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Implementation of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in the Pacific Islands: A Call to Action

Opening Statement

Ichiro Nomura
Assistant Director-General
Fisheries Department
FAO, Rome
27 October 2003

Workshop Participants, Resource Persons and FAO Colleagues:

It is a real pleasure for me to welcome you to this important Workshop that addresses the implementation of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. As you may be aware, this Workshop has been in the planning stage for the last four years. Unfortunately, financial constraints had prevented FAO from holding it at an earlier date.

We are all keenly aware of the importance of fisheries to the small island developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific Islands. For many countries, the utilization of these fisheries resources represents their food and economic mainstays. Inshore fisheries are particularly important in the food security equation and offshore tuna resources are essential for the social and economic well being of many island States. In addition, the gradual and wise development of aquaculture presents new prospects and challenges for States that are placed to promote the development of marine and inland culture. For the larger island States of the region, the dependence of sections of the population on inland fisheries is also well known.

Throughout the world, a lack of responsible behaviour in the fisheries sector has led some of the world's major fisheries to decline significantly in productivity and, in some cases, to collapse. This situation has arisen despite strenuous efforts to conserve and manage resources at both the national and regional levels. At last count in 2002, FAO estimated that approximately 75 percent of world fisheries are already being fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. Where fish stocks are seriously depleted, the lack of effective intervention will inhibit, if not prevent, the re-building and restoration of those stocks.

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was negotiated within FAO shortly after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The significance of the Code and the importance of ensuring that it is implemented were underscored again in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Moreover, since 1995 when the Code was adopted by FAO Members, references to it have occurred repeatedly in the annual resolutions dealing with fisheries and oceans that have been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. These references emphasize the importance that the international community gives to the Code of Conduct as a vehicle for improving the way in which world fish stocks are utilized.

Implementation of the Code of Conduct requires concerted action by national Governments and all other stakeholders involved in fisheries. Implementation requires that concrete measures be put in place that will promote responsible and long-term sustainable solutions. This may also involve significant sacrifice as fishing opportunities are reduced or cancelled for some fishers and fishing communities. In very general terms, the Code calls for the implementation of measures that will ensure that fish stocks are utilized in such a way that their future reproduction and productivity is not jeopardized.

The Code of Conduct is a comprehensive document that looks at the fishery sector in a holistic and integrated manner. From a preliminary glance through the Code, it will be noted that there are twelve Articles. Articles 6 to 12 address the thematic areas including the general principles, fisheries management, fishing operations, aquaculture development, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, post-harvest practices and trade and fisheries research. In addition, Article 5 addresses the important matter of the special requirements of developing countries. During this Workshop, each of these areas will be reviewed and it is my hope that when you return to your countries and to your fishery administrations that you will have a first hand knowledge of the different aspects of the Code and why and how it is important that it should be implemented.

I am mindful of the Communiqué issued by the Fifth Meeting of the FAO South-West Pacific Ministers for Agriculture in Suva in March 2003 wherein the Ministers "Noted the continuing assistance provided by FAO for implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries at the national and regional levels and suggested that regional/national workshops be conducted." This Workshop, although programmed well in advance of the Fifth Meeting of Ministers, serves to respond to one of the calls made by the Ministers at that meeting.

I have looked through the Agenda for the Workshop and I believe that it is quite a heavy one. I urge you all to work hard and to take every opportunity to interact with other participants, resource persons from South Pacific partner organizations and FAO staff. It is my hope that by participating actively in the Workshop, you will return to your countries better equipped and more professionally able to face the major tasks of promoting long-term sustainable measures in your nations' fisheries.

Prior to concluding, I would also like to thank our South Pacific partner organizations who have agreed to release their staff to participate in this exercise. Working together as a team and seeking to achieve the same objectives, I believe firmly that we can make a difference in this region where fisheries underpin all social and economic institutions.

It would be remiss of me if I did not also mention that the major proportion of funding for this Workshop is coming from a FAO Japanese Trust Fund that is designed specifically to promote responsible fisheries in small island States. FAO is very grateful to the Japanese Government for this funding support, which is administered as part of the Fisheries Department's FishCode Programme of Global Partnerships for Responsible Fisheries. The FAO Regular Programme has also contributed funding to the Workshop.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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