COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES
Rome, Italy, 24 -28 February 2003
IMPLEMENTATION OF ECOSYSTEM APPROACH TO FISHERIES MANAGEMENT TO ACHIEVE RESPONSIBLE FISHERIES AND TO RESTORE FISHERIES RESOURCES AND MARINE ENVIRONMENTS
The issue of ecosystem approaches in fisheries management featured prominently in deliberations at the 24th Session of COFI in 2001. COFI welcomed the opportunity to address the subject in the planned Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries and agreed to place greater emphasis on promotion of ecosystem approaches in fisheries management. The Reykjavik Conference was held from 1 to 4 October 2001 and culminated in the adoption of the Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem. In accordance with a request in the Reykjavik Declaration, an Expert Consultation on Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management was held in Reykjavik, Iceland, from 16-19 September 2002 at which preliminary guidelines were developed for an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF), focusing on fisheries management. FAO initiatives in EAF were supported at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August to 4 September 2002, which gave attention to the importance of adopting an ecosystem approach to managing natural resources, including reference to the Reykjavik Declaration. FAO has been engaged in a number of activities centred on EAF in recent years, some of which are summarised in this document. The Committee is invited to suggest ways and means to promote its implementation in the management of the fisheries of FAO Members at national and regional level.
1. The Twenty-fourth Session of COFI in 2001 concluded that more resources should be set aside for several specific areas in relation to the general aim of promoting improvements in global fisheries management.1 One of the areas emphasised was the development of ecosystem approaches to fisheries management. While discussing progress on the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, COFI was informed by the Representative of the Government of Iceland of plans for the Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, scheduled to take place in October 2001. The Conference was being organized jointly by the Government of Iceland and FAO with co-sponsorship by the Government of Norway. The Committee welcomed the opportunity offered by the Reykjavik Conference to address matters related to ecosystem-based management. The Committee also agreed that FAO should conduct studies to encompass characteristics of the interaction between marine mammals and fisheries. At its One Hundred and Twentieth Session, the FAO Council "recommended that the ecosystem-based fisheries management studies to be conducted by FAO, as agreed in paragraph 39 of the report of COFI, should be balanced and holistic in approach".2
2. This document outlines the major activities undertaken by FAO in the field of ecosystem approaches to fisheries subsequent to the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI, and considers some of the implications for an ecosystem approach in fisheries of the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 26 August to 4 September 2002.
THE REYKJAVIK CONFERENCE ON RESPONSIBLE FISHERIES IN THE MARINE ECOSYSTEM
3. The Reykjavik Conference was held from 1 to 4 October 2001. The objectives of the Conference were to gather and review the best available knowledge on marine ecosystem issues, identify means by which ecosystem considerations could be included in capture fisheries management and identify future challenges and strategies. It included a Scientific Symposium where world-renowned scientists gave papers analysing the global issues related to the various aspects of ecosystem-based fisheries management3. The conference was attended by national delegations from 60 countries, including all the leading fisheries nations, by representatives from 21 Intergovernmental Organizations and from 11 Non-governmental Organizations, as well as over 200 scientists.
4. The Conference adopted the Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem.4 Key elements of the Declaration include the following.
5. The Declaration recognised the importance of interactions between fishery resources and all components of the ecosystem, including the environment, and the need to conserve marine environments.
6. The Reykjavik Declaration encouraged FAO to work with appropriate experts from all regions to develop technical guidelines for best practices with regard to introducing ecosystem considerations into fisheries management, for presentation to the Twenty-fifth Session of COFI.
EXPERT CONSULTATION ON ECOSYSTEM-BASED FISHERIES MANAGEMENT
7. Following the request from the Reykjavik Conference, the Fisheries Department considered the possibility of developing the required guidelines before the 25th Session of COFI. Taking into account the very limited practical experience that was available globally and the need to produce guidelines that were as broadly relevant and applicable as possible, it was decided to call an Expert Consultation in order to consult key scientists from different disciplines relevant to the development of the guidelines.
8. The Expert Consultation on Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management was held in Reykjavik, Iceland, from 16-19 September 2002.5 The Consultation was hosted by the Marine Research Institute, Iceland. The objective of the Consultation was to elaborate guidelines for an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF). A total of 17 experts with broad regional coverage and encompassing a range of fields of expertise participated in the meeting, along with three members of the FAO Secretariat.
9. The term "Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries", as used in the title of the Guidelines, implies the introduction of ecosystem considerations into all dimensions of fisheries, not only in fisheries management. The Expert Consultation recognised this fact but, consistent with the request from the Reykjavik Conference, limited its discussion and the guidelines produced to management of capture fisheries, within the framework offered by Article No.7 of the Code and the FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries, No. 4: Fisheries Management (FM). In drafting the guidelines, the Consultation was also cognisant of the relevant provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. In order to ensure continuity and complementarity with the Code, the Consultation used the FM as a starting point, and elaborated on them as necessary to describe the key characteristics and requirements for an ecosystem approach in fisheries management. The administrative report of the Consultation is available as document COFI/2003/Inf.13 and the draft Guidelines are available to interested participants and observers.
