some Members proposed that the Strategy should be funded through the Regular Programme. In this context, the United States of America informed the Committee that it would contribute to the implementation of the Strategy by funding a pilot project in the Caribbean. Japan also indicated its intention to provide financial assistance while stressing the necessity of cost efficiency in the implemention of the Strategy.
67. The Committee recommended that the Secretariat should monitor the implementation of the Strategy as an integral component of monitoring implementation of the Code of Conduct and its related instruments, and report back regularly to COFI. It was proposed that ACFR act as the review mechanism for this purpose.
68. Many Members renewed their commitments to supply or make readily available information on their fisheries and to participate in the proposed Strategy. Several Members noted their desire that FAO provide assistance on methodology and training. It was noted that in relation to inland fisheries in developing countries, a major effort would be required.