COFI/2003/7






COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES

Twenty-fifth Session

Rome, Italy, 24-28 February 2003

OUTCOME OF THE TECHNICAL CONSULTATION ON IMPROVING INFORMATION ON THE STATUS AND TRENDS OF CAPTURE FISHERIES

SUMMARY

This document contains the Draft Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries, the outcome of the Technical Consultation held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, from 25 to 28 March 2002, on the basis of the request formulated by the Twenty-fourth Session of the Committee on Fisheries. The Committee is invited to review the Draft Strategy, and if adopted, to recommend its submission to the FAO Council for approval.

INTRODUCTION

1. The Twenty-fourth session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) considered a proposal for improving reporting on the status and trends of fisheries. The Committee unanimously recognized that information on the status and trends of fisheries is fundamental to the mandate of FAO1.

2. The Committee also recognized shortcomings in reporting of information on status and trends of fisheries and, in particular, highlighted problems of data quality. While noting that collection of fisheries data is a national responsibility, the Committee made specific mention of the need to pay more attention to multi-species and small-scale fisheries, which are prevalent in tropical developing countries.

3. The need for all States to have an opportunity to shape future initiatives to improve information on the status and trends of fisheries was emphasized by the Committee. To this effect, the Committee recommended that a technical consultation be called by FAO to consider how fishery status and trends reporting could be improved effectively, including the possible development of an International Plan of Action. It stated that particular attention should be given to the needs of developing countries for capacity building. The Committee agreed that the proposals elaborated by the Technical Consultation should be presented to the Committee at its Twenty-fifth Session2.

ORGANIZATION AND OUTPUT OF THE TECHNICAL CONSULTATION

4. The Technical Consultation on Improving Information on the Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries was held at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy, from 25 to 28 March 20023. It was attended by 60 Members of FAO and by observers.

5. The Technical Consultation addressed the issue of improving information on the status and trends of capture fisheries in four stages: (a) the general perspectives of delegates on the overall issue; (b) discussion and agreement on the required actions and mechanisms for promotion and implementation; (c) discussion and agreement on the nature of the instrument to be used; and (d) consideration of the revised proposal for a strategy.

6. The Technical Consultation agreed that its discussion on the subject would not include aquaculture because aquaculture has distinctive requirements that need to be addressed specifically for this increasingly important sector. A further consideration was that standards and procedures for data collection and exchange were further developed for capture fisheries than for aquaculture and so it was pragmatic to start with what was already in place, and build on it4.

7. The Technical Consultation expressed the view that the issue of improving information on the status and trends of capture fisheries should have a high priority with regard to implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

8. The Consultation felt that improving information on the status and trends of fisheries is a broad topic that applies to a wide range of issues, and for a longer term, and that it was necessary to have an instrument that took into account the provisions of other instruments, including the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. In this regard, it agreed that a Strategy was a more appropriate instrument than an International Plan of Action, as originally proposed, because a Strategy sets forth objectives, policies, programmes, actions and decisions that define who will do what and why. Briefly, the Strategy could be seen as the course of action to achieve defined objectives. It is both partly planned and partly reactive to changing circumstances. The Consultation expressed the view that a Strategy could be used as a foundation for IPOAs and other policy instruments and that it clearly establishes an ongoing commitment at national, regional and global levels.

9. The Technical Consultation agreed on a Draft Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries given in Annex 1, and requested that, in conformity with the instructions of COFI, the Draft Strategy be presented to the Twenty-fifth Session of the Committee on Fisheries for consideration and, as appropriate, for adoption.

10. The Consultation also recognized that it would be necessary for FAO and FAO Members to elaborate programmes to implement the Strategy and suggested that COFI identify approaches to ensure the effective implementation of this Strategy. In this regard, Annex 2 attached to the present document provides an outline of a project proposal under the FishCode Programme for implementation of the Strategy and for which donor support will be sought.

11. The importance of information on the status and trends of capture fisheries and the need to improve information on status and trends is summarized in Annex 3.

