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One of FAO's major roles is to collect, process, analyze and redistribute statistics. Improving the quality of information therefore implies supporting countries in improving their statistical systems. One of Fisheries and Aquaculture Department's major tasks is consequently the development of national and regional capacity to collect, process and report on statistics (through direct advice as requested) as well as to promote improved approaches and techniques for data collection.

For many years, technical assistance at national and regional level has been a significant component of the work programme of FAO's technical units responsible for fishery statistical development and has involved both normative and field programme activities. Outputs of the normative activities include technical documents on statistical methodology and guidelines for data collection, while field programme activities involve project formulation and implementation, technical backstopping and organization of training courses and workshops.

Training in statistics at all levels (data producers and users) and on computers (data operators and analysts) is of primary importance for adequate monitoring, co-ordination, corrective action and adaptation, as well as evaluation, in field and office operations. Training in survey design provided by FAO during the last few years has been conducted mainly through the Artfish software. Artfish operates with empirical parameters and makes maximum use of existing knowledge regarding fishing operations and patterns.

More recently with the advent of the FAO Strategy-STF, COFI reaffirmed that improved data and information are of fundamental importance for effective policy-making and fisheries management, essential for implementation of the Code of Conduct and central to the mandate of FAO.  COFI also stressed that high priority should be given to capacity-building and the provision of technical assistance to developing countries and recognized at its Twenty-fifth Session the need for extra-budgetary support for implementation of the Strategy. Accordingly, COFI endorsed a proposal to develop a multilateral project under the FAO FishCode Programme as a means to accomplish this. Three Members have so far committed funds in support of the Fishcode-STF project which became operational in November 2004. Further donor support is being sought for additional components of the project.

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