November 1998 COFI/99/Inf.6

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


  • A mandate was given by the FAO Conference to proceed with the promotion and implementation of the Code.
  • The Code must be implemented in an integrated manner and therefore a holistic approach is being pursued by FAO-FI.
  • In some cases, the Code may need to be adapted to meet specific regional and sectoral needs, without deviating from the principles of the Code. In particular, this may be necessary in order to increase the acceptance of the Code in these regions and sectors and thereby to facilitate its implementation.
  • The Code is wide in scope (Table 1) and the criteria to be met by countries and fisheries in order to comply with the Code are demanding and frequently complex. The responsibility for ensuring that these problems are addressed where necessary lies with the countries and fisheries. FAO-FI is committed to providing help where it can with the resources available to it.
  • It is essential that FAO-FI use its resources in the most effective way possible to promote the implementation of the Code. It should be stressed that FAO-FI has a catalytic role to play, taking account of its comparative advantage so as to maximize impact.
  • Implementation of the Code will be addressed at three levels: global, regional and sub-regional, and national. FAO-FI will need to work with partners in all activities and at all levels. Different types of activities will be undertaken at different levels, including:
  • identification of financial support;
  • project identification and technical support;
  • education and training;
  • technology transfer;
  • support to regional fishery bodies;
  • preparation of resource materials including technical guidelines, manuals, etc.;
  • dissemination of information in the form of databases, bibliographic references, etc.
  • Overall, the promotion and implementation of the Code is a complex, diverse and demanding task. The programme to facilitate its implementation will involve:
  • emphasis on information at the global level, with particular attention to production of technical guidelines and manuals and similar information;
  • at the regional and sub-regional levels, emphasis on awareness-building and training, including assistance in adaptation of technical guidelines, on both regional and sectoral bases, as required;
  • at the national level, FAO-FI is heavily limited by resources and much of the activity at this level will occur under the Inter-regional Programme. There will be a focus on providing assistance in translating the Code into positive changes in fisheries policy and practices.
  • All these activities will be undertaken within the FAO-FI Regular Programme, the Inter-regional Programme, regional fishery bodies and other FAO programmes such as TCP and TCDC.
  • The medium-term strategy for implementation of the Code will not be successfully implemented unless the following conditions, inter alia, are met:
  • countries accept the need for change in the fisheries sector and actively promote and implement such change through appropriate national programmes and policies;
  • efforts to adapt the Code regionally and sectorally are successful;
  • national administrative and technical capacity is strengthened;
  • appropriate technical assistance is forthcoming for developing countries; and
  • adequate national and international funding is available to facilitate and sustain responsible fisheries.
  • The results are expected to be incremental but to generate positive and measurable progress towards implementation of the Code, leading to more responsible fisheries with consequent improvement in the status of the resources, yields from the resources, and improvements in social and economic benefits derived from the fisheries. Criteria have been established to measure these benefits.
  • Implementation will be monitored and constraints to its successful implementation identified and brought to the attention of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI). Where necessary the Code may be modified through COFI.

  3.1 Participation, Information and Transparency
  3.2 Sources of Management Information
  3.3 Fisheries Impact
  3.4 Excess Capacity
  3.5 Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Systems
  3.6 Transboundary Stocks
  3.7 The Particular situation of Developing Countries
  3.8 Other Issues
  4.1 Regional Adaptation
  4.2 Role of Regional Fishery Bodies
  4.3 National Adaptation
  4.4 Sectorial Adaptation
  6.1 Objectives
  6.2 Approaches
  6.3 Partnership Arrangements
  7.1 Field-related or Predominantly Operational Activities
  7.2 Sub-regional and Regional Activities
  7.3 Headquarters Normative Activities
  8.1 Global Activities
  8.1.1 Technical guidelines and other guiding documentation
  8.1.2 Global information on resources and fisheries
  8.1.3 Support to developing members
  8.2 Sub-regional and Regional Activities
  8.2.1 Information dissemination
  8.2.2 Assistance to regions
  8.2.3 Shared stocks
  8.3 National and Local Activities
  10.1 General
  10.2 Fisheries Management
  10.3 Fishing Operations
  10.4 Aquaculture Development
  10.5 Integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area and Basin Management
  10.6 Post-harvest Practives and Trade
  10.7 Fisheries Research
  11.1 Timeframe
  11.2 Mobilization of Resources
  12.1 Monitoring and Evaluation
  12.2 Updating

Table 1 The substantive technical articles and sub-articles of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, indicating the scope of the Code
Table 2 Actions planned by FAO-FI from 1998 to 2002 in support of implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
Table 3 Possible indicators of successful national implementation for reporting on the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
Figure 1 A simplified diagram of the interactions between different operational categories in responsible fisheries


The FAO Conference adopted the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (the Code) in October 19951. Awareness of the generally poor state of many of the world’s major fisheries, ineffective conservation and management practices, and the need to ensure long-term sustainable development in the fisheries sector led to the adoption of the Code. The Code is intended to be implemented on a voluntary basis by FAO members, with the assistance of the Organization as and when requested and possible. As a consequence, the Conference called on all countries and those involved in fisheries to collaborate in the fulfillment and implementation of the objectives and principles contained in the Code. Moreover, the Conference requested FAO to make provision in its Programme of Work and Budget to:

At the same time, the Conference urged FAO to strengthen regional fishery bodies so that they might deal more effectively with fisheries conservation and management, which is the Code’s primary objective.

The resolution of the FAO Conference laid the basis for the FAO Fisheries Department (FAO-FI), with the assistance of the Legal Office, to promote further and assist in the implementation of the Code. To this extent FAO-FI has put in place, directly and indirectly, a range of initiatives to facilitate the creation of an enabling environment at national, sub-regional, regional and global levels, to elicit and facilitate the structural changes required to improve the fisheries sector and its contribution to food security. These initiatives, together with their anticipated results and impact, are considered in subsequent sections of the document.