MAIN COMPONENTS OF THE DRAFT STRATEGY

12. The Draft Strategy is a key to sound policy making and responsible fisheries management (paragraphs 1 to 5)5; it has been elaborated within the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (paragraphs 6 to 8); it is global in scope and is designed to cover all capture fisheries in inland and marine waters, including all industrial, commercial, subsistence and recreational fisheries, but does not apply to aquaculture (paragraphs 9 to 11); and the Draft Strategy is founded on sound principles (paragraphs 16-22).

13. The overall objective of the Strategy is to provide a framework for the improvement of knowledge and understanding of fishery status and trends as a basis for fisheries policy-making and management for the conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources within ecosystems (paragraphs 12 to 15).

14. The Draft Strategy also specifies actions required in the following nine areas :

∑ Need for capacity-building6 in developing countries (paragraph 23);
∑ Data collection systems in small-scale fisheries and multispecies fisheries (paragraphs 24 to 28);
∑ Expanding the scope of information on status and trends of fisheries (paragraphs 29 to 31);
∑ Global inventory of fish stocks and fisheries (paragraphs 32 to 34);
∑ FIGIS participation, structuring and capacity-building (paragraphs 35 to 38);
∑ Development of criteria and methods for ensuring information quality and security (paragraphs 39 and 40);

∑ Development of arrangements for the provision and exchange of information (paragraph 41);

∑ The role of working groups in assessing the status and trends of fisheries (paragraphs 42 to 44);

∑ Sustaining data collection, information on the status and trend of fisheries (paragraph 45).

SUGGESTED ACTION BY THE COMMITTEE

15. The Committee is invited to review the outcome of the Technical Consultation on Improving Information on the Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries, in particular its Draft Strategy, and, if approved, to recommend to the FAO Council, approval of the Strategy.

16. The Committee may also wish to consider implementation of the Strategy through the elaboration of programmes by FAO and FAO Members as well as other interested organizations/parties, as suggested by the Technical Consultation (paragraph 11 above).

ANNEX 1

DRAFT STRATEGY FOR IMPROVING INFORMATION ON STATUS AND TRENDS OF CAPTURE FISHERIES

PART 1: INTRODUCTION

1. Knowledge of the status and trends of capture fisheries and fishery resources, including socio-economic aspects, is a key to sound policy-making and responsible fisheries management. It is necessary at the national level for the maintenance of food security and for describing social and economic benefits of fisheries. Fisheries policy-making and management is a dynamic interdisciplinary process that needs to take account of the status and trends of fisheries. Information on the status and trends of fisheries is also essential for assessing the validity of fisheries policy and for tracking the performance of fisheries management.

2. There is a high level of public interest for information on the status and trends of fisheries. More accurate and timely information should result in a better-informed public that supports efforts to manage fisheries in a responsible manner. Disseminating timely and readily understandable information on the status and trends of fisheries should help to ensure transparency in fisheries management, as called for by the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Paragraphs 6.13 and 7.1.9).

3. Application of the precautionary approach, based on the best scientific evidence available, is a key element of efforts to achieve responsible fisheries. This requires making information on the status and trends of fisheries available in a manner that supports policy making and fisheries management.

4. Information on the status and trends of fisheries is either needed for, or consistent with, many international instruments concerning fisheries, including:

5. The Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries was approved by consensus at the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) on _________. It may be referred to as the FAO Status and Trends Strategy.

PART 2: NATURE AND SCOPE
Nature of the Strategy

6. This Strategy has been elaborated within the framework of the Code of Conduct, as envisaged by Article 2 (d) and (e). The provisions of Article 3 of the Code of Conduct apply to the interpretation and application of this document and its relationship with other instruments. All concerned Members and non-members of FAO and fishing entities are encouraged to support its implementation.

