Implementation of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for
Information needs and constraints
David J. Doulman, International Institutions and Liaison Service (FIPL),
FAO Fisheries Department
The purpose of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (the Code) is to secure structural change in the fisheries sector so that resources are harvested and utilized in a rational manner. The Code envisages that governments, working in partnership with stakeholders, would seek to facilitate long-term sustainability in the sector and, at the same time, instil a greater sense of responsibility on the part of all persons involved in fisheries. Similarly, through their participation in regional fishery bodies or arrangements (RFBs) the Code urges States to pursue equivalent goals for the conservation and management of international fisheries.
A range of actions are foreseen by governments, organizations and stakeholders (including fishing communities) to implement the Code. In 1995 the FAO Conference, in adopting the Code, called upon States (irrespective of whether they were FAO Members), international organizations whether governmental or non-governmental and all those involved in fisheries to collaborate in the fulfilment and implementation of the objectives and principles contained in the Code. This appeal from the Conference was interesting in itself in that it went beyond the FAO Membership, the conventional focus of FAO resolutions.
In promoting the full and effective implementation of the Code, governments have a pivotal role to play. Governments, as custodians of national resources for society at large, are expected to:
provide a policy and legal framework, a so-called enabling environment, that reflects the spirit and intent of the Code, and
take action to implement the Code consistent with that framework.
Stakeholders are encouraged to support and comply with the policy and legal framework, which ideally should be developed inclusively, involving their participation.
Underpinning the Codes implementation, as explicitly recognized in its substantive articles (articles 7 to 12), is the need for two broad categories of information. These are:
general information about the Code, its goals, coverage, etc., and
specialized and technical information of a research nature required to permit officials and stakeholders to make informed decisions about options and approaches for the implementation of the Code.
Making mention of these two types of information needs may appear simplistic. However, many fisheries administrators, scientists, industry representatives and stakeholders, particularly in developing countries, are disadvantaged because access to information is limited. Many of these technicians and stakeholders are aware of the Code but have not actually seen a copy of it. Access via the Internet to the Code and the information needed in support of its implementation is still not an option for many communities, especially those located outside urban areas. Facing the constraint of lack of access to basic information, they are not well placed to promote the implementation of the Code.
Identifying the specific national, regional and international information needed to support the implementation of the Code is beyond the scope of this paper. However, many of the general needs were identified by the drafters of the Code, some of which include:
the need to collect and exchange information (sub-article 7.3.4);
review management measures in the light of new information (sub-article 7.6.8);
maintain information on fishers (sub-article 8.1.8);
provide information to fishers on the most important provisions of the Code (sub-article 8.1.10);
communicate information on fishing vessel accidents to the IMO (sub-article 8.2.10);
collect and forward information for stock assessment to management bodies (article 8.4.3);
make available information on new gear developments and requirements to fishers (article 8.5.1);
base aquaculture on the best information available (article 9.1.2);
establish databases and information networks to collect, share and disseminate data related to aquaculture (article 9.2.4);
provide timely information on adverse trans-boundary environmental effects including prior notification to potentially affected States (article 10.3.2);
sufficient information and time should be given to States and producers to permit them to adjust to changes in trade arrangements (article 11.3.4);
collect, disseminate and exchange information on international trade through national institutions and international organizations (article 11.3.7);
initiate scientific research to fill information gaps (article 12.3), and
promote capacities of developing countries to collect and analyse data, information, science and technology, human resource development and provision of research facilities so they can participate effectively in the conservation, management and sustainable use of living aquatic resources (article 12.8).
This rather extensive, although probably not exhaustive, list illustrates the scope and depth of the information needed by governments, institutions, industry and stakeholders to implement the Code. Many governments, especially those in developing countries, face difficulties in the elaboration of fishery policy and legal frameworks that accord with the Code because they do not have access to basic information. Lack of information also limits their research capacity to elaborate sustainable approaches to fisheries management and utilization. Some of these governments, in the absence of basic and up-to-date information, are hard pressed to make decisions to facilitate the implementation of the Code and the many other regional and international fishery instruments that have been concluded since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). These countries are now facing what has been termed in the literature "instrument-implementation fatigue" and as a result are not supportive of emerging initiatives that involve the conclusion of new instruments.