The Code consists of 12 Articles and two annexes. The last seven Articles lay down the General Principles and address six substantive technical areas covering fisheries management, fishing operations, aquaculture development, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, post-harvest practices and trade and fisheries research. Moreover, the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (the Compliance Agreement2), approved by the FAO Conference in November 19933, is an integral component of the Code. Binding in nature, the Agreement will enter into force as from the date of receipt by the Director-General of FAO of the twenty-fifth instrument of acceptance. As at 31 October 1997 the Compliance Agreement has been accepted by Argentina, Canada, Georgia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sweden, United States of America and the European Community.

To assist those concerned with the implementation of the Code, technical guidelines are being developed by FAO-FI, as called for by the FAO Conference. The guidelines so far published focus on fishing operations, the precautionary approach to capture fisheries and species introductions, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, fisheries management, and aquaculture development. Other technical guidelines are under preparation.

Article 4 of the Code recognizes, inter alia, FAO Secretariat responsibility to monitor the implementation of the Code and to report to the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) on progress and related developments concerning implementation. It also establishes the possibility for FAO, through its competent bodies, to revise the Code on the basis of developments in fisheries and the reports made to COFI. Consequently, the approach to implementing the Code should be seen as dynamic, and subject to modification as global circumstances in fisheries warrant.

This document sets forth a strategy for FAO-FI to promote the Code's implementation in a coherent, integrated and practical manner. The paper is structured as follows. After general considerations concerning the implementation of the Code, priority issues for its implementation by FAO members are identified, followed by consideration of a rationale for the regional and sectoral adaptation of the Code. Some of the constraints to implementation and their possible solutions are then discussed. Thereafter, the document focuses on the FAO-FI strategy to be followed. The objectives, approach to be taken, and partners involved in implementing the FAO-FI strategy are outlined in the next section. The types of activities to be pursued in implementing the Code are highlighted in terms of field-related or predominately operational activities; regional and sub-regional activities; and headquarters or normative activities. Major thrusts and priority actions are then considered, including global, sub-regional, regional, national and local activities. FAO-FI structural requirements are then reviewed, and expected results and impact together with national reporting requirements for the period 1998 to 2002 are presented. Monitoring, evaluation, follow-up and reporting requirements for the Code's implementation are assessed and the timeframe, resource mobilization and operational arrangements considered.

The FAO-FI strategy as set out here is not an immutable document. Although it is cast in a medium-term setting, the details can be modified, augmented and updated in the light of experience gained.


FAO, as guardian of the Code, has overall responsibility to promote and coordinate its implementation. This responsibility accords with the Organization’s fisheries mandate within the UN System. However, responsibility for the implementation of the Code rests with the countries. FAO-FI’s role is essentially to provide technical support to national initiatives and play a catalytic role at all levels in facilitating implementation.

The Code provides an integrated base from which to address major issues facing the fisheries sector. Given the interrelationships that exist between different fisheries sub-sectors (in terms of exchange of information and impact, e.g. Figure 1), a holistic approach to the implementation of the Code is required. For example, the issue of bycatch is functionally related to a number of other critical fisheries issues including gear selectivity, discards, management, food security, biodiversity, trade, and the production of aquaculture feed. Consequently, in order to deal effectively with bycatch these other issues must also be addressed. At the global level, normative activities in implementing the Code will address all the articles simultaneously and in a systematic and integrated manner.

In accordance with the directions of the FAO Governing Bodies, FAO-FI continues to disseminate information about the Code. This will be improved particularly through:


The Code reflects those issues and topics that were considered by FAO Members to be particularly important for responsible fisheries when the Code was elaborated, and these are summarized in Article 6 of the Code: General Principles.

The headings of the articles and sub-articles of the Code provide insight into the diverse areas requiring particular attention (Table 1). Within these areas, the priority activities for FAO-FI action discussed later in this document have been identified by the Department. A common issue considered fundamental to progress towards implementing responsible fisheries practices is that of awareness, education and training. The field experiences of FAO staff have indicated an unacceptably low level of awareness of the Code, its background, and action required amongst those involved in fisheries, particularly of medium and lower levels. This problem requires that considerable emphasis be given to creating awareness and to education.

3.1 Participation, Information and Transparency

Article 7 of the Code (Fisheries Management) emphasizes the greater need, in almost all instances, for consultation among stakeholders, greater participation by stakeholders and interest groups in decision-making, and greater transparency in the decision-making process. Hence, participation by interest groups, the use of formal decision-making approaches, and the cooperative development of acceptable and transparent management plans for all fisheries, are stressed as priority issues within this article. Similarly, in Article 11 (Post-harvest Practices and Trade), the need for greater participation by the different interest groups in formulating laws and regulations governing trade is stressed, as is the need for greater transparency in the formulation of measures related to international trade. Within Article 9 (Aquaculture Development), the needs for enhanced collaboration and consideration of the rights of local communities are listed as priorities. Under ICAM/IBAM, with its greater diversity in uses and users, this aspect is given a very strong emphasis.

3.2 Sources of Management Information

Also related to decision-making is the call within the Code for the greater use of the ‘best scientific information available’ in any decision-making, as requested by UNCLOS. Arising from this are the priority issues related to the use of sound and relevant biological, economic and social information in fisheries management, which requires the collection of statistically valid data in these and other relevant areas, and their appropriate analysis. This can be greatly facilitated by improved cooperation in data exchange, in turn improved by progress towards comparable and complementary approaches to, and systems of, data collection and analysis. In addition to the obvious need for this in terms of fisheries management, Article 8 (Fishing Operations) stresses dissemination of information on best fishing gear and practices and greater cooperation, and the same theme appears in Article 11 (Post-harvest Practices and Trade). Under Article 9 (Aquaculture Development), there is a reference to the need for the evaluation of the impact of developments on the surrounding environment and resources, and for exchange of information. Within Article 10 (Integrated Management), impact on resources from economic, social and cultural perspectives in decision-making should be considered, clearly requiring suitable information.

