December 1998 COFI/99/8

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


Giving effect to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other recent international fishery instruments1 is the major challenge facing countries in their effort to secure long-term sustainable fisheries and aquaculture development and management. As part of the on-going effort of the Organization to formulate a Strategic Framework, this paper suggests a medium-term strategic response by FAO in light of the outcome of recent global conferences, the deliberations of FAO statutory bodies, the recommendations of the High-Level Panel of External Experts in Fisheries, convened in January 1998, and the First Session of the Advisory Committee on Fishery Research. The Committee is invited to review and comment on the proposed Medium-Term perspectives.


1. This Session of COFI is taking place when a major strategic planning exercise is under way in FAO. Two draft versions of the organization-wide Strategic Framework (COFI/99/9 – CL 115/12), a key policy document to be eventually approved by the FAO Conference at its November 1999 session, are before the Committee for comment as far as fisheries activities are concerned.

2. The Organization is also introducing a new programming methodology, aimed at sharpening the formulation and presentation of programme proposals. In view of timing constraints, detailed proposals for the Programme of Work and Budget (2000-2001) as regards Major Programme 2.3 Fisheries cannot be presented to the Committee. In effect, the new programme entities according to this methodology and associated resource allocations, are still being developed.

3. The purpose of this paper is to present priorities for Major Programme 2.3 Fisheries in the context of a medium-term strategy for the six years period 2000 – 2005. The programme in the medium term is geared towards enhancing the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to food security in the context of sustainable fisheries management and responsible utilization of fishery resources. The programme of work will continue to be guided by the assessment of prospects and problems in world fisheries and aquaculture as determined by the Fisheries Department, as summarized below, and as approved by the Governing Bodies.


4. The dual challenge facing marine fisheries is improved management of stocks and more responsible fisheries. Such management requires the regulation of fishing activity (ideally, taking account of both inputs and outputs in a fishery) in a precautionary manner so that excessive effort, leading to overfishing, is not applied to stocks and adverse impact is not caused on the environment. In addition, ecosystem management, which takes account of fishing impacts on non-target stocks, is becoming more commonly required, and will add a further complicating dimension to the management challenge. This calls for an active role of FAO in information and methodology transfer to fishery sector partners at international, regional and national levels, to encourage a more ecosystem-oriented approach to fisheries, taking account of the way in which fisheries affect and are affected by the ecosystem as well as the potential value of ecosystems and their alternative uses.

5. The present and future contribution of inland fisheries, in particular of subsistence fisheries, to food security, while probably under reported, is very significant. In many developing countries, in particular, there is a significant scope for enhancing contributions of inland fisheries and aquaculture to food supplies and poverty alleviation. Enhancement techniques in inland fisheries offer good prospects, and small reservoir fisheries have the potential to develop as community-based management initiatives become more widely accepted. However, most fishers still lack access to adequate technical information as well as institutional and technological support required to improve their practices to increase production. One of the greatest threats to the sustainability of inland fisheries resources is environmental degradation and deterioration of wild resources. Public concern about increase in aquatic pollution, destruction of fish habitats, water abstraction and impacts on aquatic biodiversity is high and these trends must be reversed. More information and guidance is urgently needed on protection of living resources in inland waters.

6. Aquaculture is now one of the fastest growing food production sectors in the world. In 1996, it contributed 26.5 percent of total global fishery production including aquatic plants in both aquaculture and fish production. Aquaculture makes a significant contribution to global food security in many regions and opportunities exist to further expand its role. There are different forms of aquaculture, some of which have greater benefits to rural economies and food security than others. The potential for further growth of aquaculture is promising. Such growth could be realized through improvements in technologies and resource use, intensification, integration of aquaculture with other farming activities, and development of additional areas for aquaculture.

