November 1998 COFI/99/4

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


This paper summarizes the measures taken or considered by FAO regional fishery bodies to implement FAO Conference Resolution 13/97 and strengthen their functions and responsibilities. The paper also provides background material on the two Sub-Committees of COFI recommended for abolition, and outlines actions taken to strengthen collaboration between FAO and non-FAO fishery arrangements and the FAO Fisheries Department. The Committee is invited to review these actions and also abolish its two Sub-Committees, or otherwise advise the FAO Council accordingly.


1. At its Twenty-second Session, the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) agreed that all FAO regional fishery bodies (RFBs) be reviewed and evaluated by their members to determine measures to be taken to strengthen each body, as appropriate1. This directive was reinforced by Resolution 13/97, adopted by the FAO Conference at its Twenty-ninth Session in November 1997. Conference Resolution 13/97 also recommended the abolition of two Sub-Committees of COFI: the Sub-Committee on Programmes to Assist Developing Coastal States in Managing and Developing Fisheries in their Economic Zones2, which last met in 1976, and the Sub-Committee on Fishery Education and Training3, which held its last session in 1973. The Resolution abolished the Regional Fisheries Advisory Commission for South-West Atlantic (CARPAS), which had not met since 1974. It also recommended the abolition of all working parties of all RFBs and most of the Sub-Committees of all bodies created under Article VI of the FAO Constitution4.

2. Eight of the nine existing FAO RFBs have considered actions required to strengthen their functions and responsibilities. These are: Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic, Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, Indian Ocean Fishery Commission, Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa, Commission for Inland Fisheries of Latin America, and European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission. The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission will undertake this review in the second half of 1999.

3. Copies of Conference Resolution 13/97 and the report of the Twenty-second Session of COFI have been discussed at all RFB meetings. The Secretariat also prepared a document to guide the discussion on mechanisms that could enhance the effectiveness of RFBs. Bearing in mind that a strong management implies a high degree of mutual interest and mutual trust among participants, and that the crucial safeguard for RFBs is the range of benefits of continued participation produced for its members, emphasis was placed, in addition to legal and statutory measures, on how working methods could be streamlined to facilitate positive interaction among participants at meetings, to promote task-orientation and to strengthen the involvement of all members and civil society partners in the activities of RFBs.


4. The General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean (GFCM), at its Twenty-second Session (Rome, 13-16 October 1997), opted for its strengthening through amendments of the Agreement establishing it and its Rules of Procedure. There was also agreement on the principle of an autonomous budget. The amendments providing for an autonomous budget will come into force on their acceptance by two-thirds of the GFCM members. By the adoption of the amendments, the name of the Council was changed to Commission. Regional economic integration organizations could, if they desired, become members of GFCM5. The subsidiary bodies of the Commission are the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Committee on Aquaculture. The main session of the Commission will meet every year instead of every two years. At the Twenty-third Session of GFCM (Rome, 7-10 July 1998), most delegations agreed to the three components of the scheme and scale of members contributions which consisted of a basic fee, a charge related to national wealth, and fish production (capture fisheries and marine aquaculture) from the region covered by the GFCM agreement. The Commission could not reach a consensus on the weights that should be attributed to the three components. It, therefore, decided that a special session of the Commission be convened in Spring 1999 to address and conclude the debate on this specific issue.

5. The amendments to the Agreement and Rules of Procedure of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC), adopted at its Twenty-fifth Session in 1996, were approved by the FAO Council at its One Hundred and Twelfth Session in 1997. The amendments were required to reinforce and update the terms of reference of APFIC in order to take full account of the fundamental changes which had taken place in recent years in world fisheries and, in particular, to be equipped to play its role in the implementation of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea and in the promotion of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. At its Twenty-sixth Session (Beijing, 24-30 September 1998)6 the Commission agreed to abolish its four Working Parties. The Commission also agreed that the future programmes should be more specific and pragmatic, assisting members to move closer toward self-reliance in sustainable fisheries development and management. As regards its future structure and financial resources, it decided to convene an ad hoc legal and financial working group in 1999 to consider the matter closely with its legal implications for the APFIC Agrement, and make recommendations to the Twenty-seventh Session of the Commission to be held in 2000 or 2001 in the Philippines. The Bay of Bengal Committee of IOFC was also merged with APFIC (see para. 10).

6. The Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF), at its Fourteenth Session (Nouakchott, Mauritania, 6-9 September 1998) opted to maintain its status as a body under Article VI of the FAO Constitution; it abolished its four Subsidiary Bodies and agreed to have a simpler structure consisting of the Committee and a Scientific Sub-Committee (SSC). The Committee elaborated the Terms of Reference of the SSC and a work programme for the intersessional period. It encouraged members to contribute technically and financially to the implementation of the Programme. The Committee also agreed to progressively work towards the upgrading of the body to a Commission level under Article XIV of the FAO Constitution. It requested FAO to provide the draft agreement for a possible Article XIV body and information concerning the functioning of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and GFCM, in particular, information concerning the financial regulations and autonomous budget. It was agreed that these documents be discussed at the Fifteenth Session of CECAF.

7. The European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission (EIFAC) held its Twentieth Session in Praia do Carvoeira, Portugal (23 June-2 July 1998). The Commission acknowledged the report of the FAO Conference concerning the Commissionís method of work7. The Commission agreed to continue creating and abolishing, as appropriate, ad hoc working parties funded by their members.