7. This Strategy applies to the assembly and dissemination of information on the status and trends of fisheries. Data collection and research needs for monitoring the status and trends of fisheries are established by other international instruments, such as those noted in Paragraph 4 and existing obligations of States to report fisheries statistics to FAO under Article XI of the FAO Constitution. While this Strategy does not establish new legal obligations, it does propose to significantly invigorate data collection and research and it provides impetus for fulfilling those that already exist. This impetus should include additional support from relevant international organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and financial institutions (development partner agencies) for capacity building in developing countries.

8. In this Strategy, the reference to States includes the European Community in matters within its competence.

Scope of the Strategy

9. The Strategy is global in scope and is designed to cover all capture fisheries in inland and marine waters, including all industrial, commercial, subsistence and recreational fisheries. It includes issues concerning species introductions (deliberate or unintentional), wild stock enhancement, wild fish destined for on-growing or fattening in captivity, and stock recovery.

10. The Strategy does not apply to aquaculture because aquaculture has distinctive requirements that need to be addressed specifically for this increasingly important sector.

11. The main focus of the Strategy is on information concerning the fishery resources and the primary fisheries sector, including socio-economic information.

PART 3: OBJECTIVE

12. The overall objective of the Strategy is to provide a framework for the improvement of knowledge and understanding of fishery status and trends as a basis for fisheries policy-making and management for the conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources within ecosystems.

13. The Strategy will be implemented through arrangements between States, directly or through their participation of regional fishery organizations, and FAO working cooperatively to assemble information on the status and trends of fisheries, and using modern information technology to manage and disseminate it. These arrangements should be established at various geographic scales, ranging from local, to national, to regional, and they should be linked to form a global system under the auspices of FAO. Wherever, and whenever, possible, existing organizations should be used as the basis of the arrangements.

14. Global efforts to assemble and disseminate comprehensive information (e.g., through the FAO Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS)) on the status and trends of fisheries are currently hindered because a complete inventory of the fisheries and fish stocks of the world does not exist. A key element of the Strategy is to prepare such inventories, which would be implemented in FIGIS.

15. Consistent with Article 5 of the Code of Conduct, the capacity of developing countries should be duly taken into account in implementing the Strategy. The capacity of developing countries, particularly the least-developed among them, small island States, and countries whose data collection systems are in a critical condition, needs to be greatly enhanced so that they can fulfil existing commitments to collect fisheries statistics and to conduct fisheries research, thus allowing them to more fully participate in the Strategy.

PART 4: GUIDING PRINCIPLES

16. The arrangements for implementation of this Strategy should be based on the six guiding principles highlighted in the paragraphs that follow.

Sustainability

17. Arrangements for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries should be viable in the long term. As a consequence: (1) adequate funding should be provided at the national, regional and global levels, taking into account the resources available to countries, regional fishery bodies and FAO; and (2) the programme should consider the particular needs of developing countries which may require large investments in training and capacity building, to facilitate the formulation of appropriate national programmes or strategies.

Best Scientific Evidence

18. Arrangements for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries should contribute to the best scientific evidence available. Protocols for assuring the quality of scientific information should be applied wherever and whenever practicable and appropriate. Such protocols should take account of the need to consider knowledge of participants in the fisheries, as well as traditional knowledge.

Participation and cooperation

19. Arrangements for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries should adopt mechanisms for inclusion of all relevant participants in the preparation, analysis and presentation of fishery information. Relevant participants may include, inter alia, fishers, industry representatives, non-governmental organizations. States should, in accordance with international law, cooperate with other States in developing and maintaining such fishery information, as appropriate, either directly, or through appropriate intergovernmental organizations, including regional fishery bodies. States should provide feedback on the status and trends of fisheries to all relevant participants.

Objectivity and Transparency

20. Arrangements for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries should contribute to providing the best scientific evidence available (Paragraph 18), and to transparency, in support of Article 6.13 of the Code of Conduct, while respecting any confidentiality requirements. Uncertainty associated with status and trends information should be expressed.

Timeliness

21. Arrangements for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries should result in information being provided in a timely manner.

Flexibility

22. Arrangements for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries should be flexible enough to permit adjustments as necessary to ensure that they effectively support fishery policy-making and management through the provision of appropriate information.