3.3 Fisheries Impact

A significant feature of the Code is recognition of the potential negative impact that fishing can and does exert in addition to its direct impact on target stocks. This leads to the need to assess and minimize environmental impact; minimize capture of unwanted bycatch species (Article 7: Fisheries Management), prevent destructive fishing practices, and minimize ghost fishing. Similarly, the impact of aquaculture development on the environment needs to be assessed and appropriately minimized (Article 9: Aquaculture Development), while consideration also needs to be given to the implementation of environmentally sound processing, transporting and storage methods (Article 11: Post-harvest Practices).

Obviously, the direct impact of fisheries on the targeted stocks has not been neglected in the Code, and the need for implementation of the precautionary approach, whereby greater caution under greater uncertainty is established as a guiding principle in fisheries management, is emphasized in Article 7 (Fisheries Management).

Table 1 The substantive technical articles and sub-articles of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, indicating the scope of the Code. (Source: Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries)



6. General Principles


7. Fisheries Management

7.1 General


7.2 Management objectives


7.3 Management framework and procedures


7.4 Data gathering and management advice


7.5 Precautionary approach


7.6 Management measures


7.7 Implementation


7.8 Financial institutions

8. Fishing Operations

8.1 Duties of all States


8.2 Flag State duties


8.3 Port State duties


8.4 Fishing operations


8.5 Fishing gear selectivity


8.6 Energy optimization


8.7 Protection of the aquatic environment


8.8 Protection of the atmosphere


8.9 Harbours and landing places


8.10 Abandonment of structures and other materials


8.11 Artificial reefs and fish aggregation devices

9. Aquaculture Development

9.1 Responsible development of aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, in areas under national jurisdiction


9.2 Responsible development of aquaculture including culture-based fisheries within transboundary aquatic ecosystems


9.3 Use of aquatic genetic resources for the purposes of aquaculture including culture-based fisheries


9.4 Responsible aquaculture at the production level

10. Integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area Management

10.1 Institutional framework


10.2 Policy measures


10.3 Regional cooperation


10.4 Implementation

11. Post-harvest Practices and Trade

11.1 Responsible fish utilization


11.2 Responsible international trade


11.3 Laws and regulations relating to fish trade

12. Fisheries Research


3.4 Excess Capacity

The problem of excess fishing capacity and the pressure this imposes to maintain high fishing mortality rates independently of the status of the stocks is an important theme in the Code. Arising from this consideration, the need to reduce fleet capacity to appropriate levels is seen as a priority issue, and is closely linked to limitations on entry into fisheries, in turn associated with various forms of property or user rights (Article 7 (Fisheries Management) and Article 10 (Integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area Management, IFCAM)).

3.5 Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Systems

It has been widely recognized that inadequate compliance with laws and regulations is a critical concern in many fisheries, and the need to remedy this situation is addressed in the Code. Amongst the priority issues related to promoting compliance is the need for developing appropriate legal and administrative frameworks and effective monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) systems in all fisheries (Article 7: Fisheries Management), education on the Compliance Agreement and promotion of compliance with international conventions (Article 8: Fishing Operations). Moreover, the need for effective regulation of responsible farm and fish health practices, chemical inputs to aquaculture and disposal of wastes are recognized as priorities (Article 9: Aquaculture Development), as is the need for appropriate legal frameworks, and greater public awareness about and compliance with laws and regulations pertaining to integrated management. The importance of a mechanism to promote voluntary adherence to regulations and responsible practices should be stressed in efforts to achieve long-term sustainable fisheries.

3.6 Transboundary Stocks

In recent decades, the importance and special requirements of fisheries utilizing transboundary stocks have become the focus of considerable attention, including within the Code. The additional requirements for management of these stocks largely relate to the need for improved international cooperation in monitoring and research, determining suitable management measures, implementing management plans, and enforcing regulations, which together add substantial technical and political complexity to the task of achieving responsible fisheries. All the priority issues referred to above are particularly relevant in this case, such as the need for interest-group participation in decision-making; common standards and formats in data collection and analysis; improved data exchange; and cooperation in MCS. There is great need in this issue to improve mechanisms for scientific collaboration at the sub-regional and regional levels.

3.7 The Particular Situation of Developing Countries

Finally, the particular situation of developing countries is addressed in Article 5 of the Code which recognizes that some developing countries may lack the capacity to implement all the requirements of the Code, and hence will require assistance from other countries and organizations to make progress in this direction. This issue is reflected as a priority under the Code’s General Principles, and is implicit in many of the priority issues listed under the other articles.

3.8 Other Issues

There are several other issues included under the headings and sub-headings of the Code (Table 1), falling outside the major fields considered above, that are regarded as requiring urgent attention from all responsible governments and other agencies concerned with fisheries management and development, if real progress towards responsible fisheries is to be realized. Some of these fields, and some of the issues discussed in the preceding paragraphs, have been identified by FAO-FI for the direct involvement of the Department and are discussed below (see Section 8. Priority Actions and Major Thrusts).


In order to reflect the particular needs and situations of different regions and fisheries, sub-regional, regional and sectoral adaptation of the Code may be desirable in some instances. Such adaptation could foster greater national, sub-regional, and regional acceptance of the Code and further facilitate the implementation of the policy changes necessary in the different fisheries sub-sectors. Adaptation should therefore be encouraged as far as it is consistent with the objectives and principles of the Code4.

4.1 Regional Adaptation

Following the 1992 Cancún Conference, three years of intensive effort by FAO Members resulted in consensus on a comprehensive text for the Code. During the negotiation process, some local, national, sub-regional and global issues were diluted, or perhaps even avoided in the negotiation process, with a view to finding acceptable global compromises, and ultimately consensus, on a wide range of difficult and controversial issues. Therefore, when considering the implementation of the Code, which must be geared to meet particular national circumstances and requirements, adaptation is likely to be needed in many instances. Such adaptations should not violate the spirit of the Code.

Fisheries may differ widely by region, country and locality within a country, not only from the point of view of resources or harvesting technology but also from a social and economic perspective. In some countries and in some sub-regions and regions, particular fish distribution systems have evolved over a long period of time in order to meet the needs of consumers. These differences affect the level and nature of the contribution that fisheries make to national, sub-regional and regional food security and economies, as well as affecting relative priorities or most appropriate choices of action.

