November 1998 COFI/99/3

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Twenty-third Session
Rome, Italy, 15-19 February 1999


This document summarizes the main activities undertaken by FAO at global and regional levels to promote the implementation of the Code, activities and applications at national level by FAO Members, and initiatives by non-FAO regional fishery bodies. The Committee is invited to discuss experiences at national and international levels, provide guidance on the type of information which should be solicited from governments (and organizations) in future, and comment and endorse, as appropriate, the Draft FAO Strategy in support of the implementation of the Code.


1. At the Twenty-second Session, the Committee on Fisheries (the Committee) agreed that a progress report on the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (the Code) be presented every two years. The Committee further directed that the report should include information on FAO’s activities, including those of the inter-regional programme, and proposed guidelines to implement the Code, as well as application at national level based on a questionnaire to be designed by the Secretariat.

2. The Director-General transmitted in May 1998 a circular letter1 to Ministers responsible for fisheries in all Member Nations and non-Member Nations of FAO requesting their collaboration and assistance in preparing the present progress report.

3. The present report is not a formal assessment of progress achieved but rather a review of how the general directions of the Code have been and are being found useful in effecting structural changes in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. The word "progress" suggests distinct improvement from a previously lower level of attainment. It is not certain that advances have been made in the application of better practices solely as a result of the implementation of the Code. Furthermore, the rate of change of certain phenomena in most fisheries is gradual, and it is doubtful that significant and quantitative changes could be said to have occurred in the short time since the Code was adopted.


4. FAO alone and in concert with its Members and some organizations, has taken a number of steps to promote the implementation of the Code. At the global level, these initiatives, many of which are inter-related, include:

5. At the regional level, the draft FAO strategy to support implementation underscores the importance of regional action4, including the regional adaptation of the Code. FAO has also developed and tested a disciplined, collective and broadly participatory approach model that sets forth the steps that a country might take to implement the Code. The first regional workshop on the adaptation of the Code was organized for 22 coastal countries of West Africa (Morocco to Namibia) in June 1998 under the auspices of the FAO Regional Programme for Integrated Development of Artisanal Fisheries (IDAF) in West Africa5. Following requests from countries in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, it is planned to mount similar workshops for these regions.

6. The Government of Italy is funding a regional activity for the adaptation and implementation of Article 9 (Aquaculture Development) under the aegis of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). The activity will result in the elaboration of an Action Plan which Members of GFCM are expected to implement at a later stage.

7. In India, in cooperation with the FAO-executed Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP), a number of activities to popularize the Code have been undertaken. These include the production of comic books on the Code and a traveling roadshow and exhibition in fishing villages and communities to explain the purpose and goals of the Code. The Code has also been translated into the Tamil language to facilitate popular dissemination.

8. FAO has given special emphasis on providing assistance and guidance for the sustainable management and development of shrimp culture in view of this sector’s high economic importance, especially for many developing countries, and its special environmental management needs. COFI/99/Inf.18 contains the recommendations of the Bangkok FAO Technical Consultation on Policies for Sustainable Shrimp Culture, Bangkok, Thailand, 8-11 December 1997 and reports on FAO’s ongoing and planned follow-up activities. The consultation recommended a range of desirable principles to be followed in the establishment of legal, institutional and consultative frameworks and regulatory policies for sustainable shrimp culture. It also identified a number of specific areas for future research and requested FAO to convene expert meetings to, among other things, develop criteria for monitoring sustainability of shrimp culture. The reports of the technical consultation and the expert meeting on indicators and criteria for sustainable shrimp culture are available at the current Session of the Committee.


9. Replies to questionnaire have been received from the following 69 countries: Algeria, Angola, Australia, Belgium, Barbados, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Community, Fiji, Finland, France, The Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia.

10. The Secretariat appreciates the burdens which have been imposed on national administrations in responding to the questionnaire. Apart from providing the basis for the present report, the vast amount of information submitted will be relevant and useful to other activities carried out or planned by the Fisheries Department. This document presents an overall summary of the information received and the general conclusions which emerge. Detailed reviews of the replies from each country are available in a separate document.

11. The replies indicate that countries are focusing on selected key areas without loosing the overall holistic perspective of the Code. Fifty percent of the replies were complete, and the remainder replied only to certain sections of the questionnaire. Slightly over 70 percent of the replies stated that the Code was not known to those who should have been concerned with it. NGOs and private sector involvement was reported by 50 percent of the replies. Some countries have established formal networks or consultative fora on the Code and a few countries have organized workshops and seminars on aspects of the Code. The Code has been translated into local languages in some countries6, but involvement at the grassroots in the implementation of the Code remains generally low.

12. Large proportions of the Code, particularly the components on fishery management, fishing operations, aquaculture and the integration of fisheries into coastal area management, have been assimilated into national legislation in many countries. Several countries have elaborated or are elaborating national implementation plans.

13. Several countries indicated that fishery management is guided or organized on the provisions of the Code. Fishery management plans have been formulated for most fisheries in many countries, but only a few countries have taken steps to limit fleet capacity.

14. Plans for improvement of fishing harbours and landing sites have been developed by many countries, but few collect and analyse information on human and vessel losses. Most countries implement MARPOL 73/78 but few have legislation in place requiring certificate of competence for fishermen. In only a few countries has the Code been applied in an attempt to prevent over-capacity. By-catch and discards remain a major problem and the estimates on by-catch and discards are inadequate, but few countries have formulated by-catch and/or discards action plans or developed effective programmes to combat these issues.

