Governments call for responsible post-tsunami reconstruction of fisheries, pledge to combat illegal fishing

Governments call for responsible post-tsunami reconstruction of fisheries, pledge to combat illegal fishing


A group of 121 fishing ministers and high-level fisheries officials who gathered at FAO over the weekend for a special ministerial meeting have issued a joint declaration stressing the need to rebuild fisheries and aquaculture in tsunami-affected countries in a responsible and people-centred manner. Among those participating in the March 12 event were representatives from countries affected by the tsunami.

Focus on people, sustainability

According to the declaration adopted by the Ministerial Meeting, rehabilitation should focus on restoring the livelihoods of fishers and fish farmers and on providing them with protection from future natural disasters and other environmental threats. The statement also emphasized the need to protect the rights of fishers and fish workers and ensure their access to fishing grounds and resources, particularly for those involved in subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishing.

At the same time, the ministers said that improving the efficiency, sustainability and governance of fisheries is also a priority, and agreed to cooperate to ensure that reconstruction does not produce a level of fishing capacity that exceeds what fishery resources can sustainably support.

All rehabilitation should be in line with the principles of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, a set of international guidelines for sustainable fishing adopted by the Organization's member states in 1995, they said. And the institutional and technical capacities of countries to responsibly manage fishery resources must be restored and strengthened, beyond simply rebuilding physical infrastructure, the declaration noted.

Second declaration takes fight against illegal fishing to new level

The Ministerial Meeting also adopted a second declaration calling for intensified action to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. As a new step in anti-IUU efforts, the group called for the creation within FAO of a comprehensive global record of fishing vessels, including supply and refrigerated transport ships, to facilitate prevention of illegal fishing.

Additionally, the countries said they would renew their efforts to ensure that all large-scale industrial fishing vessels operating on the high seas be fitted with vessel monitoring systems (VMS) by December 2008. VMS involves putting monitoring units on vessels that transmit data on their location and activities. This allows authorities to remotely monitor ship activities in great detail, helping to both strengthen general fisheries management as well as to more effectively combat IUU fishing.

The ministers also acknowledged the need to strengthen Regional Fisheries Management Organizations -- intergovernmental organizations that facilitate cooperation on management of high seas fishing -- to make them more effective in preventing IUU fishing. FAO has identified IUU fishing as major impediment to the achievement of sustainable world fisheries. Combating it outside countries' exclusive economic zones on the high seas, where governance is particular complex, is not easy.

The talks capped off a week of discussions on responsible fisheries and aquaculture by 600 representatives of 137 governments during a meeting of FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI), held 7-11 March at the Organization's Rome headquarters. Some 43 intergovernmental organizations and 28 nongovernmental organizations also participated.