Popular participation in adapting the Code to suit national, sub-regional and regional conditions may lead to enhanced national acceptance of the Code. This is because stakeholders are more likely to regard a locally adapted Code as being ‘home grown’ and somewhat their ‘own’ Moreover, regional adaptation will assist those developing countries that lack the financial and technical capacity to undertake their own national adaptation of the Code.

4.2 Role of Regional Fishery Bodies

The initiation of sub-regional and regional activities with respect to adaptation and implementation of the Code accords with FAO’s policy of seeking to strengthen regional fishery bodies (including but not limited to those that fall under the FAO umbrella) and has particular significance for enhancing the management of transboundary stocks.

A useful starting point to commence the process of regional adaptation of the Code is specific sub-regional and/or regional workshops. These workshops could be organized under the aegis of FAO regional fishery bodies in cooperation with FAO regional projects, non-FAO fishery bodies and other FAO partners in order to identify regional priorities, areas of particular relevance, omissions and constraints. The workshops should also provide commentary notes on each of the provisions of the Code so as to ensure that the intent of the provisions is correctly and properly reflected in the respective regionalized provisions. It is stressed that through such a process, adaptation of the Code should not compromise its spirit and intent5.

Regional and sub-regional adaptation of the Code is likely to yield the following benefits:

4.3 National Adaptation

Since the implementation of the Code is intended to improve current practices in all aspects of fisheries activities and to achieve long-term sustainable and responsible fisheries, a range of corrective measures will have to be implemented, principally at the local and national levels. Moreover, taking account of the fact that current practices in harvesting and enhancement technology, aquaculture production, marketing and consumption patterns have historically developed within certain socio-economic parameters, greater emphasis in the adaptation process should be placed on these aspects in order for stakeholders to understand better the need to improve and change their current practices (where appropriate) and the socio-economic implications of such change.

4.4 Sectoral Adaptation

Because of its all-embracing nature, the Code remains insufficiently explicit in some areas. For instance, issues of inland fisheries are not comprehensively addressed in the Code. Inland fisheries are a special case requiring careful interpretation of the articles of the Code directed at conservation of the resource. Most inland waters are controlled by interests other than fisheries, such as power generation, navigation, agriculture or urban demand. This means that much of the policy for allocation of the aquatic resource and its physical context are subject to decisions taken outside the fisheries sector. Under these circumstances, countries aiming at sustainable inland fisheries should take such measures as are necessary to protect them, in conformity with the Code, by enlarging the framework to Integrated Basin Management (IBM). This in turn requires:

Moreover, many inland fisheries, in common with aquaculture, aim at maximizing yields of selected species. This deliberate manipulation of the productivity and composition of the fish stock is apparently at variance with certain provisions of the Code related to ecosystem management and productivity conservation. Consequently, such inland fisheries fall more within the agricultural definition of sustainability, whereby sustainability is a function of the inputs and outputs that can be maintained at no cost to the external environment.

In view of these issues, the strategy of FAO-FI is to:

It is expected that the technical guidelines also need to be adapted to specific fisheries, for example, tuna fisheries, temperate trawl fisheries and artisanal fisheries, to meet their particular conditions and requirements. Such adaptations have not been included in the FAO-FI medium-term strategy because it is anticipated that they will be undertaken within the sectoral level. However, within personnel and financial constraints, FAO-FI will respond to requests to assist in such activities.


Governments, international organizations, fishers, ancillary industries and (in some instances) non-fisheries groups are called upon to collaborate in the implementation of the Code. In doing so they may encounter various kinds of constraints. These may be classified as constraints relating to awareness and understanding of the Code; to the availability of resources needed to implement the Code, and to difficulty in accepting some tenets and concepts or prescriptions in the Code.

The lack of awareness and understanding among those who have heard about the Code may stem from not having access to the text, from misconceptions about its contents, and similar problems. The resource constraints include two broad categories: lack of (trained) personnel and funds, and inadequate institutions. The acceptance problem may occur where the rules of conduct laid down in the Code are not consistent with the rules generally applied to solving similar issues in the State concerned or when the social, economic or political costs of the action required appear unacceptable.

It is quite conceivable that virtually all countries will have to address constraints of all three kinds. However, simple lack of awareness and understanding is currently probably the most elementary constraint (and possibly the easiest to solve). In most developed countries the communication infrastructure, resource availability and prevailing paradigms for resolving social conflicts are such that the groups involved in implementing the Code can, within a relatively short period of time, if they so decide, overcome most of the above constraints. In many developing countries, however, and particularly in the least developed countries, the situation is radically different.

In these developing countries, the means to overcome constraints are limited. This means that it will not be enough to simply generate agreement on what is meant by the Code and on how it should, in principle, be best applied. In one form or another, technical and financial resources must be found, internally and externally, to pay for the following three processes: generating the information necessary for the decisions to be taken; arriving at acceptable options and decisions; and implementing (enforcing) those decisions.

However, a systematic and comprehensive review of problems6 or constraints may reveal that the agreement has nothing to do with wealth or poverty, and lack of technical and financial resources may not be the only problem, and possibly not even the major problem. There may be, both in government and in the fishing community at large, fundamental differences between the approaches advocated in the Code and those actually employed in the State concerned (a difference which indeed explains the poor state of fisheries in general). These differences may have to do with the relative importance given to natural resources and the environment as compared to economic growth and development or survival. The relative importance given to these factors is linked to the time horizon that individuals take into consideration in their actions7, and the rules for decision-making within groups8.

These types of constraints must be effectively assessed and addressed9, and it will take time and effort to overcome them. However, the time available for the needed change is constrained by the evolving international rules (e.g. for trade) and by the resilience of the resources. A threefold approach for FAO in overcoming these constraints in the countries affected is possible, by:

As a rule the first step in assisting a region or State in implementing the Code would be to assist it in "diagnosing" where and how assistance is needed and in what order. That diagnosis should explicitly consider all three kinds of constraints. This means that those who carry it out will be confronted with a formidable analytical task: based on discussions and observations, they will need to generate scenarios with respect to the efforts needed to overcome likely resource and conceptual constraints in an acceptable timeframe.