10. The draft guidelines reflect considerable progress towards practical guidance in implementation of EAF. However, considering the very scarce practical experience available worldwide, they should be considered as a preliminary version, and further elaboration on some of the issues is required. Some revision and updating might, for instance, be required after the Working Group on Ecosystem Indicators of SCOR (in which FAO collaborates, see para. 15) has completed its work in 2004. Further revisions and clarifications will also certainly become necessary as FAO members gain more experience in implementation of the approach.
11. The draft guidelines are aimed at facilitating and encouraging responsible management and responsible fisheries, taking particular note of the need to consider the whole ecosystem in striving for these goals. They also recognise that in many cases fishery resources have been over-exploited and in some cases depleted. In many fisheries and ecosystems, damage to habitats and the environment has contributed to declines in the fishery resources and in these cases, restoration of the resources will only be possible if critical habitats and other relevant environmental properties are restored as well. The Guidelines discuss this in some depth, pointing to some methods, approaches and controls that can be used in environmental conservation and restoration.
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
12. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002. The implication of the Summit for fisheries is discussed in detail in COFI/2003/Inf.14. The WSSD Plan of Implementation, Section IV "Protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development", includes substantive conclusions and recommendations referring to oceans, seas, islands and coastal areas, and gives attention to the importance of adopting an ecosystem approach to managing the natural resources.
13. Section IV of the WSSD Plan refers to the Reykjavik Declaration, and Decision V/6 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity6, and encourages the application of the ecosystem approach by 2010. It also calls for promotion of `integrated, multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral coastal and ocean management' and recommends strengthening regional cooperation between the relevant regional organisations and programmes, including the regional fisheries management organisations (para. 29). Referring specifically to actions required to promote sustainable fisheries, the Plan emphasises the importance of developing `diverse approaches and tools, including the ecosystem approach...' and stresses the importance of maintaining productivity and biodiversity of marine and coastal areas, including protection of the marine environment from land-based activities (para. 30).
14. A major agreement arising from the Summit is that all fish stocks will be maintained at the levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield or, in the case of depleted stocks, restored to these levels by 2015 (para. 30(a)). This resolution reflects the integral link between the maintenance of ecosystem functioning and the restoration of fisheries resources. In many cases restoration of fishery resources will only be possible if critical habitats and environments are also restored.
15. The elements of most of the recommendations concerning fisheries in Section IV of the WSSD Plan of Action have been addressed in the draft guidelines on The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries prepared at the FAO Expert Consultation in 2002. However, these guidelines were intentionally targeted at fisheries management and not at coastal zone management. They therefore include guidance to the fisheries manager on possible impacts on the coastal zone and marine environment from users outside the fisheries sector, and recommend that these impacts must be taken into account and addressed in fisheries management. However, they do not go into detail on management of these other sectors and are not intended as guidelines for coastal zone management7.
OTHER FAO ACTIVITIES ADDRESSING ECOSYSTEM APPROACHES IN FISHERIES
16. While not explicitly referring to an ecosystem approach, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries includes most of the important principles and practices of an ecosystem approach to fisheries, mainly in Article No.7 but also in Articles No. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. As a result, many FAO activities have already been promoting key aspects of the ecosystem approach to fisheries. Nevertheless, some activities have been doing so in a more explicit manner. The following can be highlighted as being targeted directly at the implementation of the approach.
17. The Committee is invited to consider the progress being made within the FAO Programme in facilitating the implementation of an ecosystem approach in fisheries and to comment on it as appropriate. In particular, the Committee might suggest ways and means to promote its implementation in the management of the fisheries of FAO members at the national and regional levels.
1 Report of the 24th Session of COFI, Rome, 26 February-2nd March 2001 2001, paragraph 115.
2 Report of the Hundred and Twentieth Session of the FAO Council, June 2001, paragraph 11.
3 The documents from the Conference, including the presentations by the invited speakers, can be found at ftp://ftp.fao.org/fi/document/reykjavik/default.htm.
4 Copies of the Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem are made available at the Session.
5 Extra-budgetary resources were provided by Australia, Canada, EU, Iceland, New Zealand, the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the United States of America to supplement the limited funds available from the Regular Programme.
6 Decision V/6 of the the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity deals specifically with the "Ecosystem approach' and includes recommendations, a description of the ecosystem approach, suggested principles of the ecosystem approach, and operational guidance for application of the ecosystem approach.
7 However, FAO has prepared guidelines on this topic: "FAO Guidelines. Integrated coastal area management and agriculture, forestry and fisheries. FAO, Rome. 1998. 256pp."
8 See http://www.ecopath.org/nofish.htm