PART 5: REQUIRED ACTIONS

Need for capacity-building in developing countries

23. States, relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and financial institutions, should address developing country needs for financial and technical assistance, technology transfer, training and scientific cooperation, in order to build capacity to implement cost-effective and sustainable fishery data collection, data processing, analysis and reporting, and exchange information. Capacity building is necessary to fulfil national needs, the needs of regional fishery bodies and arrangements, existing obligations for reporting fisheries data to FAO, and so that developing countries can more fully participate in, and benefit from, the Strategy.

Data collection systems in small-scale fisheries and multispecies fisheries

24. States, relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and financial institutions should recognize that many small-scale fisheries and multi-species fisheries, particularly in developing countries, are not well monitored and awareness needs to be raised on the importance of monitoring these fisheries. They are probably underestimated and therefore underrepresented in current fisheries status and trends information, and consequently they are not adequately considered in the development of plans and policies for fisheries.

25. States should, with support from development partner agencies and assistance from FAO, where necessary, enhance their capacities to collect data to ensure that the coverage of fisheries information is as complete as possible and covers all sectors, in particular the data necessary to evaluate small-scale and multi-species fisheries.

26. States should participate in and support the development of cost-effective methods for acquiring and validating data on small-scale and multispecies fisheries, including rapid appraisal methodologies and other approaches for data-poor situations and participatory processes that closely associate the fishers and their organizations to the data collection schemes. Regular surveys at appropriate frequencies rather than continuous monitoring may be more feasible, particularly for some inland and small-scale fisheries.

27. States should cooperate through their regional fishery organizations and regional programmes, if necessary with the cooperation of FAO, to develop and adopt effective and pragmatic standards and systems for data collection, which should be compatible with FAO systems.

28. FAO, with support from member States and development partner agencies, should address the special data collection and assessment needs for small-scale and multispecies fisheries, including the use of meetings of experts to develop innovative approaches and guidelines.

Expanding the scope of information on status and trends of fisheries, including the need to incorporate ecosystem considerations into fisheries management

29. States should approach the implementation of the Code of Conduct, in particular as this relates to Article 7 (Fisheries Management), especially Article 7.4.2 and Article 12 (Fisheries Research), by consideration of ways to expand the scope of status and trends reporting to meet the responsibilities recommended therein for research and the dissemination of information on the effects of climatic, environmental and socio-economic factors on fishery conservation and management.

30. States, directly or through participation in regional fisheries organizations, should consider broadening the collection of information on the status and trends of fisheries to support further development of fisheries management incorporating ecosystem considerations.

31. FAO, with support of Members, and with full participation of regional fishery organizations should further address the issue of indicators of sustainable development, as a follow-up to the Australia-FAO Technical Consultation on Sustainability Indicators in Marine Capture Fisheries (Sydney, Australia, January 1999).

Global inventory of fish stocks and fisheries

32. States should participate in, or support coordinated efforts for the compilation of a global inventory of fisheries and fish stocks (biological management units) or stock-complexes as a basis to improve the completeness of available information on the status and trends of fisheries and for inclusion in FIGIS.

33. As a first step towards development of the inventory, States should collaborate with FAO to develop the definitions, form, content, methods and implementation (including the definition and allocation of responsibilities and the estimation of costs) of a programme for the compilation of a global inventory of fisheries and fish stocks (or stock-complexes), noting the requirements for, and coordinating efforts with, the actions being undertaken through IPOAs.

34. FAO, with support of its Members, either directly or through regional fishery organizations, should consider establishing a process for scientific oversight of fishery status and trends information, including the global inventory of fish stocks and fisheries, the global reviews of fishery status and trends prepared for the biennial State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) and the ongoing FAO submissions to the Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS).

FIGIS participation, structuring and capacity-building

35. States should support, both directly or through participation in regional fisheries organizations, development of Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS), by:

36. States should, either directly or through their participation in regional fisheries organizations, provide FIGIS with the best scientific information available. The assurance of information quality could be established by review processes at the national or regional level.