8. At its Tenth Session (Akossombo, Ghana, 24-27 November 1997), the Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa (CIFA) accepted the need for the Committee to increasingly rely on members resources. The Committee agreed to eliminate all its working parties but to maintain the Sub-Committee for the Protection and Development of the Fisheries of the Sahelian Zone and the Sub-Committee for the Management of the Fisheries of Lake Tanganyika. The Committee encouraged members of the two Sub-Committees to work towards establishing inter-governmental arrangements to take over the functions of these Sub-Committees8. The Committee also agreed that members would provide, from national budgets, financial and technical support to the work of CIFA. The discussions about modalities of such contributions were postponed until the next session.

9. The Commission for Inland Fisheries of Latin America (COPESCAL) at its Eighth Session (Belem, Brazil, 11-14 August 1998) opted to maintain its status as a body under Article VI of the FAO Constitution. The Commission abolished its three Working Parties. The Commission recommended that governments and civil society in the countries covered by the COPESCAL Agreement provide support, financial and in kind, to complement the resources of FAO. It further recommended a review of its statutes to explicitly define the scope of aquaculture and the Commissionís title to reflect that its Membership include Caribbean countries.

10. The Fourteenth Session of the Indian Ocean Fishery Commission (IOFC) will be convened at the time of COFI. The Commission is expected to abolish its four subsidiary bodies (the committees), and to recommend the Council to abolish IOFC itself. As a prelude to this meeting three of the IOFC subsidiary bodies have met9. The outcomes were the following:

11. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) became operational in 199610. The Commission has held two annual sessions (Rome, 1996, Mahé, Seychelles, 1997) and a special session (Rome, 1997). It adopted its Rules of Procedure and its Financial Regulations. The Commission has a subsidiary body, the Scientific Advisory Committee. The headquarters of the Commission are in Seychelles and it operates on an autonomous budget paid for by membersí contributions on the basis of an agreed scale and scheme. The Secretary of IOTC is appointed by the Director-General of FAO with the approval of the Commission.


12. There are presently about 30 active RFBs, nine of which have been established under the FAO Constitution. FAO has also facilitated the establishment of several other bodies and serves as depositary of conventions or agreements establishing some of these bodies.

13. The work of FAO RFBs is coordinated at the global level through COFI which provides the central framework for collaboration. Before 1977, the COFI Sub-Committee on the Development of Cooperation with International Organizations, concerned with fisheries, provided a link between COFI and non-FAO RFBs.11 At present, there is no formal working relationship between COFI and non-FAO RFBs. However, on many occasions COFI reaffirmed the need for effective regional fishery organizations and arrangements with a view to managing fish stocks in a sustainable and responsible manner. There have been significant improvements in performance of RFBs during the last decade. Several of them have made vital contributions to international fishery management. Many factors, however, hinder these bodies from being more effective.

14. During the Meeting of the High-Level Panel of External Experts, convened by the Director-General of FAO in January 1998, it was recommended that FAO convene a meeting of these bodies.12

15. A meeting of FAO and non-FAO RFBs will be held in Rome on 11 and 12 February 1999. The main objective of the meeting, to be coordinated by FAO, would be to exchange views and experiences with respect to common issues relating to fishery bodies, and to discuss strategies for the promotion of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other recently adopted international instruments. The possible institutional linkage between COFI and these bodies, particularly non-FAO bodies, could also be addressed.

16. All FAO and non-FAO RFBs have been invited to send a representative to the meeting. Economic groupings with interest in fisheries are expected to send observers. The report of the meeting will be circulated as document COFI/99/Inf.14.


17. The Committee is invited:

1 Report of the Twenty-second Session of COFI, Rome, 17-20 March 1997, para. 31.
2 The Sub-Committee was created by COFI at its Twelfth Session (1978), to replace the COFI Sub-Committee on the Development of Cooperation with International Organizations Concerned with Fisheries. The latter was one of the first Sub-Committees created by COFI at its First Session (1966). The Sub-Committee met four times (1967, 1969, 1973 and 1976). The Sub-Committee that replaced it in 1978 has never met.
3 The Sub-Committee was established by COFI at its Second Session (1967) to study the problems of fishery education and training, and the most appropriate and effective action to be taken to welcome them and to report the results to COFI. The Sub-Committee held three sessions (1969, 1970 and 1973).
4 Copies of FAO Conference Resolution 13/97 are available as "made available document" at the conference room.
5 The European Community became a member of GFCM on 23 June 1998.
6 APFIC celebrated its 50th Anniversary at the Twenty-sixth Session.
7 Report of the Conference of FAO, Twenty-ninth Session, Rome, 7-18 November 1997, para. 147. "The Conference also took note of the importance of some of the Sub-Committees of the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission (EIFAC) contained in Annex B of the Draft Resolution of the Conference and suggested that EIFAC take action to ensure the continuation of this important work, inter alia, through ad hoc arrangements".
8 It is recalled that the Sub-Committee of CIFA for the Development and Management of Fisheries in Lake Victoria was transformed into an inter-governmental organization (the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization) and became operational in December 1996.
9 With the establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC - See para. 11), the IOFC Committee for the Management of Indian Ocean Tuna (Tuna Committee) has also become obsolete.
10 Members of IOTC (1 October 1998): Australia, European Community, Eritrea, France, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Kingdom.
11 The Technical Consultation on High Seas Fishing (Rome, 7-12 September 1992), "requested the Committee on Fisheries to consider reviving the Sub-Committee on the Development of Cooperation with International Organizations in order to enhance cooperation and coordination between fisheries bodies". Report of the Technical Consultation on High Seas Fishing, Rome, 7-15 September 1992, para 82, FAO Fish.Circ. No. 484.
12 COFI/99/Inf.7. Report of the High-Level Panel of External Experts in Fisheries, Rome, Italy, 26-27 January 1998.