Could you bring us up to date on events in global fisheries since the last COFI meeting in 1995?
There have been several important developments. These include the adoption of the Rome Consensus on World Fisheries, the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and the Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action for Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security. Moreover, in November last year, 82 Heads of States and Governments and over 100 other heads of delegations and observers gathered at the World Food Summit in Rome to tackle the hunger problem. They adopted the Rome Declaration on Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. Obviously, fisheries has a major role to play in achieving the Summit's goal of reducing hunger by half by 2015.
What are today's trends in global fisheries?
At our meeting we are releasing a comprehensive report on the subject, the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 1996. Far-reaching changes have been taking place in world fisheries. In the past five years, aquaculture has expanded rapidly, while production of capture fisheries has been stable at between 85 and 90 million tonnes. Only small increases in supplies are to be expected from capture fisheries in the near future.
Will the poor benefit from larger global catches?
The increase in global catch does not necessarily mean that the needs of all consumers will be satisfied. It is conceivable - although not inevitable - that the chronically poor and food-insecure will be worse off in the short run as price increases and distribution problems could keep seafood, and other protein-rich food, out of their reach.
What are the major issues being discussed at COFI?
International public concern with fisheries and aquaculture is currently focused on features of the sectors that may be seen as threats to their long-term capacity to provide both food and a source of livelihood. Among the major features or issues are overfishing, by-catch and discarding as well as degradation and modification of the aquatic ecosystem, and these will certainly be addressed at the COFI debate.
How can the world community solve fisheries problems especially overfishing?
International cooperation through meetings such as COFI is important, of course, as is the political will of all Governments concerned to rationally manage their fisheries and enforce agreed measures. I might add that in our efforts to seek solutions to these problems we should not rely exclusively on market forces. Looking at the issue of overfishing, for example, history shows that therein lies the road to overcapitalization in industrial fisheries and excessive pressure in the case of small-scale fisheries and a headlong chase in pursuit of greater harvests. This has led to the collapse of some fisheries and fish stocks.
The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was prepared at COFI's initiative and direction. Is it being widely implemented?
The Code has been widely distributed and FAO has even received requests to translate it into other languages such as German, Italian, Tamil and Tigrina. Some countries have already started formal programmes to redesign their fisheries policy and management practices in line with the provisions of the Code. It appears that such initiatives were taken in the United States and Canada. In addition, Morocco has specifically signed a unilateral trust fund project with FAO for such a purpose. FAO has established the series "Technical guidelines for responsible fisheries" in support of the Code's implementation. Many other steps are being taken to technically supplement the Code and to assist governments to put it into practice. It still requires, however, a huge amount of effort by all stakeholders to implement all aspects of this comprehensive document.
What is the role and future of FAO regional fisheries bodies?
The role of FAO's ten regional fisheries bodies is to promote responsible fisheries
through improved conservation and management of resources by their members. The most
serious problem is they have not been strong enough to manage fisheries. FAO has
a policy of making them independent and self-sustaining, so that their members may
become more responsible for their activities. It is urgent to restructure and strengthen
these regional bodies and arrangements.
17 March 1997