The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), a body of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), convened in Panama City for its 14th biennial session from 6-9 February 2012, has adopted a resolution that will mark significant progress toward sustainable fisheries management in the region.
The Resolution on Strengthening the Implementation of International Fisheries Instruments calls upon WECAFC members to become party to legally binding international fisheries instruments where this has not yet been done. It also urges the members to take action and measures to strengthen implementation of existing international fisheries instruments, including those that are legally binding and Guidelines that are widely adopted at national and regional levels on a voluntary basis.
The Resolution was triggered by deep concern about the declining fish catches in the Caribbean region, the increased percentage of overexploited and depleted reef fish stocks, the fact that the situation seems critical for some highly migratory, straddling and other fishery resources that are exploited solely or partially in the high seas, and the overall reduction of 30 percent during the past decade in capture fisheries in Western Central Atlantic region (FAO Area 31).
The international fisheries instruments have been carefully negotiated by the international community in response to the recognized need to cooperate to address issues of deep concern to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries resources, including: the FAO Compliance agreement (1993), the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (1995), the FAO Port States Measures Agreement (2009), the FAO Technical Guidelines on the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (2003), the FAO International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas (2008) and the FAO International Guidelines on Bycatch Management and Reduction of Discards (2010).
The Commission also agreed to establish a WECAFC Working Group on the management of deep-sea fisheries. The Working Group will inform the management of such fisheries by WECAFC members with the objective of promoting responsible fisheries that provide economic opportunities while ensuring the conservation of marine living resources and the protection of marine biodiversity.
The Commission is comprised of thirty-two countries and the European Union. The members’ commitment to responsible fisheries is high and it was widely agreed that enduring positive results can only be achieved through continuing the general spirit of cooperation and constructiveness that animated the debate at the 14th session.
The 14th session was kindly hosted by the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama on behalf of the Government of Panama.