15. It was reported by many countries that legal, administrative and institutional frameworks exist for the development of responsible aquaculture. Some countries have or are in the process of formulating development plans for ecologically sound and sustainable aquaculture. In the major aquaculture producing countries, emphasis is placed on the strengthening of aquatic animal health and quarantine arrangements as well as on environmental concerns and transfer of species.

16. Improving product quality and safety has become a priority area of action to ensure adequate consumer protection and enhance domestic and international trade, as indicated by many countries. Equally important is the promotion of fish product quality systems such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) through training and information programmes. The greatest reduction in losses were attributed to improvements in post-harvest practices. In most cases, the origin of national and imported fishery products traded is known and several countries actively participate in arrangements regulating trade in endangered species.

17. Several countries have (or plan to have) policy, legal and institutional frameworks to improve cross sectoral and cross jurisdictional consultation and coordination in integrated coastal management. Coastal zone maps and atlases have been published in a few countries. Very few countries reported on bilateral or multilateral certification agreement on integrated coastal management. Existing mechanisms of notification on transboundary environmental effects among neighbouring States is also inadequate.

18. Direct involvement of the private sector in research is reported to be very small particularly in developing countries. Generally, the fishing industry contributes to government research through levies, licenses and fees. Only in a few countries is the private sector directly involved in joint research projects and/or undertake its own research. Many countries reported that research results are used in the formulation of national fishery management plans. Most respondents reported that funding for research has either increased or remained constant in recent years and that government funded research organizations are closely involved in research undertaken by regional organizations particularly in coastal waters but less so in the high seas.

19. Many countries plan on strengthening existing capacities for data collection, analysis and dissemination. They also advocate increased coordination and cooperation between various information systems at the regional level in order to optimize resource utilization and improve information quality and relevance for management and trade.

20. Training and capacity building remain major preoccupations and priorities in most developing countries. Several countries indicated that these and the lack of financial resources are critical constraints to the effective implementation of the Code. While there is an important role for domestic sources of investments, both public and private, in the implementation of the Code, the survey indicates insufficient flow of financial resources from developed countries and donors to developing countries for the implementation of the Code.


21. A number of non-FAO Regional Fishery Bodies have taken steps to implement substantively the Code through their members and within their respective areas of competence. In this respect the International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) have addressed the application of the precautionary approach to fishery management, while the North Atlantic Fishery Organization (NAFO) has dealt with aspects related to transparency and the application of the precautionary approach. The Latin American Organization for Fisheries Development (OLDEPESCA), in cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank, has commenced a regional programme for the implementation of international fishery instruments, including the Code and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement; while the Permanent South Pacific Commission (CPPS) is actively promoting the Code and is encouraging members to include the Code’s provisions in national legislation.

22. The Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) has commenced a project (1998-2000) for the regionalization of the Code for its members. Funded by the Government of Japan under trust fund arrangements, Phase 1 of the project focuses on responsible fishing operations.


23. At its Twenty-ninth Session in November 1997, the FAO Conference adopted Resolution 18/97 establishing the Margarita Lizárraga Medal. The Medal will be awarded biennially by the FAO Conference to a person or organization that has served with distinction in the application of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Medal pays tribute to Ms Margarita Lizárraga, Senior Fisheries Liaison Officer, for her decisive role in promoting the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, for her productive work in the field of fisheries for almost forty years, for her great dedication to FAO and for her strong commitment towards fostering the promotion of the fisheries sector especially in developing countries. Ms Lizárraga passed away in September 1997 in Mexico City after a brief illness.

24. The Margarita Lizárraga Medal will be awarded for the first time at the Thirtieth Session of the FAO Conference in November 1999. The cost of the Medal will be covered by income generated by a trust fund administered by FAO. Consequently, a special Trust Fund Account has been opened to receive contributions and record associated expenditure.


25. The Committee is invited to discuss experiences, at national and international levels, in the implementation of the Code and to provide suggestions and guidance regarding the type of information which should be solicited from governments (and organizations) as a basis for future reports.

26. The Committee is also requested to comment and endorse, as appropriate, the Draft FAO Strategy in support of the implementation of the Code (COFI/99/Inf.6).

1 The circular letter was accompanied by a questionnaire that had been pre-tested at workshops and sessions of FAO regional fishery bodies.
2 The study was undertaken by the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission of FAO.
3 The inter-regional programme was elaborated in 1995-96.The components are: (i) assistance for the implementation of the Compliance Agreement, (ii) assistance for the upgrading of capabilities for reporting in fishery statistics, (iii) assistance in upgrading of capacities in monitoring, control and surveillance, (iv) assistance in the promotion of responsible fishing operations, (v) assistance for upgrading marine resource surveys capabilities, (vi) assistance in improving the provision of scientific advice for fishery management, (vii) assistance in fishery policy, planning and management, (viii) assistance in developing and implementing fleet restructuring policies, and (ix) assistance for the implementation of post-harvest practices and trade. The programme has been presented to the international donor community for possible funding.
4 The strengthening of Regional Fishery Bodies and the promotion of collaboration between these bodies has practical significance for the effective implementation of the Code and for enhancing the management of shared stocks.
5 The Programme is funded by the Government of Denmark.
6 These languages include Persian, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Singhalese, Tamil and Tigrinya.