FAO Fisheries Department - Committee on Fisheries
January 1997 COFI/97/3


Twenty-second Session
Rome, Italy 17-20 March 1997


1.    Article 4 of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries states that Members and non-Members of FAO, fishing entities and relevant sub-regional, regional and global organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and all persons concerned with the conservation, management and utilization of fisheries resources and trade in fish and fishery products should collaborate in the fulfilment and implementation of the objectives and principles contained in the Code.

2.    In adopting the Code at its Twenty-eighth session in 1995, the FAO Conference called upon FAO "to monitor and report on the implementation of the Code and its effects on fisheries, including action taken under other instruments and resolutions by UN organizations, and in particular, the resolution adopted by the General Assembly to give effect to the Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks leading to the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks". It further called on States, international organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and all those involved in fisheries "to collaborate in the fulfilment and implementation of the objectives and principles contained in the Code" (Resolution 4/95).


3.     A substantial part of the activities included in the Programme of Work and Budget (PWB) for Major Programme "Fisheries" for the current and next biennium, as well as for the Medium Term Plan is devoted to supporting the implementation of the Code and other relevant international instruments, as requested in Resolution 4/95. Emphasis is given to strengtheningthe capacity of countries to conserve and better manage their fisheries through appropriate policies and practices such as responsible development of aquaculture, fishing operations, post-harvest practices and trade, the integration of fisheries into coastal area management, the implementation of the precautionary approach, and to ensuring that appropriate fisheries research supports all fisheries activities.

4.    The Code was published in early 1996 by FAO in the official languages of the Organization and distributed widely. It was also made accessible in electronic form in the FAO Fisheries Department Home Page, thus facilitating further dissemination. In order to ensure that the Code be known by fishery users, processors and traders, FAO has also disseminated the Code through the FAO marketing services and its associated organizations (GLOBEFISH, INFOFISH, INFOPECHE, INFOPESCA and INFOSAMAK). Additionally, the Fisheries Department has prepared a directory of fisheries organizations including more than 3800 mailing addresses to which the Code was distributed. It was also disseminated through well known fisheries magazines and newspapers. Finally UN and FAO are producing a joint publication of the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nation Convention of the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, the Code of Conduct and the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas.

5.     With regard to further promoting implementation of the Code, a circular letter accompanying the Code was sent to Governments and organizations. Relevant provisions were emphasized including the importance of publicizing the Code and making the public aware that the Code, if properly applied, could enhance the vital role of fisheries in world food security, and economic and social development. The need was stressed to eliminate overfishing, rebuild and enhance fish stocks, minimize wasteful fishing practices, develop sustainable aquaculture, rehabilitate habitats of living aquatic resources, develop fisheries for under or unutilized species based on principles of sustainability and responsible management, and to adopt responsible fishing practices.

6.    The circular letter also highlighted the importance of mobilizing fishing communities, cooperatives and the private sector to adopt responsible fishing and post-harvest practices in producing more and better quality fish and fishery products which could have a tremendous impact on nutrition and income as well as on the sustainability of the living aquatic resources and their environment. The need to improve the institutional and legal framework and to dedicate appropriate research to the decision-making process was further stressed. A number of initiatives which could be undertaken for particular countries, regions and circumstances were suggested, including the appointment of a focal point or the establishment of other mechanisms which could facilitate coordination and monitoring of the various initiatives. States were reminded of the necessity to deposit their acceptance of the Compliance Agreement for it to enter into force. Finally, it was also requested to provide information on actions taken, to allow Governments and FAO to report progress on implementation of the Code and its effect on fisheries.

7.    To date, partly due to this initiative, FAO has received requests for authorization to translate the Code into other languages (German, Italian, Tamil, and Tigrina). Information on the appointment of focal points at high level have been identified in some countries, and steps have been taken to produce simplified versions of the Code as well as training material for use in training courses. Several other initiatives show the interest in implementing the Code by alladdressed by the Code: Governments, organizations, NGOs and the private sector. FAO staff have been invited to participate as resource persons in regional and international meetings on practically all areas of the Code.

8.    Resolution 4/95 of the Conference, recalling Article 5 of the Code, urges that special requirements of developing countries be taken into account in implementing its provisions. It also requests, in addition to provision in the PWB, that FAO elaborates an interregional assistance programme for external assistance. FAO has thus elaborated and submitted to donors a programme consisting of ten components addressing main areas of the Code. At the time of elaborating this report, two countries, Norway and Netherlands, as well as UNDP have expressed support or interest for some of the components and project documents are being prepared accordingly. NGOs who participated in the formulation of the Code are prepared to elaborate a simplified and illustrated version of the relevant parts of the Code to facilitate its implementation by fishers, processors and other users. They would also elaborate training materials and organize seminars, courses and other initiatives toward promoting responsible fisheries.

