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* Read on behalf of Mr Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director-General, FAO Fisheries Department, by Dr Serge Garcia, Director, Fishery Resources Division, FAO Fisheries Department.

Dr Stephen Hall, Director-General of the WorldFish Center, Representatives of international fisheries research and development agencies, Distinguished colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning!

Allow me first, on behalf of the FAO Fisheries Department and the FAO FishCode Programme to welcome you to Rome and to thank you and your respective organizations for accepting the invitation to participate in this Workshop on Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Assessment of Small-Scale Fisheries.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

While there is often very little precise information about the real contribution of small-scale fisheries to livelihoods and economies in developing countries, and although many small-scale fishing communities are poor and vulnerable, it is now widely acknowledged that they can generate significant profits, prove resilient to shocks and crises, and make meaningful contributions to poverty alleviation and food security. In addition, while it is true that small-scale fisheries can overexploit stocks, harm the environment, and may generate only marginal profit levels, in some cases they may have significant comparative advantages over industrial fisheries in terms of:

As other Workshop speakers will be emphasizing in their presentations this morning, small-scale fisheries play a vital role in contributing to livelihoods and economies in developing countries. They are thus a critical lever point to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and particularly those bearing on the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and on ensuring environmental sustainability.

The importance of small-scale fisheries to food security and poverty alleviation was recognized by the twenty-fifth session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries in 2003. COFI noted that small-scale fishing communities are faced with an array of serious problems, including overexploitation and depletion of resources, lack of alternative sources of employment, rapid population growth, migration of populations, displacement in coastal areas due to industrial development and tourism, pollution and environmental degradation and conflicts with large commercial fishing operations.

The twenty-fifth session of COFI further underlined the need for better understanding of the nature, extent, and causes of vulnerability and poverty among small-scale fishers and for improving the information base and monitoring approaches in order better to determine the contribution of the sector. The research agenda proposed at the 2003 COFI meeting marks an important shift in approach that can lead to more effective development strategies for small-scale fisheries. In response, FAO has developed Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries Technical Guidelines for Enhancing the Contribution of Small-Scale Fisheries to Poverty Alleviation and Food Security . The draft Small-Scale Fisheries or SSF Guidelines were made available for review and comments by COFI during its twenty-sixth session in March 2005, and the final document is now being prepared for publication.

The FAO Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries , or Strategy STF, adopted by COFI at its twenty-fifth session, also recognizes the importance of small-scale fisheries and the fact that they are generally not well monitored, particularly in developing countries. Historically, the lack of systematic information on the role of small-scale fisheries has contributed to a lack of attention from a policy and management perspective. Indeed, national fisheries policies and development strategies commonly ignore small-scale fisheries issues, or even encourage practices that are detrimental to this sector.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The FAO FishCode Programme through its Strategy STF Project and the WorldFish Center are developing a joint programme on “Approaches to the Interdisciplinary Assessment of Small-Scale Fisheries and their Role in Food Security, Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Resource Use”.

Its main objective is to strengthen the capacity of individuals and institutions within developing countries in SSF assessment. For FAO, particular emphasis will be placed on the need for assessments to take into our related Guidelines and also to contribute to implementation of the Strategy STF, by helping to ensure that improved information systems more accurately reflect SSF contributions. I have no doubts that WorldFish and other possible partners will have similar and compatible aims.

This Workshop is a first activity under the FishCode/WorldFish collaboration for SSF Assessment. Your agenda calls:

First, for deliberations on a draft framework for the interdisciplinary assessment of small-scale fisheries;

Second, for the identification of appropriate approaches, methods and research needs; and

Finally, for the elaboration of an implementation strategy for the joint programme, and for steps towards mobilization of necessary commitments and resources to put it in motion.

Your agenda is therefore full and ambitious, and I do not wish to delay its engagement with any further remarks, except to express my confidence that, given your collective commitment and wealth of experience as small-scale fisheries advisors and advocates, it will yield most fruitful outcomes.

Thank you.

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