Once the diagnosis is available, it will in most cases be necessary to mobilize technical and financial resources to support training, education and information generation. This effort may focus on international development banks, major donor countries, larger international and national NGOs and other inter-governmental organizations, and should demonstrate: (i) the need for the resources requested; and (ii) through quantified scenarios, the biological, environmental, social and economic rationale for pursuing them.

Finally, but of equal importance in the struggle to reverse and eliminate the constraints, will be to monitor success and failures rates, and to learn from the process. As work on implementing the Code starts in parallel in all countries, it is likely that there will be savings to be made through applying the successful experiences and avoiding approaches that have failed10.


6.1 Objectives

The objectives of the FAO-FI strategy in support of implementation of the Code are:

The Code is intended to cover all aspects related to sustainability of fisheries, including aquaculture. Hence, many normative and field activities of FAO-FI can be seen as contributions to the implementation of the Code. However, in order to provide a comprehensive framework and sharp focus for these activities, and to give greater impetus to the implementation of the Code, a clearly defined strategy has been elaborated.

This strategy selectively includes those activities which:

6.2 Approaches

The strategy will be implemented at the following three levels:

The approach taken to assist countries to implement the Code will be defined by:

Each of these structuring elements is discussed in detail in the following sections.

6.3 Partnership Arrangements

The implementation of the Code at the national level will require the extensive involvement of stakeholders with a direct interest in facilitating change within the fisheries sector. FAO-FI recognizes that to make better use of scarce resources and to obtain quicker and sustainable gains, there is a need to match complementary skills and collaboration with national agencies (government and non-governmental organizations), regional and international organizations, institutions, individual scientists and technicians, the private sector, consumer advocacy groups and fishing communities.

FAO-FI is also cognizant of the fact that dialogue and peoples’ participation in problem diagnosis and solving, are critical ingredients to sustaining local support. Furthermore, based on past experience, it is known that local knowledge and experience are important for sustaining commitment and ensuring the development of technologies and policies that are consistent with local needs. Consequently, FAO-FI will endeavour, within its own implementation strategy, to promote partnership11 arrangements between governments and all levels of the fisheries and aquaculture industries and their supporting services to ensure a judicious implementation of the Code. The Organization will remain a hands-on actor in the implementation process but will also assign high priority to its dual role of catalyst and facilitator in this domain.

Efforts will also be made to ensure that partnership arrangements are proactive, responsive, flexible, mutually beneficial and based on mutual trust between the parties.

Partnership arrangements will be implemented in a contractual, collaborative or collegial mode, depending on the activity concerned, the type of relationship between FAO and the partner(s), and their capabilities and strengths. Partnership will be particularly sought for activities related to research, teaching, learning or information sharing using training workshops, advisory services, pilot demonstrations, networks, working groups and parties, etc.

The stakeholders, apart from FAO, with direct interest in facilitating the more effective implementation of the Code will include:


Different types of activities will be necessary at the field, regional and global levels to facilitate the changes required to implement the Code. The nature and scope of these activities will depend on the geographic level of intervention and the nature of the technical changes required in different regions and fisheries. Collaborative arrangements and partnerships will be promoted, as discussed above, according to the type of activities needed.

7.1 Field-related or Predominantly Operational Activities

Project identification: many developing countries continue to lack some of the means and capabilities to undertake the changes required for sound and long-term sustainable fisheries management and development. In close collaboration with donors and financial institutions, FAO-FI will put added emphasis on assisting countries to identify related projects and eventually the provision of support for their implementation.

Identification of financial support: against a trend of decreasing international support for fisheries activities and a growing awareness of management needs, FAO-FI has an important role to play in linking up with donors and financial institutions to facilitate the financing of projects and activities related to the implementation of the Code.

Support to research and training activities: catalytic support to national institutions in areas such as research and education and training will be provided either directly through advisory missions or through the development of specific documentation. In spite of significant progress over the last two decades, many developing countries are still confronted with major constraints in adjusting to new requirements for sustainable development. It is expected that assistance will be particularly needed in planning and designing more appropriate research and training programmes in conjunction with strengthened management frameworks and increased participation in export markets.

Technical assistance: specific advisory services are expected to be a key requirement for enhanced sectoral management in developing countries. This type of support is likely to be particularly needed for sector-wide adjustment (especially with respect to strategic planning and policy development); for the design of specific management schemes in relation to various types of fisheries and aquaculture; and for the adaptation of related policy instruments, including economic, organizational, institutional, and technological adjustments.

Transfer of technology: technologies and techniques are being developed in response to the growing concern for sustainability and responsible fisheries - not only in relation to production per se, but also with respect to research, and monitoring, control and surveillance in fisheries. FAO-FI has an important role to play in adapting these "sustainable" technologies to the needs and means of developing countries and in facilitating their effective transfer.

7.2 Sub-regional and regional activities

Assistance with the regional adaptation of the Code: assessments and consultations will be needed to facilitate adaptation (when required). Assessments will relate to the specifics of the resource base and its exploitation, as well as to national and regional specificities and priorities, and the ways and means required for action within each region.

Strengthening of regional fishery bodies: adjustment mandate procedures, structures and technical support, analysis, improved information systems and the preparation of documentation will be required in order to facilitate enhanced fisheries management capability and planning of the development of sustainable aquaculture.

Development of other forms of regional collaboration through networking and workshops: these forms of collaboration will be used extensively to facilitate pooling of research resources, to improve information flows and coordination, and to address effectively common problems and technical issues related to fisheries management and aquaculture.

7.3 Headquarters normative activities12

Technical consultations and workshops: these meetings will be used to address major issues related to sustainable development; to develop appropriate techniques and methods; and to exchange views on major policy options. The meetings may involve experts, policy-makers and stakeholders according to the emphasis and objectives pursued. The strategy will aim at developing consensus in collaboration with other international and regional organizations involved in related activities.

Preparation of technical guidelines and technical documentation: the aforementioned technical consultations and workshops will often lead to the development of guidelines and other guidance and supporting documentation regarding strategies, policies and related technical and policy instruments to be used in support of long-term sustainable fisheries and aquaculture development.

