One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Session
Rome, 22-27 November 2004
PREPARATIONS FOR THE
1. At the Thirty-second Session of the FAO Conference held from 29 November to 9 December 2003, several members noted the adverse trends in world fisheries and their negative impact on livelihoods and food security. A number of Members stressed the need for full implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) and other relevant international instruments and for addressing the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries (IUU). Accordingly, the FAO Conference at the same session, requested the Director-General of FAO to convene high-level meetings, preferably at the Ministerial level, to address the issues and consider the effectiveness of international arrangements dealing with them.
2. Acting on the request of the Conference, the Director-General, in his communication of 1 June 2004, notified all Members of FAO of his intention to convene at FAO Headquarters a Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries on Saturday, 12 March 2005.
3. To date, FAO has convened two ministerial meetings on fisheries, the first in 1995 and the second in 1999. These meetings made significant contributions to shaping the debates and policies in international fisheries. The Ministerial Meeting on fisheries, in March 1995, reviewed the state of the world fisheries and the FAO follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Fisheries. The outcome contributed in shaping the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which was unanimously adopted by the Conference in October 1995. The second Ministerial Meeting discussed, inter alia, how to adjust fishing capacity to the state and characteristics of stocks, and sustainable aquaculture development, both in the framework of the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Meeting further provided policy guidance for the work of FAO in fisheries in the context of the “FAO Strategic Framework for the years 2000-2015” that was then in preparation. Convening ministerial meetings in conjunction with sessions of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) proved to be of mutual benefit.
4. The Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries will be held on 12 March 2005 immediately after the Twenty-sixth Session of the Committee on Fisheries, which will take place from 07 to 11 March 2005. It will provide an excellent opportunity to maintain high-level international dialogue on the responsible management of the world’s fisheries resources. Its juxtaposition with the Committee on Fisheries will allow the Ministers to review the recommendations from COFI and contemplate how they could be implemented at regional and national levels.
5. The suggested theme for the Ministerial Meeting is: “Combating IUU-Fishing and Promotion of Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) as Key Components in the Sustainable Development of Fisheries”.
6. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing is a major impediment to the achievement of long-term sustainable fisheries as called for, inter alia, in Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the UN Millennium Development Goals, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the International Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU) adopted by the FAO Committee on Fisheries in 2001.
7. Monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities is a key tool in combating IUU fishing. While traditional methods of MCS remain valid, newer technologies have been rapidly adopted and the secure and reliable telephone networks offered by satellite communication have been used for vessel monitoring systems (VMS). VMS is mandatory in many major fisheries and its use is rapidly expanding on both developed and developing countries. Other new concepts in MCS as a toll in combating IUU fishing include catch certification and trade documentation schemes, satellite surveillance (radar and the visual spectrum), and electronic logbooks. These new technologies also provide the opportunity to implement real-time fisheries management measures.
8. Significant progress has been made in promoting MCS as an integral and key component for the implementation of fisheries management plans, and to combat IUU fishing. However, it is evident that a lot is yet to be done as clearly stated by the FAO Conference at its Thirty-second Session in 2003. Ministers will therefore have the opportunity to make key recommendations leading to enhanced international cooperation in fisheries management, including, in particular, the promotion of MCS as integral and key components for the implementation of fisheries management plans; chart a future course of action to combat IUU-Fishing; and increasing the contribution of fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security. It is also anticipated that the Ministerial Meeting would generate political will and serve to mobilize financial resources needed to ensure effective use of MCS and supporting management tools for the elimination of IUU-Fishing.
9. Background documentation prepared by the FAO Secretariat will be made available to countries to assist them in their deliberations, both at the Twenty-sixth Session of COFI and the Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries.