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44. The item was introduced by the Chairperson of the Ninth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and the Secretariat and discussed on the basis of documents COFI/2005/3 and Inf. 12.

45. The Committee, noting the important role played by FAO in the field of fish trade, endorsed the report of the Ninth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and expressed its satisfaction with the work of the Sub-Committee.

46. The Committee expressed support for FAO to continue its work on the harmonization of catch documentation. It noted that ICCAT was in the process of reviewing its documentation scheme and that a meeting of the tuna RFMOs was planned in 2007 that would also review the issue of documentation schemes. Some Members suggested that FAO take into account the outcome of these events in the further elaboration of its work on catch documentation. The need to clarify the terminology "catch documentation scheme" was raised.

47. The Committee noted the capacity constraints being faced by developing countries, in particular with regard to their participation in international meetings dealing with trade-related matters such as the WTO Agreements on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and on Technical Barriers to Trade, as well as Codex Alimentarius meetings. Participation in these meetings was of great importance and would facilitate their involvement in the development of safety and quality standards. It would also enhance their capacity to meet regulatory requirements for the fish trade.

48. Some Members noted the importance of small-scale fisheries trade. In this regard FAO was requested to continue its work on identifying how trade could further benefit small-scale fisheries, noting the importance of trade as a source of employment and income. The Committee emphasized that sustainable trade was dependent on sustainable fisheries management practices being in place.

49. The Committee requested FAO to continue monitoring developments in food safety including residues of antibiotics in aquaculture products, the presence of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish and the relationship between fishmeal and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

50. The Committee endorsed the conclusion reached by the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade that there is no epidemiological evidence of BSE being transmitted to ruminants or other animals by fishmeal. Some Members suggested that the use of commercial measures associated with this issue would be lacking in scientific evidence.

51. The linkage between food safety, quality and traceability was highlighted by the Committee. Many Members from developing countries noted the need for technical assistance to implement food safety, quality and traceability requirements and requested FAO to provide such support.

52. The Committee welcomed the hosting by Spain and Germany of the Tenth and Eleventh Sessions, respectively, of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade. The Committee agreed to explore the possibility of holding future sessions of the Sub-Committee in developing countries.

53. Some Members recommended that the Sub-Committee address freshwater fish trade in future.

54. The Committee noted with pleasure the high level of cooperation between FAO and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In particular, it noted that CITES revised listing criteria, adopted at the 2004 Conference of the Parties 13 (CoP 13), took into account the key recommendations from FAO for the application of commercially exploited species. Many Members noted that the FAO Ad Hoc Expert Advisory Panel for Assessment of Listing Proposals for Commercially-Exploited Aquatic Species was a further indication of the level of collaboration between the two organizations. Noting the importance of the Expert Advisory Panel, some Members suggested that in future it should be funded from the FAO’s Regular Programme.

55. Many Members recommended that FAO follow-up on the request from CITES that FAO convene a workshop on shark management to promote the development and implementation of national plans of action for shark conservation and management.

56. Several Members suggested that it would be beneficial for FAO to develop a sea cucumber management strategy and to review its global status and one Member offered to provide funding for such an activity.

57. The Secretariat described the process that had been agreed at the Ninth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade to finalize the draft Memorandum of Understanding between FAO and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (FAO/CITES MoU). In accordance with this process, the Secretariat and the Chairperson of the CITES Standing Committee agreed on a compromise text that has been referred to CITES.

58. The Committee appreciated the effort of the Secretariat which had led to the compromise text. Some Members, however, stated the view that the only approved FAO text for the FAO/CITES MoU was the text that was agreed during the Ninth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and that this was the text that should be referred to CITES. These Members expressed the view that the compromise text that was agreed by the FAO Secretariat and the Chairperson of the CITES Standing Committee had no official standing.

59. A group of Friends of the Chair undertook informal consultations to reach agreement on the text to be referred to CITES. Many Members of this group were of the opinion that the compromise text was the appropriate text to be referred to CITES, but there was no consensus on this view.