7. A number of international fora have called upon the world community to develop appropriate responses to the many issues related to by-catch and discards, to the need to expand and promote uniform quality criteria for internationally traded fish and fish products, as well as the need for technical information on trade related issues to be easily accessible. In the interest of food security and the best utilization of limited resources, the problem of post-harvest losses should be tackled as a matter of high priority. Methods and incentives to minimize post-harvest losses need to be improved and implemented, building on work already undertaken by some governments, FAO and other organizations. In addition, the facilitation of value-added processing should be encouraged so as to maximize benefits for producing countries. Furthermore, promoting cooperation in fish trade with a view to avoiding disputes and imposition of sanctions, and minimizing also the impact of international fish trade on those groups of countries which are most vulnerable to food insecurity are issues that need to be addressed.

8. Improved data collection and scientific assessment of resources are required so that decisions concerning fisheries management and aquaculture development options may be more rationally based and informed. This requires a multifaceted approach including (i) national and industry commitment to provide data, (ii) appropriate data collection mechanisms and data management systems, and (iii) improved capacity in FAO and non-FAO regional fishery bodies and other concerned institutions and organizations to conduct quality assessments of status and trends in fisheries.

9. Maintaining the contributions made by fisheries and aquaculture to food security, employment, national economic development and recreation is one of the most important and complex challenges for the international community. It also involves controversial issues. Increases in population and incomes are placing ever-growing demands on aquatic resources. Depending on geography, access to markets and affordable technology, the contribution of fish to food security comes not only from fish produced for direct local food consumption, but also from aquatic products of all types that can be sold domestically or exported for hard currency, as well as those which generate income through recreation, tourism, or employment. Access to all potential types of contributions is not automatic and specific interventions are required to achieve full access.


10. Five principal medium-term objectives are envisaged to be simultaneously pursued by FAO:

  1. provide Members with appropriate analysis and advice, including assessments of the state of world fishery resources and aquaculture, as well as assistance with regard to strategies and technologies for sustainable food fish production;

  2. develop and promote appropriate policies and technologies for more effective and efficient use of resources by fisheries and aquaculture industries;

  3. develop and promote adoption of technical standards and international norms for improved utilization, trade, quality and safety of fishery and aquaculture products;

  4. provide Members with information and indicators to better forecast emergencies and disasters in fisheries and aquaculture;

  5. improve access to high quality and timely information, in support of responsible fisheries and aquaculture, and trade.

11. In pursuing the above objectives, FAO needs to implement a comprehensive, interdisciplinary programme to address the range of technical and policy issues that link the environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture development and management. The Draft FAO Medium-Term Strategy in support of the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1998-2002) (COFI/99/Inf.6) responds to the current and emerging issues of the sector. FAO’s role in the process is to technically support the implementation of the Code of Conduct, as the major responsibility for implementation of the Code lies with countries themselves.

12. The principal priority areas to be addressed under each objective are further elaborated as below.

  1. Provide Members with appropriate analysis and advice, including assessments of the state of world fishery resources and aquaculture, as well as assistance with regard to strategies and technologies for sustainable food fish production

    • Marine resource assessment and management through the development and application of fishery resources management strategies and techniques, including systems of monitoring and analysis of their performance; encouraging comparative study and application of resource management methodologies and documenting theory and experience through case studies; incorporating environmental and bio-economic considerations into management advice; promoting thematic resource mapping, particularly for the management of shared, straddling and highly migratory resources; developing further guidelines for the Code of Conduct in relation to fisheries management.

    • Promotion of responsible inland fisheries and aquaculture development and management by providing assistance to Members in the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The promotion of protection and sustainable use of fisheries resources, including aquatic genetic resources, and the reduction of environmental and biodiversity impacts from inland fisheries and aquaculture will be important aspects of the work. Furthermore, the facilitation of a common approach to fisheries and environmental issues with emphasis on fisheries issues in the post UNCED process, and the production of additional technical guidelines on the Code of Conduct will also receive great attention.

