11. The Secretariat introduced documents COFI/2005/2, Inf. 8, 9, 9/Add.1 and 10. It also referred to a "made available" document that provided a statistical analysis of responses by FAO Members to the 2004 questionnaire on the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
12. The Committee commended FAO on its fourth report on the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its associated instruments (the Code) and for the Organizations work in facilitating its implementation. The Committee also noted that the Code provided the basic framework for the promotion of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Many Members explained the measures being taken in their countries to give effect to the Code including the incorporation of some aspects of it into national legislation. However, the Committee stressed that continued efforts were imperative to further promote the Codes implementation. It also encouraged FAO to elaborate additional guidelines in support of the Code, including one for the implementation of the International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity (IPOA-capacity).
13. Aware that many international fisheries instruments had been concluded since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the Committee agreed that from now on there should be a stronger focus on implementating the instruments concluded since UNCED rather than seeking to conclude new instruments. In this respect, some Members called for a "decade of implementation" for these instruments. Existing instruments included the 1993 FAO Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (Compliance Agreement), the 1995 United Nations Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement), the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the International Plans of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (IPOA-seabirds), for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-sharks), to Prevent, deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU), IPOA-capacity and the Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries (Strategy-STF). The Committee called upon Members to accept, ratify or accede, as appropriate, to these instruments since, together with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, they provided the foundation for the long-term sustainable management of fisheries. The Committee also stressed that international cooperation was essential if sustainable fisheries and aquaculture were to be achieved. The Committee urged States acting through regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) to ensure that they took further steps to implement the relevant provisions of the post-UNCED fisheries instruments because such action was critical to giving full effect to these instruments.
14. Many Members referred to the need to adopt widely the ecosystem approach to fisheries management in a timely and appropriate manner, recognizing that fishing impacts not only the target resources but also the ecosystem itself and vice versa. It was pointed out that implementing an ecosystem approach is an evolutionary process that need not await complete or perfect information. It was also noted, however, that while there was general recognition of the value and importance of this approach to management, there still needs to be greater understanding on how it should be applied in practice. The Committee encouraged Members and RFMOs to consider introducing and implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries overcoming the obstacles that it might present in practice.
15. The Committee was appraised of measures being taken by Members to implement the IPOAs and the Strategy-STF. Many Members advised that they had taken steps to implement the IPOAs on the management of fishing capacity and the management of sharks. Some Members expressed concern at the slow rate of implementation of the IPOA-sharks and the Committee agreed that FAO should make every effort to implement paragraph 72 of UNGA Resolution 59/25 on sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement, and related instruments. The Committee also agreed that FAO should convene a workshop to promote the further implementation of the IPOA-sharks and workshops to encourage regional and national plans of action.
16. Some Members mentioned that they had undertaken the relevant assessments for the IPOA-seabirds and that where required, national plans of action had been developed or would be elaborated. The Committee noted that there was a need for urgent action in some areas where certain albatross species were facing extinction and where significant interaction between those species and fisheries occurred.
17. Although recognizing the importance of the Strategy-STF, fewer Members indicated that they were in the early implementation phase. The representative from the Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP) advised the Committee that the Strategy-STF had been considered at its Twenty-first Session in 2005 and made a number of recommendations to support its implementation, through regional fishery bodies. Some Members requested that FAO provide support for the implementation of the Strategy-STF directly to countries.
18. Many Members provided information on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in their countries and regions. Many Members indicated that they had implemented, or were in the process of implementing, the IPOA to combat IUU fishing. Some Members stressed that there was a need to regulate refrigerated transport vessels ("reefer vessels") because of their high seas transhipment activities that supported IUU fishing. It reiterated that fishing vessels flying "flags of convenience" continued to undermine efforts to promote sustainable fisheries and that they were highly mobile migrating from one region to another in short time periods. In efforts to combat IUU fishing, the Committee repeated its request that flag States in fulfilling their responsibilities notify coastal States, as appropriate, and effectively controll their vessels to ensure that they did not engage in IUU fishing or related activities. The Committee recognized the importance of initiating work on the "genuine link" and requested FAO to participate in interagency activities towards this end.
19. Some Members pointed out that there were linkages between IUU fishing and fishing overcapacity and that the management of overcapacity should be addressed on a global basis.
20. Some Members referred to the 2003 FAO Expert Consultation on Fishing Vessels Operating under Open Registries and their Impact on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, noting that it had been a valuable meeting especially since it had developed a comprehensive set of recommendations, based on the IPOA-IUU, to be implemented by concerned States. The Committee, encouraged by this development, endorsed the report of the Consultation and urged that Members operating open registries implement the Consultations recommendations as a matter of priority.
21. Many Members pointed out that RFMOs were important actors in the fight against IUU fishing. Some Members pointed out that RFMOs should adopt equitable means for allocating fishing opportunities for new entrants, including developing countries. Otherwise, IUU fishing by some countries could continue unabated. The Committee encouraged States acting through RFMOs to examine their mandates and to make changes, as appropriate, to ensure that new entrants including developing countries could be accommodated in a fair, equitable and transparent manner. Some Members noted that such action would also serve the longer term interests of the RFMOs themselves.