37. States should support FAO and other FIGIS partners, as appropriate, in the organization of and participation in pilot projects and workshops, to further develop and implement FIGIS, to develop training materials, and to conduct training.

38. FAO should continue to develop FIGIS, using modern information and communication technology, as a partnership between FAO, regional fisheries organizations, and national organizations, and other organizations that can make a positive contribution to the System.

Development of criteria and methods for ensuring information quality and security

39. States should participate in the development of criteria and methods to ensure information quality and security for the purposes of best scientific evidence, in accordance with internationally agreed standards and practices, through mechanisms for data verification, and in a manner consistent with applicable confidentiality requirements. States should apply the agreed criteria and methods.

40. FAO, with support of, and participation by, Members should facilitate the development of practical guidelines for quality assurance, transparency and security of fishery information.

Development of arrangements for the provision and exchange of information

41. States, directly or through their participation in regional fisheries organizations, should seek and agree on arrangements to facilitate the provision and exchange of information on the status and trends of fisheries with FAO, as appropriate. These arrangements should address the roles and entitlements of the partners, including in relation to information quality, transparency and confidentiality.

The role of working groups in assessing the status and trends of fisheries

42. Working groups composed of fishery experts and set up by countries or regional fishery organizations that meet to assess the status and trends of fish stocks and fisheries and which conduct their work according to terms of reference which specify the scope of their activities, are an important mechanism for enhancing the quality and transparency of scientific information. They can also provide important opportunities for capacity building.

43. States, directly or through participation in regional fisheries organizations in their respective jurisdictions and regional programmes, should formalize arrangements for working groups to analyse fisheries data and fish stocks information towards the evaluation of their status and trends. The periodicity of these working group meetings would depend on available human and financial resources and the nature of the fisheries and the fish stocks concerned.

44. States and development partner agencies should work with FAO to ensure the participation of fishery experts from around the world in working groups, particularly where these working groups contribute to capacity building in developing countries. The TCDC and other FAO programmes could be used for this purpose.

Sustaining data collection, information on the status and trend of fisheries

45. States should monitor their systems for data collection, analysis and reporting. States should ensure the sustainability of these systems to meet the needs of fishery policy making and management and the agreed requirements of regional fishery organizations and FAO and take corrective actions as appropriate.

PART 6: PROMOTION AND IMPLEMENTATION MECHANISMS

General call for improving information on the status and trends of fisheries

46. States, regional fishery bodies and international institutions should develop and implement mechanisms for the improvement of fisheries information, the application of research to enhance the availability of best scientific evidence, and the adoption of a continuing process for the enrichment of fishery status and trends information to support conservation, management and sustainable use of fishery resources at local, regional and global levels.

The role of States

47. States should evaluate the actions they need to take to improve information on the status and trends of fisheries, address these needs on a priority basis, and report on the improvements they make, as part of their biennial report to FAO on the Code of Conduct.

The role of regional fishery organizations

48. Regional fishery bodies, within the limits defined by their conventions and to the extent mandated by their members, should participate in the implementation of this Strategy, by providing support to their members, participating in global programmes and decisions on the development and adoption of standards and guidelines for information on the status and trends fisheries, becoming a partner in FIGIS.

The role of FAO

49. FAO will, as and to the extent directed by its Conference, and as part of its Regular and Field Programme activities, support States and regional fishery bodies in the implementation of this Strategy.

50. FAO will, as and to the extent directed by its Conference, support member States’ implementation of this Strategy, through in-country technical assistance projects using Regular Programme funds and by use of extra-budgetary funds made available to the Organization for this purpose. For better conservation and management of fishery resources, FAO should prepare a specific programme for establishing effective and sustainable systems for data collection, processing and analysis in developing countries, including in particular the least-developed among them.

51. FAO will, through COFI, report biennially on the state of progress in the implementation of the Strategy.

Role of development partner agencies and non-governmental organizations

52. International and national development partner agencies, should give priority to the provision of financial and technical assistance to developing countries, in particular the least-developed among them and small island developing states, and countries whose data collection systems are in a critical condition, for capacity building and information system development, as necessary for implementation of this Strategy.