    • Increased contribution of aquaculture and fisheries resources to world food security through greater emphasis on sustainable resources management and enhancement. Emphasis will also be placed on the promotion of sustainable increase in production from aquaculture and inland fisheries, the implementation of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), the integration of aquaculture and inland fisheries into sustainable agriculture and rural development in both inland and coastal areas and the promotion of development research. The work will also address gender issues in an appropriate manner.

    • Sustainable development of small-scale fishery sector through the development of participatory methods and approaches, as well as the extension of the range and capabilities of small-scale fishing operations. Attention will be paid to institutional development within small-scale fishing communities and technical support to fisheries development in Small Island States.

    • Global monitoring and strategic analysis of inland and marine fishery resources and aquaculture, by developing and analyzing global and regional trends in inland and marine fisheries and aquaculture, using the data from integrated aquaculture and fisheries information systems and databases developed for the purpose. Other activities would include the updating, interpreting and disseminating of data on fisheries and aquaculture, including taxonomic, and biological information as well as the development of a system of sustainability indicators for fisheries and aquaculture.

  2. Develop and promote appropriate policies and technologies for more effective and efficient fisheries and aquaculture industries

    • Analysis of global trends in social and economic aspects of capture fisheries and aquaculture through inter alia: (1) economic interpretation of global data and information on production, technology development, status of aquatic resources, , preservation, processing, trade and consumption, in capture fisheries and aquaculture; (2) analysis of the influence of the natural as well as international economic and social environment on these trends ., (3) Medium and long-term projections of demand and supply of fish and fish products and (4) monitoring and reporting on essential development in fisheries in Member countries. The work would also include the maintenance of databases e.g. on fishery management and essential fishery issues by country including relevant economic and social data.

    • Analysis of policies and management strategies for the fishery and aquaculture sectors through the analysis of inter alia: methods for the management and measurement of fishing capacity: (2) cost-effective monitoring, control and surveillance systems, (3) costs and earnings in fisheries, (4) factors/causes contributing to the problems of development and resilience of excessive fishing capacity, as well as (5) the economic and social implication of alternative fisheries in management approaches and policies. Other specific areas of work include the analysis of alternative institutional arrangements for fisheries management, the integration of fishery and aquaculture sector policies and plans in coastal, regional/national economic and social policies and the monitoring of national plans for the management of fishing capacity.

    • Promotion of sustainable aquaculture development policies at national or regional levels: through (1) studies of national and international markets and trade mechanisms for selected species: in selected regions; (2) investigations on alternative fish culture methods and technologies suitable for selected regions; and (3) participatory elaboration of policies for the promotion of commercial aquaculture in selected regions.

    • Promotion of improved fisheries management in coastal and inland fisheries through the review of management strategies potentially usable in artisanal/small-scale and semi-industrial fisheries on the introduction, application and evaluation of possible fishery and resource management methodologies. This work would be further pursued with the development of easy-to-use guidelines for resource management for use at community level, the development of easy-to-use indicators/methods for local assessment of fish stocks, and the elaboration of public policies conducive to effective management ensuring the appropriate involvement of, and decentralization of decisions to fishers.

  3. Develop and promote the adoption of technical standards and international norms for improved utilization, trade, quality and safety of fishery products

    • Reduction of discards and environmental impact from fisheries through support to cooperative research and development aimed at increasing fishing gear selectivity and reducing wastes from fish discards and post harvest losses, environmental assessment and mitigation measures, and through the elaboration of guidelines for responsible fishing practices.

    • Global fishery coordination and strengthening of regional fishery bodies and arrangements by promoting and fostering international cooperation for sustainable fishery conservation, management and development, and the provision of harmonized fisheries management and development policies through active support to the FAO network of regional fishery bodies. Other priorities would include monitoring implementation of recent international agreements and global reporting on major fishery issues from regional bodies, the review and updating of agreements and mandates of FAO and non-FAO bodies, in line with recent international developments. The work would further include support to and coordination of activities of projects aimed at strengthening and improving the performance of regional fishery bodies or arrangements.

