76. The Secretariat introduced document COFI/2003/9. The Committee commended the Secretariat for the quality of the document and endorsed the analysis presented and the strategies proposed. It applauded FAO’s initiative to treat the small-scale fisheries sector as a stand-alone agenda item for the Committee’s attention, as was also appreciated by the last Session of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research. Many Members remarked that the small-scale fisheries sector made a crucial social and economic contribution to a country. In this context, the important role of women in small-scale fish processing and marketing activities was highlighted. It was also noted that small-scale fisheries in many developing countries and small island developing States requiree high amounts of foreign exchange which in most cases is not available from national financial institutions.
77. The Committee noted the high vulnerability of small-scale fishing communities to the impacts of natural catastrophes and the high risks associated with small-scale fishing operations. It also recognized that small scale fishing communities are faced with an array of serious problems, including: rapid population growth, migration of populations, overexploitation of resources, lack of alternative sources of employment, displacement in coastal areas due to industrial development and tourism, pollution and environmental degradation. It was also noted that small-scale fisheries are critical for food security and poverty reduction and that they are often omitted from priority listings of many national development programmes and as such their contributions to food security and poverty reduction are often overlooked. Such problems can pose particularly acute challenges to small island developing States and others very dependent on inshore fishery resources.
78. Many Members commented that conflicts with large commercial fishing operations are also commonly encountered. These conflicts occur especially in nearshore areas but also include cases of competition over straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.
79. Many Members observed that globalisation had both positive and negative effects. Improved trading opportunities and access to technology and know-how needed to be carefully balanced with the requirements of ensuring adequate domestic food supplies, equitable participation in economic activities.
80. The Committee recognized that certain current policies do not always treat small-scale fisheries in accordance with the sector’s importance to national economic and social development and, in particular, its contribution to food security and poverty reduction. It further recognized that small-scale fisheries have often been overlooked in the formulation of national poverty reduction strategies.
81. The Committee stressed that better understanding of the causes of vulnerability and poverty in small-scale fisheries, and improved information on the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security and poverty alleviation were essential to the development of strategies for enhancing the role of the sector in fostering national social and economic welfare. Such strategies need to be based on improved cross-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration, including closer coordination of multilateral and bilateral development assistance.
82. The Committee recognized the valuable experiences reported by several Members in enhancing the social and economic contributions of small-scale fisheries. Substantial achievements have been realized through such measures as constitutional recognition of the rights and interests of small-scale fishers and legislative and other provisions to strengthen their participation in policy and management decision-making processes. Other enabling measures have been the allocation of exclusive fishing zones for small-scale fishers and provision of education including literacy and leadership training.
83. Many Members noted with appreciation the technical and financial assistance that has been provided in support of small-scale fisheries by the international community. However, the Committee strongly advocated that more efforts be made to support the small-scale fisheries sector, both inland and marine. Such efforts should take into account positive experiences that have been gained through the use of self-management and co-management approaches that are based on traditional knowledge, local circumstances and well-defined user rights systems.
84. The Committee requested that FAO allocate more resources to promote sustainable small-scale fisheries. It further welcomed the suggestion for the Organization to elaborate, in the context of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, technical guidelines on increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security and poverty alleviation. Such guidelines should, inter alia, stress the importance of national fisheries development strategies that promote good governance and inclusiveness, thereby creating a sense of ownership and accountability by small-scale stakeholders in the decision-making process. Members agreed that appropriate avenues towards this goal included the encouragement of fishermen's organizations at community level and the facilitation of their representation at local, regional and national levels.