Preparation of technical manuals and related tools: FAO-FI will pursue the development of manuals, software and audiovisuals as a complement to its technical documentation. Emphasis will be given to those tools required to improve fisheries assessments, resource-use planning and analysis in capture fisheries and aquaculture, and to decision-support instruments.

Dissemination of information and integration of information systems: FAO-FI will maintain, upgrade and integrate better its extensive information systems and related databases such as the Aquatic Science and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA); FISHDAB (statistical databases in the process of integration on fish catches, aquaculture production, production and trade in fisheries commodities, fishing fleets, fish consumption and employment); SPECIESDAB and POPDYN (on the nature and state of marine fisheries resources, respectively); GLOBEFISH (an ‘electronic library’, updated monthly, on all aspects necessary for successful marketing of fisheries products), and FISHBASE (an ICLARM-FAO database on species identification, distribution, ecology and fisheries). More specific information requirements will emerge as the implementation of the Code progresses. Strategic information will be made easily accessible on the Internet and on CD-ROM through, inter alia, the Digital Interactive Atlas on Fisheries (to be integrated later with the Atlas on Agriculture and Forestry).

Identification of research priorities: under the guidance of the newly established Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR), and in close collaboration with other leading research institutions, FAO-FI will provide assistance in identifying research priorities and in promoting collaborative research efforts on selected topics of international, regional and sub-regional significance.

Education and training: the collaborative training programme (TRAINFISH), based on the TRAIN-X methodologies widely used in the UN system, and other initiatives will be pursued to support education and training on selected components of the Code.


The issues identified as priorities for action in support of implementation of the Code have been selected according to the following criteria:

The detailed actions planned by FAO-FI, the activities that will be used to effect them, and the technical issues that will be addressed are shown in Table 2.

8.1 Global activities

8.1.1 Technical guidelines and other guiding documentation

The technical guidelines have been identified as important tools in assisting member countries to implement the Code and a high priority is being given by FAO-FI to completing and distributing this series. This will involve the translation of the existing guidelines into the main FAO languages and the production of new technical guidelines in several key areas including: inland fisheries; post-harvest practices and trade; regulation of fishing effort and the problem of over-capacity, and the unique features of artisanal and small-scale fisheries in relation to the Code (Table 2a). A suite of specialized technical guidelines, manuals and codes is also planned under Aquaculture Development (Table 2d). Other additions to the technical guideline series may be identified and produced at a later stage.

8.1.2 Global information on resources and fisheries

In addition to the technical guidelines, information pertinent to progress in fisheries management will be provided through the on-going production of the State of World Marine Resources, the State of World Inland Resources and Fisheries and the State of World Aquaculture as well as the synthesis for COFI on the State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture. In addition, a publication will be prepared that presents and analyzes case studies of fisheries management to identify and compare appropriate systems and approaches for responsible fisheries management under different circumstances (Table 2b). Within the Inter-regional Programme, a series of case studies on fisheries policy, planning and management for both capture fisheries and aquaculture will lead to the publication of supplementary guidelines on these topics. Considerable emphasis will also be placed on provision of information regarding fishing operations, including the production of publications on vessel monitoring systems and fishers’ training and certification, as well as several technical guidelines and manuals on these subjects.

The collection and dissemination at a global level of information on post-harvest practices and trade will also be undertaken, but will be more centred on contributions in fora and direct contacts with the member countries (Table 2f), as will the activities on fisheries research (Table 2g).

8.1.3 Support to developing member countries

FAO-FI is committed to playing a leading role in implementing Article 5 of the Code (Special Requirements for Developing Countries) by mobilizing resources to assist these countries. Proposals for FAO-FI sub-programmes in the Inter-regional Programme have been prepared (see Section 9) and have received commitments for support from some developed countries. Efforts to develop this Programme and also to identify and use other channels to assist in the realization of the goals of Article 5 will continue.

8.2 Sub-regional and Regional Activities

8.2.1 Information dissemination

There will also be a strong emphasis on information dissemination at the sub-regional and regional levels, building on and using materials and mechanisms generated at the global level. The technical guidelines, manuals and other materials will be disseminated through regional fishery bodies and similar organizations, supported, where appropriate, by workshops (Tables 2a-g). Where there is an identified need, awareness and acceptance of the Code will be increased by facilitating regional adaptations of the Code to reflect unique regional and sub-regional characteristics (Table 2a), and ensuring that the adaptations do not violate the principles of the Code.

8.2.2 Assistance to regions>

One of the major thrusts in the FAO-FI programme to implement the Code will be the Inter-regional Programme (Section 9). This programme will function principally at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. It will incorporate much of the field activity required by the FAO-FI strategy and facilitate implementation of the Code in the regions and countries selected for the field activities. In addition, it will generate substantial information on problems and constraints, as well as successful approaches in the implementation of the Code. Activities are planned within the areas of fisheries policy, planning and management, provision of scientific advice in fisheries management, MCS and the role of NGOs in sustainable fisheries. Activities may be added in other areas if financial support can be found.

8.2.3 Shared stocks

The problems of fisheries concerning shared stocks are frequently regional or sub-regional in nature, and activities are planned to address these problems, such as the provision of advice to countries, on request, in management of such stocks, including in the establishment of shared stocks management arrangements. In addition to the resource aspect, countries within the same region frequently have common problems related to fishing operations of foreign fleets, post-harvest practices and trade, and integration into coastal area or basin management. Several activities are planned in these areas; for example, regional workshops on the management of small-scale fishing ports (Table 2c); aquaculture in the Mediterranean; aquaculture health management in Asia-Pacific (Table 2d); and improving fish utilization (Table 2f).

Within the area of fisheries research, it is planned to develop new, and strengthen existing, regional networks to promote joint programmes and facilitate methodology transfer, and sharing of information and ideas to overcome or alleviate common problems.

8.3 National and Local Activities

Information sources specially designed for the various fisheries stakeholders will be produced and distributed. This material will include pamphlets (Table 2a) and may also include video material. The Internet will also be used, complemented as necessary by other media (including CD-ROM) to increase the presently limited availability of relevant information in many countries.