9.    Some countries have already started formal programmes to redesign their fisheries policy and management practices in line with the provisions of the Code. According to the information available, it appears that such initiatives were taken in the United States and Canada. In addition, Morocco has specifically signed a unilateral trust fund project with FAO for such a purpose.

10.    The Conference also requested FAO, in collaboration with Members and interested organizations, to elaborate, as appropriate, technical guidelines in support of the implementation of the Code. FAO has established the series "Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries". Some of the guidelines will be available at the current COFI Session, though not in all languages. The guidelines on fishing operations were elaborated in collaboration with the Government of Canada, which had sponsored a technical consultation for that purpose. New Zealand collaborated also with FAO in organizing a working-party for the elaboration of the first draft of the guidelines for fisheries management. Sweden collaborated in organizing a technical consultation for the development of guidelines on precautionary approach to fisheries management. Guidelines for aquaculture development and for the integration of fisheries into coastal area management and technical notes for post-harvest practices and trade were formulated on the basis of FAO experience, existing information and related instruments and were circulated for comments to relevant experts and organizations. In addition, a technical consultation will be organized in 1997 by Australia in collaboration with FAO to develop guidelines for the elaboration of sustainability indicators in fisheries.

11.    A number of other activities in support of the implementation of the Code have been undertaken in collaboration with other FAO Units and other organizations particularly for aquaculture. These include: a draft framework for the responsible use of introduced species; a seminar on the safe and effective use of chemicals in aquaculture organized in collaboration with SEAFDEC; the establishment of a Regional Strategy for Collaboration on Aquaculture Health Management in Asia-Pacific; the development of practical guidelines for quarantine and health certification for responsible movement of aquatic organisms, including standards and information systems; and the formulation of a regional project for the promotion of a Code of Responsible Practices in Asian Shrimp Culture, jointly by FAO and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA).

12.    Technical contributions are being prepared, inter alia, on manufacturing of aquaculture feeds and health management for the 1997 FAO Expert Consultation on Animal Feeding and Food Safety. The proposed FAO/WHO draft code for hygienic practice for the products of aquaculture will be discussed at a WHO/NACA/FAO expert meeting on selected food safety issues in aquaculture in 1997. A major FAO Expert Consultation on Inland Fisheries Enhancement will be held in Bangladesh in 1997, in order to prepare a set of guidelines and criteria for responsible enhancement measures for culture-based fisheries. Furthermore, technical criteria and other issues on conservation and utilization of genetic resources for aquaculture are being addressed, inter alia, in collaboration with ICLARM's International Network on Genetics for Aquaculture (INGA).

13.    With regard to fisheries management and fishing operations, a number of activities have been undertaken, some in collaboration with Governments and international organizations, for example the FAO/ILO/IMO Working Group to up-date existing guidelines or develop working papers referred in the Code, including, among others, the Document for Guidance on Fishermen's Training and Certification. Workshops have been organized in Cartagena (Colombia), Cape Town and Manila for fishermen's representatives by the International Federation of Free Trade Unions to sensitize fishermen to the various international agreements and conventions referred to in the Code that apply to them, for example the Torremolinos Convention on Safety of Fishing Vessels. The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers has organized a number of meetings where the Code was presented, including the Workshop and Symposium on the Integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area Management in the South Asian Region, held in Madras in September 1996.

14.    The FAO Fisheries Department collaborated also with IUCN in identifying sustainability principles for fisheries, based on the Code and other relevant international agreements, with a view to ensuring improved compliance with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and of the Code.

15.    With regard to the Compliance Agreement, the instrument of acceptance has been received from the following ten countries/entity: Argentina, Canada, Georgia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Norway, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sweden, United States, and the European Community. A total of 25 instruments of acceptance are required for the Agreement to become legally operational.

16.     FAO regional fisheries bodies and statutory bodies, such as the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade, have included in their agenda the item of the Code. This has resulted in various initiatives, including the organization of technical consultations, workshops and seminars at various levels with a view to strengthening regional cooperation and facilitating exchange of experiences, materials and expertise which could facilitate implementation of the Code at national, regional and sub-regional levels.


17.    Members of the Committee are invited to report on national experiences in the promotion of the Code, to advise on other mechanisms and strategies that could be used to ensure its more effective implementation and to monitor its effects on fisheries, and to decide on the frequency of reporting to COFI.