In reporting on information-related constraints in their efforts to implement the Code some FAO Members have reported to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) that they are handicapped by:
lack of awareness by stakeholders (including officials) about the Code and what it means for fishing communities leading to a lack of cooperation and irresponsible behaviour, persistent IUU fishing;
insufficient information and a lack of access to hard-copy and electronic information to support and sustain implementation including the under-utilization of the media to disseminate information about the Code;
inadequate public access to information and awareness programmes about the Code;
lack of adaptation of the Code to meet local community and fishery needs;
limited copies of the Code, related instruments and technical guidelines for general distribution, and
lack of availability of Code documents in local languages.
To address these information-based constraints FAO Members have proposed:
additional and more effective educational outreach including training and the mounting of meetings to disseminate information about the Code to officials and other stakeholders;
greater and more active involvement of stakeholders through the adoption of participatory approaches especially in fisheries management;
wider presentation of the Code at national and international fishing industry events;
translation of the Code in local languages to facilitate its wider and deeper penetration in fishing communities and as a means of creating greater awareness about the concepts of "responsibility" and "sustainability";
ensuring that adequate copies of the Code, its related instruments and technical guidelines are available in country, and
increased use of audio and visual means to disseminate information about the Code.
The dissemination of the Code is constrained at two levels:
information about the Code and its purpose may not be transmitted effectively from central points (FAO headquarters, regional and subregional offices) to national fishery administrations, institutions, industry and NGOs. This constraint constitutes a "gap" in the information available to administrations, industry and stakeholders, and
information about the Code, if it is received by national administrations and stakeholders, sometimes encounters vertical and horizontal distribution bottlenecks as information is not disseminated within administrations or shared with other institutions, industry and stakeholders. This is a lateral access problem stemming from "turf" protection and often general reluctance of some officials to share information.
Operating in a dynamic environment, ongoing challenges for international organizations, governments, industry and stakeholders concerning the implementation of the Code and related policy and legal frameworks are:
securing quality, reliable and complete information on an on-going basis, and
channelling this information into the hands of the "right" policy-makers and stakeholders so that decisions are premised on sound information.
Frequently, the information received in national administrations, especially in developing countries, is from biased and unreliable sources (e.g. foreign fishers who provide fish price data for the calculation of access agreements). This situation leads to inappropriate and wrong decisions, many of which are likely to be fundamentally irresponsible. As they seek to broaden and deepen their efforts to implement the Code and to minimize the impact of information gaps and bottlenecks on these efforts, governments, industry and stakeholders also need to focus on the exchange of information and to collaborate with countries facing similar fisheries problems.
This Circular seeks to address a range of information issues to support implementation of the Code. It considers these issues at three levels:
the breadth, depth, scale and complexity of information required;
its availability or accessibility in developing countries, and
the opportunities and challenges for securing access to the required information over the long term.
In its review of issues, the Circular focuses on the formal (i.e. institutional and organizational) information needs that are required to support the implementation of the Code. Other information needs, while recognized to be critical for the Codes implementation (e.g. for fishing communities), are mentioned in the paper but are not considered in detail. The opportunities identified and strategies suggested are targeted in particular towards fisheries libraries and information centres, their parent institutions and external funding agencies and partners supporting the collection and dissemination of fisheries information.
2005 marks the tenth anniversary of the unanimous adoption of the Code by the FAO Conference. Biennial reports made to FAO by Members, RFBs and NGOs for the past four Sessions of COFI indicate that the lack of information continues to constrain the full and effective implementation of the Code. FAO is cautiously optimistic that good progress is being achieved in the implementation of the Code. However, addressing the financial, capacity and information constraints in developing countries in a more comprehensive manner would hasten the rate and scope of implementation.
 As appropriate, fisheries
 Some fishery administrations are reluctant to promote inclusive approaches to management and a more visible and active Non Governmental Organization role even when it is demonstrated that such approaches are more efficient in implementing the Code. This reluctance occurs because administrations often view broader participation as eroding their authority and role in management. However, inadequate stakeholder participation has been identified by some FAO Members as being a major constraint to the Codes implementation.
 At the November 2003 FAO Regional Workshop on the Elaboration of National Plans of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing in East Africa some participatants received for the first time copies of the Code of Conduct and related documents.
 The Code is available in more than 60 languages.
 FAO is aware of this problem in accessing information about the Code and, within available resources, has taken steps to remedy it.