Inevitably, many activities related to implementation of the Code at the national level will be ad hoc requests for technical assistance and these activities will continue as usual, making use of material and expertise developed. Such activities are anticipated in all the implementation categories.

Finally, as noted above under sub-regional and regional activities, the Inter-regional Programme will include a substantial number of field projects at the national level (Table 2a). These will include projects designed primarily to collect and analyze information on existing fisheries practices, with a view to developing or clarifying principles of responsible fisheries management and practices. However, there will also be activities in which steps will be taken to implement positive changes in provision of advice for fisheries management, including the development of effective MCS systems. In these cases, the existing problems and constraints will be determined and suitable approaches to solve them in a manner consistent with the Code will be identified and implemented. It will be impossible in these field studies to cover all developing countries. However, where the needs are likely to be greatest, they will be undertaken in circumstances where it is considered that substantial progress can be made and where the catalytic effect of FAO-FI involvement is likely to be greatest in terms of both national and regional benefits.


The FAO-FI initiative in support of the implementation of the Code of Conduct will be undertaken within a number of its mechanisms and programmes, which include the following:

A. Implementation of the Compliance Agreement

B. Upgrading Capabilities for Reporting on Fisheries Statistics

C. Upgrading Capabilities in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance

D. Promotion of Responsible Fishing Operations

E. Upgrading Marine Resource Survey Capabilities

F. Improving the Provision of Scientific Advice for Fisheries Management

G. Fisheries Policy, Planning and Management

H. Developing and Implementing Fishing Fleet Restructuring Policies

I. Implementation of Responsible Post-harvest Practices and Trade

J. Umbrella Support to Non-governmental Organizations

K. Coordination and Facilitation of the Programme

A Programme Facilitator, with secretarial support, will be funded under sub-programme L to ensure overall coherence between the various sub-programmes as well as coordination with:

Linkages between TRAINFISH and the Inter-regional Programme will ensure that training materials developed by the Programme will be adopted by TRAINFISH, thus ensuring the sustainability and coherence of strategic activities. In addition, the Programme will take account of some field activities undertaken by the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), an instrument that enables FAO to respond speedily to urgent requests for short-term assistance. It will make use of the possibilities offered by improvement of the Technical Cooperation between Developing Countries (TCDC) and the Technical Cooperation between Countries in Transition (TCCT) programmes.

The proposed strategy will involve a substantial increase in the activities of FAO-FI, particularly through the Inter-regional Programme. Included in this will be a dedicated budget that is likely to approach and may exceed US$ 10,000,000, and the recruitment of both full-time and contract staff to implement Programme activities. These staff will be operating both in the field and at headquarters. This will impose substantial operational requirements on the Organization and additional arrangements will be made to cope with this.


The primary objective of the FAO-FI strategy is to facilitate substantial progress towards implementation of the Code by FAO Member and other countries within the next five years. The results expected from the strategy reflect this fundamental objective. The expected results and impact of implementing the strategy in the medium-term period 1998-2002 are outlined below. Table 3 lists some of the indicators that can be used to assess the progress. The results listed below are wide-ranging and ambitious, and reflect progress that can only be made if all those engaged in the fisheries sector within the States, NGOs, and other organizations cooperate in implementing the Code. FAO-FI plans to contribute to achieving these goals, as discussed above, but can be only one participant in what must be a global effort. The strategy put forward here for FAO-FI is dependent on the availability of suitable funding, both Regular Programme and extra budgetary, and changes in the anticipated budget or failure to secure the required extra-budgetary funds will require appropriate modification of the strategy.

In considering expected impact arising from the implementation of the Code, it should be recognized that there is little benchmark information available with which to compare future results. This is because the compilation of such information would be an onerous, if not impossible, task and the implementation of the Code commenced prior to any benchmark assessments having been made, except on the state of living resources. In other fields, the historical information on fisheries and management systems is such that the measurement of progress and results achieved will necessarily be somewhat qualitative in nature.

A further consideration is that with a global strategy of this type, many generalizations must be made. However, through the regional adaptation process, and with the elaboration of national plans and measures to implement the Code, a greater degree of specificity in actions to be taken should be possible.

10.1 General

The general impact will be reflected within the following categories:

10.2 Fisheries Management

Increased dissemination of information on management systems, techniques and tools:

Enhanced information and data to guide transparent and participatory decision-making management processes:

An increased number of fisheries where trends in resource abundance and the economic performance of fleets have been reversed through preparation and implementation of transparent and participatory management plans for national and transboundary fisheries:

Strengthened policy, institutional, legal and administrative frameworks for fisheries management:

10.3 Fishing Operations

Monitoring and certification:

Fishing practices:

Environmental considerations:

10.4 Aquaculture Development

Increased awareness:

Improvements in aquaculture practices:

Capacity building:

10.5 Integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area and Basin Management

Policy, planning and legal framework:

Participation and regulation:

Conflict resolution:

Precautionary approach and regional cooperation:

Capacity building:

10.6 Post-harvest Practices and Trade

Utilization and quality assurance:

International trade:

10.7 Fisheries Research

Global coordination:

Regional cooperation:

National frameworks:


11.1 Timeframe

The Code is a far-reaching document and the requirements for its implementation are complex, frequently costly in the short term, and may have substantial social and political implications. The rate of progress in implementation is therefore likely to be different in different countries and incremental rather than rapid and dramatic. The rate of progress will depend heavily on some critical steps and, for example, may be accelerated if a system of rights-based fisheries is adopted, with cascading effects on capacity reduction, economic organization, and compliance.

Important progress has already been made in attempting to disseminate and promote the Code. Most, if not all, regional fisheries organizations have had the Code on the agenda of meetings and it has also been picked up by many NGOs and governments. The precautionary approach is spreading rapidly. These efforts will continue and, starting from 1998, even greater emphasis will be placed by FAO-FI on regional promotion of the Code through the different regional fishery bodies, and also at a national and local level, particularly in those countries where field programmes are initiated under the Inter-regional Programme. In addition, the work to be done in 1998 by FAO-FI on sustainability indicators may improve monitoring of the Code's implementation.

