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Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to the Twenty-fifth Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

It is enheartening to see so many Governments represented here today, but also several inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. Your presence here confirms not only the ever-increasing importance of fisheries in the world, but also the role of COFI as a global forum for addressing the many critical challenges confronting the sector.

It is a pleasure to note in this respect, that the excellent achievements of the Committee were recognized by the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002. The Johannesburg Plan expressly highlights the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its related International Plans of Action (IPOAs), as well as the Technical Guidelines for the implementation of the Code, which COFI has so actively crafted and promoted over the years. Congratulations.

Since your last session, a new Director for Fishery Policy and Planning, Mr Jean-François Pulvénis de Séligny Maurel, has been appointed. He is well known to many of you due to his participation in several sessions of the Committee as the Head of the Delegation of his country, Venezuela. Mr Pulvénis has an extensive background in fisheries, and is already contributing as a strong member of FAO’s fisheries team. Also on the podium today are Assistant Director-General, Mr Ichiro Nomura, and his close associates of the Fisheries Department, whom I believe need no introduction.

Mr Chairman,

We have tried to construct an agenda for your meeting that would allow you the oppurtunity of considering a selection of the most important fisheries issues that have arisen since your last session. One of those is the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries as the basic global reference tool for the sustainable development and management of fisheries and aquaculture. While there have been some successes in the application of the Code, much still needs to be done. I hope your deliberations will lead to the identification of mechanisms and strategies to overcome the constraints that still hinder effective implementation of the Code and its related instruments.

Another priority concern is illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and inappropriate control of fishing vessels seriously jeopardize the transition to responsible fisheries in many regions of the world. The Committee is asked to exchange experiences on ways and means of achieving enhanced monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of fishing operations, including the use of new technologies for vessel monitoring systems (VMS) that are cost effective and efficient.

Mr Chairman,

The Sub-Committee on Fish Trade, at its Eighth Session, reviewed important recent events and issues concerning international trade, and is seeking guidance from COFI particularly with regard to CITES and fish trade related issues, safety and quality, as well as the traceability of fish products. We appreciate the valuable support and assistance of the Government of Germany in facilitating the work of the Sub-Committee, and we look forward to COFI’s guidance on the issues addressed by the Sub-Committee.

At its last Session COFI decided to establish a Sub-Committee on Aquaculture to provide a forum for consultation and discussion on this rapidly growing and vitally important food-producing sector. As a result of the kind hospitality of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and the financial support of the Government of Italy, the First Session of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture was held in Beijing in April 2002. We would appreciate COFI’s counsel on how to fund activities in the priority areas identified at the First Session.

Over the past four years, the Committee has been discussing the problem of fishery status and trends reporting. Indeed, vastly improved information is now required in order to monitor progress towards the goals for fisheries set in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation – namely: the restoration of depleted stocks, the application of the ecosystem approach in fisheries, the implementation of the IPOAs on fishing capacity and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and global reporting and assessment of marine environments. Approval of the Draft Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries by your Committee would greatly contribute towards the attainment of required information, and hence towards the common goal of obtaining the fullest benefits from the world’s fisheries without compromising long-term sustainability.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our efforts to help Members develop and manage their fisheries and aquaculture are part of a greater endeavour to improve livelihoods in local communities. The Committee has had a continuing concern for this very important sub-sector. Your guidance on how to improve the role of small-scale fisheries for food security and poverty alleviation will be received with great interest.

In recent years, the ecosystem approach has taken centre stage in international fisheries and is likely to be even more important in the years ahead. The Committee addressed this issue at its last session, in planning for the Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem. That Conference, organised in collaboration with the Government of Iceland and cosponsored by Norway, was held in October 2001. It culminated in the adoption of the Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem. The ecosystem approach to fisheries was again flagged at the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002. The Committee may wish to suggest ways and means to promote the application of ecosystem approaches to the management of fisheries at national and regional levels.

It is also important to highlight the need for human capacity-building and institutional strengthening related to fisheries, an issue that has been stressed by the Sub-Committees on Fish Trade and Aquaculture and given prominence at the Fourth Session of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR) in December 2002. Without training or access to facilities and skilled instructors and analysts, and without effective support for on-the-job experience, it would be virtually impossible to achieve improved and sustainable fisheries productivity and to meet the targets set in our Programme of Work and Budget and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. We appeal to governments, donors, partner agencies and organizations to support and collaborate with us as we strive to improve human and institutional capacity in the fisheries sector.

Mr Chairman,

The outcome of your deliberations on all of these major issues of concern in world fisheries will help frame your recommendations on the formulation of the FAO Programme of Work and Budget 2004–2005.

The achievement of our objectives in fisheries, and the fulfilment of our Members’ expectations depend on adequate financial resources for the Fisheries Department’s Regular Programme but also on extra-budgetary contributions to Field Programme activities. Of particular importance in this regard are FishCode, the Fisheries Department’s global partnership programme for implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and the Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme. These Trust Fund initiatives have received important contributions from the Governments of Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those Governments, as well as all other Governments, organizations and agencies that have provided resources to fisheries activities. I should also like to appeal strongly for increased contributions and support.

Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although the Committee has a full agenda, I hope that delegates will be able to find time to participate in the series of side events that have been organized in parallel with the Session, and also to visit the exhibition in the Atrium.

In concluding, I wish to assure you that FAO greatly values your experienced advice and good counsel. I wish you a constructive and highly successful Session.

Thank you.

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