53. Non-governmental organizations (national, regional and international) concerned with fisheries, fisher-folk and the aquatic environment and research into these, should encourage implementation of the Strategy through appropriate support, information methods development and capacity building and participation.

ANNEX 2

SUMMARY OF DRAFT PROJECT DOCUMENT: IMPROVING COLLECTION AND PROCESSING OF DATA AND INFORMATION ON THE STATUS AND TRENDS OF CAPTURE FISHERIES

BACKGROUND

1. Data and information for many capture fisheries are of such poor quality that it is difficult to draw reliable conclusions from them. Therefore, it is necessary to improve statistical and other data collection and status and trends reporting systems throughout the world in order to empower fishery policy makers and managers in each country.
2. The overall objective of the Draft Strategy (Annex 1) is to provide a framework for such improvement to facilitate fisheries policy making and management for the conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources within ecosystems. The required actions are listed in Annex 1, Part 5. The draft Project Document is based on the required actions, and its outputs are contributions to solve the problems.

DRAFT PROJECT DOCUMENT

3. The Project addresses the improvement of collection, processing and use of data and information on the status and trends of capture fisheries. It is part of the FishCode Programme “Assistance to Developing Countries for the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries”. The project duration is five years, for which a total Trust Fund budget of about US$5,700,000 is required
4. The immediate objectives of the Project are as follows.

5. Project activities will be delivered through the implementation of two overlapping components.
Component 1: Development of Inventories, Methodologies and Operational Guidelines
6. This component (about 3 years, US$ 1 million) covers the creation of methodological descriptions of fishery statistical and data collection systems used by all countries and regional fisheries bodies. The exercise is intended to obtain a complete picture of all systems in use and all stocks or management units monitored, so as to identify gaps in monitoring and, crucially, to assess the quality of the systems used. It will also identify the improvements and training required in developing countries that are to be addressed under Component 2.
7. Component 1 activities will be normative and global in nature, involving desk studies, questionnaires and expert consultations as well as data collection and verification missions by consultants over a three period. It is foreseen that FAO Regular Programme staff will be deeply involved in overseeing these activities, which should lead to a number of publications, computer programs and training materials.

Component 2: Field Training and Implementation

8. Component 2 (about 4 years, US$ 4.7 million) aims at substantial improvement in collection and processing of fisheries statistics and other data and information on capture fisheries for selected developing countries. The main purpose is to obtain better data for policy-making and fisheries management at national level, and at regional level in the cases of stocks shared with neighbouring countries. Improvements in reporting to FAO and other agencies would be an important secondary benefit.
9. Component 2 covers capacity building at all levels, and implementation of improved or new statistical and other data collection and processing systems in a number of selected countries. There is also a need for improved interaction between fishery statisticians, fisheries analysts, socio-economists and fish stock assessment experts. The Project should facilitate this interaction.
10. Beneficiary States will be selected from developing countries with substantial capture fisheries, either inland or marine, that have a potential of becoming an example for other countries in similar situations. Training will initially be based on existing material (guidelines, manuals, computer programs), but gradually this lecture material may be modified, building on knowledge gained through the execution of Component 1. The basic approach will be first to train regional teams of trainers by language group, and then to provide Project support at national and/or sub-regional level for courses to larger numbers of national staff.

Institutional Arrangements

11. FAO will work primarily with national administrations in implementing the Project, in particular the departments and institutes responsible for fisheries statistics and information and for the maintenance of registries important for fishery policy making and management. Where appropriate, FAO will seek partnerships with regional organizations as a means of facilitating prompt and efficient implementation of the Project, particularly in situations where more States are involved.
12. Considering the magnitude of the problem, the Project should be seen as a driving force that may pass its programme on to other organizations and projects for execution of training and other activities. In particular, it is intended to propose a parallel project under FishCode for fisheries management training. Close coordination is also envisaged with other elements of the FishCode Programme and additional fisheries projects executed by FAO or other agencies.

