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Fishermen hauling in their catch
Fishermen hauling in their catch
Courtesy of EUROFISH


Objective, reliable and credible information on the status and trends of capture fisheries is the foundation of policy development for fisheries, and of fisheries management actions. There are many legal instruments that require such information, including the 1982 UN Convention, the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the Code of Conduct and the International Plans of Action (IPOAs). 

For decades FAO has compiled information on the status and trends of fisheries and such reports have been received by the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) with great interest. Similar reports are prepared by some Members and by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) for the fisheries under their jurisdictions. Information on the status and trends of fisheries has, in part, stimulated important initiatives to make fisheries more responsible.  For example, concerns about clear signs of overexploitation of important fish stocks prompted COFI to undertake preparation of the Code of Conduct.  At national and regional levels information on the status and trends of fisheries has also stimulated important initiatives to make fisheries more responsible. 

In 1997 the First Session of FAO's Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR) raised several concerns about the way fishery status and trends information is assembled and disseminated and the Committee recommended that improvements be made. Following endorsement of the ACFR Report by the Twenty-third Session of COFI in 1999, ACFR and its technical Working Party on Status and Trends in Fisheries considered shortcomings of the current approach for assembling and disseminating information on the status and trends of fisheries. ACFR recognized that this information could be much improved in terms of transparency, quality assurance, credibility, comprehensiveness, scope of information, and partnerships between organizations and scientists at the local, national and regional levels which could make valuable contributions on the status and trends of fisheries. ACFR reported that ultimately, information on status and trends of fisheries, at the local, national, regional, and global levels, depended on the quality of the data and assessments that are available for individual fisheries or fishery resources. ACFR made a proposal to COFI for a plan of action to improve the information.

The Twenty-fourth Session of COFI in 2001 recommended that a technical consultation be held to consider the ACFR proposal. The Technical Consultation on Improving Information on the Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries (FAO headquarters, March 2002) negotiated and agreed a draft Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries based upon the proposal from ACFR and this draft Strategy was presented in 2003 to the Twenty-fifth Session of COFI for consideration.

Action by FAO

The 2003 the FAO Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries (FAO Strategy-STF) was adopted by consensus at the Twenty-fifth Session of COFI (February 2003) and endorsed by the Hundred and Twenty-fourth Session of the FAO Council (June 2003). The UN General Assembly Resolution A/58/L.18 adopted in December 2003 on sustainable fisheries invited States to support the implementation of the FAO Strategy-STF at national and regional levels, giving particular attention to capacity-building in developing countries.

The FAO Strategy-STF is a voluntary instrument that applies to all States and entities. Its overall objective is to provide a framework, strategy and plan for the improvement of knowledge and understanding of fishery status and trends as a basis for fisheries policy-making and management for the conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources within ecosystems. The Strategy's required actions fall under nine major areas, with a primary emphasis on the need for capacity-building in developing countries. During COFI, small-scale fisheries were emphasized because of its importance to food security and poverty reduction.

Docked fishing vessels
Docked fishing vessels
Courtesy of EUROFISH

Furthermore, COFI recognized the need for improved regional cooperation in improving data and information on status and trends of fisheries and the roles of RFMOs and FAO. In this regard, the important roles of the Fishery Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS) and the Fishery Statistical System two modules of the FAO Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS) – support the Strategy by facilitating the more systematic assembly of status and trends data and information from the national to the regional and global levels. Many members renewed their commitment to supply or make readily available information on their fisheries and to participate in the Strategy. Several Members also noted their desire for FAO to provide assistance on methodology and training – highlighting that for inland fisheries in developing countries, a major effort would be required.

The FishCode-STF Project

In order to assist the implementation of the Strategy-STF, the multilateral FishCode-STF Project was formulated under the FAO FishCode Programme. The development objective of the Project is the same as for the FishCode Programme: increased economic, social and nutritional benefits obtained from fisheries, through the adoption of responsible fisheries management and resource conservation policies and practices.

The Project supports the implementation of the Strategy-STF globally but places special emphasis on capacity-building in developing countries and regions. The direct beneficiaries will be national fisheries statistical units, research institutes and fishery administrations. The Project specifically addresses the following:

  • capacity-building in developing countries;
  • setting up a global inventory of fish stocks and fisheries;
  • development of appropriate data collection systems for small-scale and multi species fisheries;
  • development of criteria and methods for ensuring information quality and security;
  • development of arrangements for the provision and exchange of information;
  • sustaining data collection and information systems;
  • expanding the scope of information on status and trends of fisheries, including the need to incorporate ecosystem considerations into fisheries management; and,
  • participation in working groups in assessing the status and trends of fisheries.

All activities of the FishCode-STF project are field-oriented and distributed over Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. The beneficiary States are selected from developing countries with substantial capture fisheries, either inland or marine. It is designed to be implemented regionally in cooperation with a major Regional Fishery Body (RFB) who carries out an inventory of methodologies used in data collection, identifies gaps and develops and implements a field programme for improvement of data collection systems.

Since its inception in November 2004 the project began activities in various regions: in Southeast Asia in collaboration with SEAFDEC, in Central America in collaboration with OSPESCA, in the Pacific in collaboration with SPC, in China in collaboration with CBF and in West Africa with CECAF and its subregional bodies.

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