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Today, about 90 million people depend on fish for their main daily source of protein and as a source of income. Overexploitation, ecosystem modification and international conflicts on management and fish trade are all key threats to the long-term sustainability of fisheries. The global approach to fisheries management began shifting in the mid-1970s, with the introduction of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. These were necessary, yet insufficient steps towards the effective management and sustainable development of fisheries. By the late 1980s it became clear that fisheries resources could no longer sustain rapid and often uncontrolled development. A new approach, which embraced conservation and environmental considerations more thoroughly was urgently needed.

In October 1995, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was adopted, providing a necessary framework for national and international efforts to ensure the sustainable exploitation of aquatic living resources. The Code has established principles and standards applicable to the conservation, management and development of all fisheries. Along with many other international agreements and conferences, it has served to highlight the benefits of an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF). EAF is also relevant to inland fisheries and aquaculture but this document focuses on marine capture fisheries

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