The long-term sustainability of fisheries in SIDS has been threatened by overexploitation of living marine resources, land-based pollution, as well as inadequate fisheries monitoring control and surveillance systems at both the national and regional levels.
In general, inshore capture fisheries adjacent to centers of urban population are heavily fished, if not over-fished. Offshore capture fisheries and associated processing activities provide major economic benefits for some SIDS. Management of inshore fisheries in SIDS is now taking increasingly into account traditional resource use practices, which served to regulate the exploitation and conserve these resources in the past.
For some SIDS, exports of tuna, pearls, shrimp and deepwater species are important sources of revenue. However, over the last decade, prices for some of these species, and notably tuna, have stagnated. Despite some increases in export volumes, the total revenue received by SIDS from these exports has showed only marginal change.
The licensing of foreign fishing vessels in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) is particularly important for some SIDS that lack the capacity to harvest the resources themselves. In some instances, revenue from access fees forms a significant proportion of national income. In cases where fees are linked to current world fish prices, the fluctuations in prices creates instability in national revenue and in turn increases the vulnerability of SIDS and dependence on external support.
The main factors that constrain the development and management of the fisheries sector in island States include a lack of institutional and human capacity in both the public and private sectors, complexities of inshore fisheries management, post-harvest losses, poorly developed safety regulations for fishing vessels and fledging and under-developed national fishing industries for the harvesting and processing of offshore resources.
Recognizing the need to cooperate regionally on fisheries matters of common concern, some SIDS groupings have put in place effective regional mechanisms to facilitate collaboration and joint activities concerning the development and management of fisheries. This cooperation, which is encouraged, focuses on ensuring that resources are sustainably utilized and that SIDS derive benefit from the exploitation of their stocks by foreign fishers.
The objectives and proposed actions of the FAO Plan of Action on Agriculture in SIDS in this field are as follows:
In line with these objectives, FAO has supported the development of fisheries of SIDS in the fields of fisheries statistics and information systems, utilization of fish waste, policy framework and strategic planning for fisheries and aquaculture, alternative fish feeding, fisheries management, aquaculture development, customary marine fishery tenure, monitoring, control and surveillance, safety standards for small fishing vessels, quality insurance/HACCP-based fish inspection systems, health management in shrimp aquaculture, seaweed farming, participation in MEDFISIS (Mediterranean information) and ecosystem-based management.
More specifically, the FAO fisheries programme for Caribbean SIDS contains the following six components: institutional strengthening and national capacity-building; enhanced conservation and management of EEZ fisheries; improved post-harvest fisheries management and marketing; safety at sea; strengthening the economic role of national fisheries industries and the privatization of fisheries investments; aquaculture development and inland fisheries conservation, management and development.
The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), based in Barbados, promotes international cooperation for the conservation, development and sustainable utilization of the living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic Ocean Area. WECAFC activities are implemented through ad hoc working groups based on geography/ecosystem (e.g. WECAFC ad hoc Working Group on Shrimp and Groundfish Fisheries in the Brazil-Guyana Shelf) or on species (e.g. WECAFC ad hoc Working Group on Caribbean Spiny Lobster and WECAFC ad hoc Working Group on Flyingfish in the Eastern Caribbean) or on specific subjects (e.g. Anchored Fish Attracting Devices for small-scale fisheries) of interest to the member countries. Other regions are well served by organizations that promote sustainable practices in fisheries.
An interregional project, Responsible Fisheries for SIDS, targeting South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Caribbean SIDS was initiated in 2002. It aims at strengthening the capacity of SIDS' fisheries administrations to promote and facilitate responsible fisheries through the deeper and broader implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
FishCode: Responsible Fisheries for SIDS
The SIDS Project is a component of FAO's multi-donor funded Global Partnerships for Responsible Fisheries Programme, "FishCode", which aims to facilitate implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Operational since 2002, FishCode SIDS has an interregional focus (Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Oceans). Project activities are intended to enhance the role of fisheries through institutional strengthening, conservation and management of EEZs and improved economic and social welfare impacts. Other FishCode components also involve technical advisory support to SIDS. These include projects on implementation of the International Plan of Action to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, improved systems of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, provision of scientific advice for improved management and Code of Conduct awareness raising and training.
FAO has also been developing tailored instruments for SIDS. Documents officially published within the Fishery Law Advisory Programme have been prepared for Barbados, Cape Verde, Caribbean, Comoros, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Maldives, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, the South Pacific and Tonga.
Fisheries legislation in Tonga
FAO provides technical legal assistance to SIDS to review and develop fisheries legislation (laws and regulations). A recent example of success was the project for assistance in fisheries legislation for Tonga which had an inbuilt training component for a young professional (lawyer). Project objectives were attained and a draft Fisheries Bill, a draft Aquaculture Bill, draft regulations on foreign and high seas fishing and vessel monitoring systems were submitted to the Government. The young professional prepared the draft Fisheries (Conservation and Management) regulations 2001, the draft Fisheries (Processing, Marketing and Export) Regulations 2001 and the draft Fisheries (Local Fishing) Regulations 2001. The new fisheries law and regulations were submitted for approval, together with the aquaculture law, to the King of Tonga.
Examples of recent projects in fisheries include:
Effective fisheries management, implementation of national and international legal instruments, capacity building and institutional strengthening, statistical systems and good governance are the key issues for fisheries development in SIDS. They imply the sustainable and responsible development, management and utilization of both inshore and offshore fisheries resources.
Since the early 1990s, two important new concepts in fisheries management have emerged and have entered the fisheries vocabulary and practice. These concepts are long-term sustainability and responsible fisheries10. International fora and resolutions have called upon States to ratify and implement international fishery instruments as a means of strengthening fisheries conservation and management. Instruments referred to, in particular, are the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, a voluntary instrument embracing all aspects of fisheries, provides a comprehensive framework for governments and other stakeholders to implement long-term sustainable practices in fisheries. The Code sets out principles and international standards of behaviour for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The Code recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fisheries and the interests of all those concerned with the fishery sector. States and all those involved in fisheries are encouraged to apply the Code and give effect to it. The commitment of SIDS, which has already been well demonstrated, towards the implementation of these binding and voluntary international instruments can be expected to have major beneficial impacts on the future development and management of fisheries.
Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
In 1993, FAO published its revised special chapter of "The State of Food and Agriculture 1992", a milestone in FAO fisheries analysis. The analysis reflected global changes in the fisheries sector in the decade following the international acceptance of extended jurisdiction. The assumption was that this concept would lead to a substantial improvement in the way in which the world's fisheries resources were managed and utilized. However, FAO's analysis showed that this was not the case as a consequence of the new-world-order in fisheries. For the first time, FAO produced global estimates of fish stocks considered to be fully exploited, over-exploited or in a state of recovery. This analysis has become akin to benchmark data. In May 1992, one month prior to UNCED, the International Conference on Responsible Fisheries was convened in Cancun, Mexico. It was recommended that the concept of "responsible fisheries" be developed and that an instrument to this effect be elaborated. The Cancun Declaration was adopted and integrated into the Earth Summit. Both the Cancun Declaration and Agenda 21 underpinned the development of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
10 In many SIDS these concepts were well known and understood in view of the need, in the past, to ensure that current resource use practices did not prejudice future resource access.