Similarly, production of technical documentation in the form of technical guidelines, manuals etc., started in 1996 and 1997 with the distribution of a number of technical guidelines at COFI in 1997. This is being continued and additional and complementary material, as discussed in previous sections of the document, is and will continue to be produced as the need is identified. Technical guidelines for inland fisheries are already in an advanced state of preparation. Such production will be continued and, subject to the availability of additional funds, increased from 1998.

Many of the activities involving direct assistance in implementation of the Code at a regional or national level are planned under the Inter-regional Programme. Commitment has already been obtained for funding for several of these, and the sub-programme proposals and strategies are in the final stages of completion. It is anticipated that the first projects within the Inter-regional Programme will be initiated early in 1998. The funding that has so far been committed for the Inter-regional Programme has been for three years, and therefore the first results should be available within the timeframe of this strategy.

11.2 Mobilization of Resources

The strategy outlined in this document is deliberately ambitious and many activities are dependent on securing additional funding (as has been indicated), as well as partnership with member countries and centres of excellence. As discussed under Section 10, if the funds anticipated in drawing up this strategy, both Regular Programme and extra budgetary, are not forthcoming, the strategy will have to be amended accordingly. For example, the Inter-regional Programme is a ‘rolling’ programme already partially funded and it is hoped that additional funds will be secured in the future to allow the initiation of additional activities over the next several years. Therefore, the strategy includes efforts by FAO-FI to mobilize resources from the international community to support implementation, primarily though the Inter-regional Programme. Efforts will be continued to encourage contributions from, and activities in collaboration with, interested parties, including bilateral and multilateral donors, intergovernmental organizations and international NGOs as well as those from the private sector, academia and other types of associations.


12.1 Monitoring and Evaluation

FAO-FI will, with the resources it has available for the task, monitor the implementation of the Code on a regular and ongoing basis in order to assess progress and, where progress is found to be unsatisfactory, the constraints to successful implementation. The core of the monitoring programme must and will depend on national reporting, including reporting to COFI. FAO-FI will coordinate this and will distribute and analyze questionnaires designed to allow valid evaluation of progress. These questionnaires will be sent to a range of stakeholders and interest groups in each country, not just to the fisheries authorities.

The national reports that will be consolidated by FAO-FI for presentation to COFI, will form the basis for an assessment of implementation, including both achievements and difficulties, and for decisions to be taken by COFI concerning changes that may be required periodically to update and adjust the Code to ensure that it is generally consistent with fisheries developments taking place. The questionnaire to be distributed to countries by FAO-FI for the compilation of reports for submission to COFI may be modified from time to time to take account of expected results and impact. As far as possible, countries should provide in their reporting quantified and verifiable information on results and impact with respect to the implementation of the Code. In this connection Table 3 provides a guide to issues that might be quantified in national and other reports.

However, previous experience has shown that national reports are often incomplete both in number and coverage, and therefore independent FAO-FI assessments will also be undertaken. With resources currently available, it will not be possible to undertake such independent assessments for the whole Code in every country, and a means of sub-sampling will be required. It should be noted that for complete and rigorous evaluation, additional resources will be required and a "Monitoring and Evaluation" project is being developed, for which funds will be sought from outside donors.

In addition to relying on national reporting, FAO-FI will foster, through its normative and field programmes, broad collaboration in evaluation and follow-up on implementation of the Code. These will include regional and sub-regional workshops to address common problems. Some workshops will be arranged specifically for this purpose, but other meetings of regional and sub-regional fisheries organizations may also provide opportunities for collecting information on progress and problems in implementing the Code.

The Inter-regional Programme will also provide opportunities to monitor, evaluate and follow-up on implementation. It will include regional and sub-regional workshops as well as field projects, all of which will enable collection of relevant information. This will be used in the independent FAO-FI assessments and will be incorporated in the dedicated "Monitoring and Evaluation" project, should it be successfully implemented.

12.2 Updating

In accordance with its Article 4, the Code may be revised through COFI as and when required. Where significant changes are made to the Code, the implementation strategy will be adjusted as necessary. Reporting, as appropriate, will also be made to the Special Session of the CSD in 1999, on Oceans. More generally, the annual report to UNGA on particular fisheries issues stemming from UNGA resolutions will also address the implementation of the Code.

1 FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. FAO. Rome. 41p. The text of the Code is also available at the FAO-FI web site:
2 FAO. 1995. Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas. FAO. Rome. 65 p. (In Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Spanish).
3 Resolution 15/93 of the Twenty-seventh Session of the FAO Conference.
4 Adaptation of Code means that its provisions may be adjusted or specified to meet the particular needs and circumstances of sub-regions, regions, countries and fisheries, so long as the adaptation remains fully consistent with the Code’s basic tenets and principles. For example, the conditions and fisheries management requirements in inshore small-scale fisheries are vitally different from those in offshore industrial fisheries, although the need for management in both types of fisheries is apparent. In this situation, there would be merit in adapting the Code to take account of the specific management requirements of both fisheries so that the Code might be more effectively applied in both sub-sectors.
5 It is certainly not intended that the regional adaptation of the Code would provide an opportunity to countries to selectively apply its provisions or to weaken the application of the Code.
6 This will be done, inter alia, as the process of regional and sub-regional adaptation of the Code gets under way.
7 On the whole, the Code presupposes that present generations will be generously disposed towards future generations.
8 The Code tends to suggest that participatory procedures for taking decisions will lead to improved compliance.
9 The Code in its Article 5, Special requirements of developing countries, specifies how countries, relevant international organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, and financial institutions should proceed to assist developing countries in the implementation of the Code.
10 The Co-ordinating and Facilitating Programme (of the Inter-regional Programme being developed by the Fisheries Department) is explicitly designed to fulfil this function.
11 Partnership is sharing of power, resources, information and experience based on equitable arrangements, or an implicit understanding between parties with similar or complementary visions, goals and values. Partnership is based on trust, accountability and exchanges.
12 These activities are normally funded by the FAO Regular Programme.