22. Many Members stressed the importance of effective fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) tools, including vessel monitoring systems (VMS) as primary defences against IUU fishing. They also referred to the work of the International MCS Network in galvanizing action against IUU fishing. The Committee, recognizing the important and unique role of the Network in providing real-time information exchanges on IUU fishing and related matters, urged interested Members to consider participating in the initiative.
23. The Committee expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the 2004 FAO Technical Consultation to Review Progress and Promote the Full Implementation of the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and the International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity. The Committee endorsed the report of the Session as well as its main recommendations and suggestions.
24. Many Members referred to FAOs work on fisheries subsidies and requested that it be strengthened while ensuring that it respected the relevant mandates of FAO and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and that it complement, and did not duplicate, the work of WTO. Some Members observed that there was a need to make a clear distinction between two types of subsidies. Firstly, there were those subsidies that supported the expansion of fleets which, when conducted in an unsustainable manner, contributed to stock degradation, fleet overcapacity and IUU fishing. The Committee agreed that these types of subsidies should be phased out. Many Members noted that subsidies could also lead to trade distortions. Secondly, there were those subsidies that may contribute to sustainable utilization through improved scientific information and MCS or benefited, for instance, small-scale fishers and contributed to food security, poverty alleviation and, in some cases, provided a stimulus to sustainable development. Members requested that FAO give consideration to undertaking studies and assessments to determine the impact of subsidies on fishing capacity, IUU fishing and on fisheries management generally. The Committee endorsed the report of the Technical Consultation on the Use of Subsidies in the Fisheries Sector and expressed support for the short- and long-term programme of work that was presented by the Secretariat that could include work on the role of subsidies in small-scale and artisanal fisheries in relation to other policy instruments.
25. The Committee acknowledged that there was a need to strengthen port State measures as a means of combating IUU fishing in a more substantive manner given that the lack of agreed, binding measures provided a loophole. Some Members requested that these measures be promoted in RFMOs for the development or improvement of the port State aspects of regional control schemes. In endorsing the report and the recommendations of the Technical Consultation, the Committee agreed that follow-up work on the 2004 FAO Technical
Consultation to Review Port State Measures to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing should be undertaken, especially with respect to operationalizing the model scheme agreed at the Consultation.
26. Critical to the sustained implementation of the Code was the need for institutional strengthening and human resource development in developing countries, especially in small island developing States. Many Members informed the Committee of their particular needs concerning assistance, some of which included the implementation of enhanced registry procedures, improved MCS, the implementation and expansion of VMS, the development of national plans of action (NPOAs) and the promotion of policies and measures to implement the ecosystem approach to fisheries. Some Members expressed their thanks to FAO for the training provided with respect to the implementation of the Code and IPOAs and urged that it be continued. Several Members welcomed the commencement of the Part VII Assistance Fund under the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement.
27. The Committee acknowledged the contribution being made to the implementation of the Code by the FishCode Programme. Some Members suggested that FishCode might focus greater attention on human resource development and awareness building about the Code, especially at the "grass roots" level. The Committee encouraged Members that could do so to make voluntary contributions to the Programme as a means of strengthening and deepening its assistance.
28. The Committee expressed strong support for a proposal by Japan that, with FAO technical cooperation, Japan and possibly other sponsors convene a joint meeting of the Secretariats of the tuna RFMOs and their members. Participating RFMOs would include the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). The Committee further agreed that the meeting, with financial support from Japan, should be held in January or February 2007 at a location to be identified in Japan.
29. Although the agenda for the meeting remains open, the objectives for the meeting could be, inter alia, to:
a) Review current management measures, addressing fishing capacity and limitation of fishing effort, inspection and control scheme, transshipment measures, nondiscriminatory internationally agreed trade sanction processes and procedures, marketing and incidental-catch-related measures.
b) Review the effectiveness of their current system and develop processes so as to make available to each other, notably, the information contained in their authorized fishing vessel records and IUU fishing vessel lists, as well as other pertinent information to prevent IUU fishing activities.
30. The attention of the Committee was drawn to the revised Code of Safety for Fishermen and Fishing Vessels and the Voluntary Guidelines for the Design, Construction and Equipment of Small Fishing Vessels that had been prepared by FAO, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Committee welcomed the revised Code and Voluntary Guidelines and recommended the early publication by IMO of these documents.
31. The Committee expressed support for the establishment of a database for port State measures within FAO and in consultation with Members. However, while recognizing the value of such a database the Committee recommended that FAO should seek funding for its establishment and operation from extrabudgetary sources.
32. Some Members noted that they faced a heavy reporting burden on the Code. A proposal was made that detailed indepth analysis be undertaken every four years, alternating with a general overview report on implementation every two years, including Articles 9 and 11. However, this decision was left to be finalized at the next Session of COFI.
33. The Committee expressed concern at the proliferation of international fora addressing fisheries matters, some of which lacked a sound technical and scientific basis for discussion. It stressed that COFI and FAO should continue to provide leadership and maintain an assertive role in fisheries, broadening its approach to fisheries and associated issues, as required, while at the same time not losing sight of its core mandate in terms of promoting responsible fisheries, in order to provide food and sustain human welfare. The Committee also urged FAO to continue to provide technical input to international fora where fisheries and related matters are discussed in order to contribute to their discussion and outcomes.