The activities of the Division aim at promoting effective management and conservation of production systems through complementary work on the two sub-sectors of capture fisheries (marine and inland) and aquaculture. The Division is inter alia involved in organizing inter-governmental and technical forums to analyse and resolve the numerous issues raised by FAO members. It collects and distributes key statistics on the sector activity, develops normative documents such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), binding legal agreements (e.g. the Compliance Agreement), guidelines, manuals and information systems. It also provides, on request, technical assistance to FAO members in developing management strategies and plans, national assessment and management capacity, control and surveillance, food safety, trade etc. The Committee on Fisheries (COFI) oversees FAO efforts and provides the inter-governmental forum of choice for debating on key issues.

Background to Division's activities

The effective management and conservation of the living aquatic resources used by fisheries and aquaculture are necessary to ensure their contribution to sustainable development, poverty eradication and food security. The effectiveness and performance of conservation and management measures is conditioned by given social, economic, institutional and political circumstances. The sectoral governance of fisheries and aquaculture encompasses complex social, institutional and political processes. It has international, national and local dimensions and clearly requires legal, social, environmental, economic and political considerations. It involves interactions between the governments and civil society (sensu lato, including in particular fishers, fishfarmers, industry and private sector in general, as well as other stakeholder groups) for allocation of resources and power. Its components include the principles, arrangements (including customary ones), institutions, instruments (e.g. international treaties), rules (e.g. national laws) and processes used to decide, control and exert oversight on the sectors activities and their impacts.

The UN Law of the Sea Convention (1982), complemented by other related international agreements, establishes the global framework for the governance of marine capture fisheries. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), adopted by FAO members in 1995 and complemented by the CCRF Technical Guidelines, is considered to be the basic foundation on which to promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture development for the future. The CCRF and Guidelines pay due attention to the environmental aspects of the sector and contains provisions relevant for the implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). The CCRF covers all fishery and aquaculture practices as carried out in freshwater and marine environments.

Focus on the governance of fisheries has increased during recent decades, because of the growing realization that fish stocks, in different parts of the world, were being increasingly harvested beyond their optimal level and the fishery sector was in economic and social difficulty. The need for controlling better, limiting, and in most cases reducing access to wild resources (including stocks, space, seeds) and minimizing damage to productive environments, for example, aquatic pollution and habitat degradation, is widely recognized.

Management and conservations responsibilities rest with the States under their sovereign rights. To some extent, however, they can be devolved at a lower (e.g. local) or higher (e.g. regional) level. At regional level, regional fishery bodies have a fundamental role to play. At both sub-national and regional levels, insufficient capacity to implement effective management measures is a central issue. Major efforts are still needed, worldwide to deal with shared resources.

The future challenges in fisheries and aquaculture management rest inter alia on the capacity to control access to resources resolving conflicting claims, integrate concerns and policies across sectors and geographical scales, develop sustainable development ethics, implement precautionary, livelihood and ecosystem approaches, coordinate management of sub-sectors (e.g. within an ecosystem, a watershed or a coastal area). While many of the basic concepts, principles and issues may be similar in the national exclusive economic zones and the international waters of the high seas, the systems of rights and duties and, hence the management systems will differ.

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