9. The Secretary of COFI, Mr Ndiaga Gueye, introduced a review of decisions of the Twenty-sixth Session of COFI relevant to RFBs. In particular, he highlighted two major issues in the COFI Draft Report.
10. The Secretary recalled that FAO was strongly requested to assist the RFMOs in their roles relating to issues concerned with biodiversity of the high seas. COFI also reaffirmed the critical role RFMOs played in improving the governance of deepwater resources in the high seas.
11. The Secretary referred to the COFI proposal to review the performance of RFMOs in meeting the objectives and principles set forth in relevant international instruments. The proposal also stressed a need to develop a process to assess the performance of RFMOs as well as to promote best practices across RFMOs. The Meeting noted that COFI had suggested that an invitation could be extended to RFMO members and other interested parties encouraging them to participate in the development of parameters for any such review process, possibly through an urgent expert consultation followed by a technical consultation. There was broad support by members but further clarification on the nature, process and use of the outcome were identified by the meeting as being priority items for future elaboration. It was clear that FAO is free to review the work of the FAO RFMOs. However, a review of the non-FAO RFMOs could only be initiated by the governing councils of the organizations concerned, although FAO may be able to provide assistance in this regard.
12. The Chairperson drew the Meeting's attention to information items important to RFBs that appear in the COFI Draft Report as follows. (The paragraph numbers are adjusted to the ones of the final COFI Report after the meeting.)
Discussion on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (COFI Report paragraphs 18 to 22). This covers issues of "flags of convenience", new entrants and improving monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), including vessel monitoring systems (VMS). In this context, the Statement from the Ministerial Conference in relation to IUU fishing, recognizing the strong role of RFMOs, is also important.
The proposal to convene a joint meeting of the Secretariats of tuna RFMOs and their members in early 2007 in Japan (COFI Report paragraphs 28 and 29). There was general agreement of participants that the development is worth noting, and further information will be awaited from that process.
Harmonization of catch documentation, noting the planned meeting of tuna organizations (COFI Report paragraph 46). The Chairperson stated that many organizations would be interested in the outcome of standardization as the aim is for global harmonization.
Potential memorandum of understanding between CITES and FAO (COFI Report paragraph 57 to 63). The ties between FAO and CITES should be noted, and that COFI recognizes the primary competence of RFMOS to manage commercially exploited aquatic species.
Deepwater ocean governance (COFI Report paragraphs 88, 90 and 95). COFI encouraged the RFB IV Meeting to consider the issue of deep-sea fisheries governance.
A strong request that the effectiveness of RFMOs be enhanced (COFI Report paragraph 108(e), 111 and 112). The Chairperson encouraged participants to focus on how RFBs see themselves in this process.
13. Some participants noted other relevant matters, including:
Formation of a Consortium to Restore Shattered Livelihood Communities on Tsunami-Devastated Nations (CONSRN) to facilitate the coordination of regional fisheries and aquaculture bodies and research institutions (COFI Report paragraph 39).
Consideration of a Strategy on Status and Trends of Fisheries by the Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP), which had made a number of recommendations to support its implementation through RFBs (COFI Report paragraph 17).
A request that RFMOs implement guidelines for sea turtle mortality (COFI Report paragraph 99).
COFI guidelines on ecolabelling will have an impact on RFB work in future years, but are unlikely to have an immediate impact (COFI Report paragraphs 64 to 67).
14. The meeting recognized that there are a number of perceived common deficiencies in fisheries governance at a global level, for example in areas relating to overcapacity, IUU fishing, catch allocation and the behaviour of non-contracting parties. There is a strong indication from COFI and a number of external organizations that RFMOs may require capacity building to deal with such issues, so there is a need for some form of review. Such a review could look at those issues in the context of applicable regional and global instruments like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and various IPOAs. These would set the standard for any review. The Meeting underlined that consistency and common standards should be employed in relation to the information provided and terminology used.
15. In further discussion on COFI's proposed review of RFMOs, participants considered that the diversities of RFMOs need to be recognized, and it was accepted that some are better equipped to deal with relevant issues (e.g. IUU fishing) than others. The review could aim to better inform the international community how it can work with RFMOs to help improve their mandate and strengthen their effectiveness. It was appreciated that the proposed review is in very early stages, and the parameters of how, why and who will be involved with the review process are not entirely clear. Some participants expressed the view that the review should be independent, but should not be an efficiency assessment of secretariats.
16. The Meeting noted that there was no reservation restricting the application of the proposed review process to any specific organizations, making it applicable to the organizations as a whole. As well, it does not restrict the fact that individual members should work through RFMOs. The Meeting acknowledged that there was no further information available at this time and participants agreed to maintain a watching brief on the matter.
17. Finally, it was noted that RFBs have been overwhelmed in recent years with requests for information. The Meeting agreed that there should be some attempt to coordinate requests within the UN system. Therefore, organizations within the UN system were requested to coordinate processes of updating information. Some RFBs with no management mandate expressed the need for flexibility in questionnaires, so that RFBs could contribute accordingly.