    • Increased production from under-utilized fish resources and low value catches by studies on under-utilized resources and ecological interactions; the selection and adaptation of cost-effective fishing technology and vessel design/equipment; and the selection, adaptation and application of relevant processing technologies for maximizing the value of catches and reducing wastes. Appropriate policies will be developed to promote the use of under-exploited species, accompanied by appropriate monitoring and management

    • Promotion of international fish trade by providing information and analysis, promoting the participation of developing countries in fish trade and promoting products safety and quality assurance. Cost-effective systems for monitoring fish and food consumption will be developed, particularly in rural communities to assess and mitigate the risk of declining food availability. Collaboration will be strengthened with INFONETWORK.

    • Coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and reporting on progress achieved with its implementation: (i) biennially to COFI, (ii) to other international fora (e.g. the UN General Assembly), and (iii) to FAO and non-FAO regional fishery bodies. Regional or sectorial adaptation of the Code will be promoted in line with the draft FAO Medium Term Strategy for the Implementation of the Code. Technical support for regional workshops as well as the development and implementation of a training programme for the Code of Conduct will also be pursued through the implementation of TRAINFISH methodology. FAO will implement the FAO SIDS Programme of fisheries assistance in support of the Code of Conduct, utilization, trade, quality and safety of fishery products which depends on active donor support.

  4. Provide Members with information and indicators to better forecast emergencies and disasters in fisheries and aquaculture

    • Promotion of ecosystem/environmental information and management by developing, testing, documenting and disseminating approaches, methodologies, models and procedures for effectively utilizing information on environmental variation and biological community composition in its applications to fishery management and industrial and small-scale fisheries. The work would also include advice on ecological and environmental applications to Members, and regional fishery bodies.

  5. Improve access to high quality and timely information, in support of responsible fisheries and aquaculture, and fish trade

    • Development of a Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS) through an overall system design, development and integration with WAICENT; development of partnership arrangements for information sharing as well as mechanisms for linking FAO and partner institutions, including Members and regional fishery bodies and NGOs. Programmes to enhance accessibility to up to date fisheries information and knowledge, building on a two ways flow of information to facilitate submission and dissemination would be stressed. The integration of fisheries statistics databases and development of statistics, fisheries inventories and the Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) modules are also envisaged.

    • Advice and technical support to Members and regional fishery bodies on fishery statistics by developing, servicing and backstopping projects. The work would also include technical support to Members and regional fishery bodies on fisheries and aquaculture statistics collection, processing, exchange and dissemination. To this end, training courses and workshops will be organized on fisheries and aquaculture statistics collection and processing.

    • Provision of fisheries statistics and information services through the development of international norms and standards for collection and exchange of fishery statistics and support to the coordination of statistical programmes among regional fisheries organizations through the Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics. The work in this area will also include the development of standard methodologies and tools for the collection of fishery statistics by countries and the collection, analysis and dissemination of global and regional fishery statistics on capture fishery production, aquaculture production, as well as on fishery commodity production and trade, fish consumption, fishing fleets and the employment in fisheries and aquaculture primary sectors. Emphasis will also be placed on enhancing the capacity of fisheries institutions and information centres, particularly in developing countries to collect and disseminate the relevant literature, and promote information resource sharing through international fishery information networks. Furthermore, inputs to the ASFA database from the UN co-sponsors, international and national partners, and dissemination of ASFA products, particularly in developing countries, would be coordinated.


11. The Committee is invited to review and comment on the above medium-term prospects and priorities.

1 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 Convention); 1992 Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 adopted by the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (the Earth Summit); 1993 Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (FAO Compliance Agreement); 1995 Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security; 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of Provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1992 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UN Fish Stocks Agreement), Rome Declaration on World Food Security, and 1995 Rome Consensus on World Fisheries adopted by the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries; and the 1996 World Food Summit Plan of Action.