60. In the absence of consensus on the compromise text negotiated between the FAO Secretariat and the Chairperson of the CITES Standing Committee, it was agreed that the text recommended by the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade remained the only draft MoU that has been approved by an FAO body. It was recognized that the CITES Standing Committee remained free to consider any text for a MoU.

61. The Committee agreed that, pending feedback from CITES on the FAO/CITES MoU, the matter should be reconsidered at the Tenth Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade where an MoU can be potentially agreed to.

62. The Committee agreed on the importance of ensuring that there was consistency in the positions of Members at meetings of FAO and CITES on the issue of a MoU.

63. Many Members expressed their view that sovereign States, FAO and RFMOs have the primary role in conservation and management of commercially exploited aquatic species.

64. The Committee took note that the Technical Consultation on International Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries met in 2004 and 2005. The Consultation prepared international guidelines for consideration and adoption by COFI.

65. Many Members noted the benefits to fisheries managers, producers, consumers and other stakeholders of voluntary international guidelines that are widely accepted and applied in order to ensure the credibility and trustworthiness of voluntary ecolabelling schemes for fish and fishery products. Such schemes needed to be transparent, market-driven, accessible (in terms of costs) to operators irrespective of their size and economic contexts, nondiscriminatory based on best available scientific evidence, and fully consistent with WTO rules so as not to create unnecessary obstacles to international trade and to allow for fair competition and respect the sovereign rights of States. Many Members stressed that an additional benefit of the guidelines would be an increase in legitimacy of ecolabels as well as the prevention of proliferation of non-credible ecolabels.

66. The Committee noted the special circumstances, conditions and concerns applying to developing countries and countries in transition that required time, financial and technical assistance to develop and maintain appropriate fisheries management arrangements in order to participate in, and benefit from, voluntary ecolabelling schemes. It was additionally agreed that direct support towards the often high cost of accreditation and certification would also be necessary.

67. While recognizing the need for further improvements, including the reservations expressed by some Members concerning their timely implementation of the guidelines and calling upon FAO to continue its work on them, the Committee adopted the guidelines. In so doing:

(a) COFI noted that the part of the guidelines addressing procedural and institutional aspects no longer comprise provisions on an independent panel as an ultimate appellate body as these were not consistent with the Constitution and practice of FAO. In view of the importance of these provisions, views were expressed on the need for a specific and different agreement outside the framework of FAO, noting also the possibility of using existing appeal mechanisms.

(b) COFI noted that these guidelines would apply equally to certification of fisheries in ecolabelling schemes, where fishery products coming from such certified fisheries do not carry an ecolabel because the party concerned decides not to use an ecolabel.

(c) In relation to minimum substantive requirements and criteria for ecolabels, COFI recommended that FAO should review and further develop general criteria in relation to "stock under consideration" and to serious impacts of the fishery on the ecosystem (see paragraph 27 of the Guidelines).

(d) COFI noted the Republic of Korea’s view that paragraph 30 should refer clearly to Article 7.6.3 of the Code of Conduct regarding fishing capacity rather than reference to the broader measures described in Article 7.6.

(e) COFI noted China’s reservation because it considered that the relevant criteria in the guidelines were not clear and would need work to improve them.

(f) COFI noted Mauritania’s reservation that (i) the International Guidelines should be reviewed by the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of the World Trade Organization and its comments taken into account, and (ii) a transitional period of two years was required before the implementation of these Guidelines.

(g) COFI recommended linguistic review by FAO of the text of the guidelines in the official languages of FAO, particularly those other than English, in order to ensure consistency between texts.

(h) COFI recommended that international guidelines also be prepared by FAO on the ecolabelling of fish and fishery products from inland fisheries.

(i) COFI requested that FAO report to its twenth-seventh session in 2007 on its work to further improve the guidelines.

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