September 1998 COFI/99/Inf.9

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

1. An easy-to-search computer database on bilateral and multilateral agreements relating to fisheries has been constructed by the Fisheries Department of FAO. The data bank on which the database relies was established in the 1970s 1 and was first computerized in 1990. However, the initial software had limited searching capability. Recently, records were transferred to FARISIS, an application developed by the Fisheries Department using UNESCO's CDS/ISIS software. This software provides up to 34 descriptor fields for each record, thus providing many entry points for searching.

2. The Register contains, at present, information on 1,927 agreements and similar instruments dating back to the year 1351, although only 35 of them are pre-twentieth century. Bilateral agreements comprise 91 percent of the entries. For 1,137 agreements, the full text is available in the Fisheries Department. The remainder are represented by varying levels of information from summaries of the text to notices that particular treaties have been signed.
3. The fields in FARISIS allow inclusion of information on both formal and substantive elements of the agreements. The formal aspects are dates of signatures, ratification or accession, entry into force, termination and duration, countries involved, description of the type of agreement (bilateral or multilateral, signed by governments or by non-governmental entities, when applicable), and relevant publication(s) (if the text is available) or other information sources.

Figure 1. Number of agreements in FARISIS

Figure 1 - Number of agreements in FARISIS

Figure 2. Countries with more than 60 of their agreements in FARISIS
FSU = Former Soviet Union

Figure 2 - Countries with more than 60 of their agreements in FARISIS

4. The information on substantive aspects of the agreements consists of specific keywords to describe their content: general principles, mode of regulation of fisheries (including the type of fishing vessels and gear used), financial cooperation, technical cooperation, monitoring provisions, institutional arrangements, dispute resolution, geographic zones, and species of fish involved.

5. For many agreements a brief summary is also provided, particularly where the full text is unavailable. A field has been created to allow interface with the FAO Legal Office's database on legislation and international agreements deposited with the Director-General of FAO, as well as on coastal States requirements which can be found at http/

Figure 3. Classification by type of agreements in FARISIS

Figure 3 - Classification by type of agreements in FARISIS

Figure 4. Total number of agreements by oceans in FARISIS

Figure 4 - Total number of agreements by ocean in FARISIS

6. Texts and information on agreements collected in FARISIS come from both official sources (e.g. national legislative journals or United Nations publications) and unofficial sources (e.g. specialized magazines and press bulletins). More in-depth information is sometimes found in articles on fisheries agreements contained in journals dealing with international law and fisheries.

Figure 5. Language of agreements in FARISIS

Figure 5 - Language of agreement in FARISIS

7. With regard to inputting data, there are six categories of fields: 5 fields for dates; 8 fields in which the information is inputted as numbers (e.g. duration, vessel types, gear/methods, etc.); 9 fields containing only keywords that are specified in separate reference lists (e.g. there are 28 keywords representing the general principles); 11 keywords for different gear/methods, etc; 7 fields containing texts (e.g. place signed, title, summary, etc.); 2 fields with pre-defined options (status, whether terminated); and 3 fields with pre-defined options that can be updated by the inputter/user (signatory countries, non-governmental organizations, language). Note that the use of keywords is limited to the input of information. For the user consulting the database, the entire explanation of the principles, gears, rules or conditions appears on the screen.

8. FARISIS is a unique, global database of fisheries agreements. The entries are useful in understanding and analysing certain aspects of international fisheries cooperation and development and in formulating management and policy advice on a variety of subjects in fisheries. Elements of the Register have been used in elaborating international instruments in fisheries, in particular the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas, adopted in November 1993 by the Twenty-seventh Session of the FAO Conference. Recent entries in FARISIS contain references to the United Nations General Assembly resolution on driftnet fishing, the concept of sustainability in fisheries and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, indicating indirectly the impact of the expectations and perception of the international community concerning world fisheries resources and, in particular, their sustainable management and utilization in a responsible manner.

9. The evolution and contents of the database indicate that great importance continues to be attached by both developing and developed countries to technical and economic cooperation in fisheries and to mechanisms for collaboration in research, development and management. The high proportion of bilateral agreements, joint ventures and other cooperative arrangements illustrate the thrust being given to world fisheries development and management through international collaboration.

10. Members of the Committee are requested to forward to the Secretariat any information that would facilitate the updating of FARISIS.

1 Carroz, J.E. and M. J. Savini. 1978. "Bilateral Fishery Agreements: A Review of Bilateral Fishery Agreements Concluded as a Result of the New Regime of the Oceans". FAO Fisheries Circular, No. 709.
2 The FAO Legal Office in accordance with the Basic Texts of the Organization, among other things, assists in the formulation of treaties on food and agriculture, fishery and forestry, publishes legal studies and maintains a database with the full texts of treaties, agreements, conventions, national legislation and coastal States requirements for fisheries.