Government Inputs

13. All Member States of FAO will be expected to complete questionnaires issued by the Project on behalf of FAO.
14. Beneficiary States will be expected to provide various commitments ranging from support to Project staff to the provision of personnel to assist in carrying out studies, the collection of information and data required for studies, office accommodation, transportation and other logistical support, etc.

ANNEX 3

IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION ON STATUS AND TRENDS
OF CAPTURE FISHERIES AND THE NEED TO IMPROVE
INFORMATION ON STATUS AND TRENDS

IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION ON STATUS AND TRENDS OF CAPTURE FISHERIES

1. Objective, reliable and credible information on the status and trends of capture fisheries is the foundation of policy development for fisheries, and of fisheries management actions. There are many legal instruments that require such information, including the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and recently adopted FAO International Plans of Action.

2. For decades, the FAO Secretariat has compiled information on the status and trends of fisheries, and such reports have been received by COFI with great interest. Similar reports are prepared by some countries, and by regional fisheries bodies, for the fisheries under their jurisdictions.

3. Information on the status and trends of fisheries has, in part, stimulated important initiatives to make fisheries more responsible. For example, concerns about clear signs of over-exploitation of important fish stocks prompted COFI to undertake preparation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (See Annex 1, Paragraph 2 of the Code). Similarly, concerns about excess fishing capacity prompted COFI to undertake preparation of an International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity (See Paragraphs 1 and 3 of the Plan). COFI was responding to evidence of over-exploitation and excess capacity contained in reports on the status and trends of fisheries, and related documents.

4 At the national and regional level, information on the status and trends of fisheries has also stimulated important initiatives to make fisheries more responsible.

5. Some of the uses of information on the status and trends of fisheries at the national and regional levels, are to:

6. Information on the status and trends of fisheries is of great interest to the news media and the public. Ultimately, fishery policy makers and fisheries managers must be responsive to public opinion, which is shaped by information on the status and trends of fisheries. Therefore, it is critically important that such information be objective, reliable, understandable, and as complete as possible.

NEED TO IMPROVE INFORMATION ON STATUS AND TRENDS

7. Some of the issues that may raise concern about the current approach for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries and which can be much improved include transparency, quality assurance, credibility, comprehensiveness, scope of information, and partnerships between organizations and scientists at the local, national and regional levels which could make valuable contributions on the status and trends of fisheries.

8. Ultimately, information on status and trends of fisheries, at the local, national, regional, and global levels, depends on the quality of the data and assessments that are available for individual fisheries or resources. The needs, and responsibility, for collecting data and conducting assessments of resource status are articulated in many instruments, including national legislation in most countries, the conventions of regional fisheries bodies, other international instruments such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the FAO Constitution requires FAO Members to provide to the Secretariat certain statistical, technical and other information.

9. However, there are problems of data quality in many countries and regions, and many stocks are not assessed. Needs for data and assessments are most problematic for developing countries, particularly the least developed among them, because of inadequate financial and technical resources.

10. Problems with data quality and assessments should be addressed by renewed commitment to fulfill existing instruments that articulate the needs. Developing countries require financial and technical assistance for capacity building so that they can fulfill their own needs, as well as contribute to regional and global information on the status and trends of fisheries.


1 Paragraph 75 of the Report of the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI.

2 Paragraph 81 of the Report of the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI.

3 FAO Fisheries Report/FAO Rapport sur les pÍches/FAO Informe de Pesca, No. 680. Rome/Roma, FAO. 2002. 75 p.

4 The COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture, at its First Session, Beijing, China, 18-22 April 2002, identified, as a priority activity, the establishment of unified standards and guidelines for data collection and clearer definition of the terminologies used in the aquaculture sector. Report of the First Session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture, paragraph 51 (iv).

5 Paragraph references are to the Draft Strategy in Annex 1.

6 The term “capacity building” here means strengthening human and institutional capabilities.