Progress reported in implementation of international fishing code
Responsible fishing key to conserving earth's oceans, says FAO
8 June 2004, Rome -- A growing number of countries are taking steps that will help conserve and restore the world's oceans by bringing their fishing sectors in line with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the UN agency said today.
"Many challenges remain, but sure and steady progress is being made in enlisting the international community in promoting more widespread adherence to the Code," said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General and head of the Organization's Fisheries Department.
According to FAO, 52 of its member countries report having fisheries management plans in place that incorporate elements of the Code, including measures to promote use of selective fishing gear, to prohibit destructive practices and to ensure that permitted catch-levels reflect the state of stocks and allow depleted populations to recover.
Fifty countries are taking steps to make sure that their ships fishing in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of other countries are properly authorized and to better monitor foreign vessels operating in their own EEZs.
Forty-nine have implemented policies aimed at limiting accidental by-catch and reducing discards.
"This is particularly encouraging given that the Code is a voluntary instrument, and I think reflects growing awareness that responsible fisheries not only have a key role to play in conservation, but that taking proper care of ocean environments can in fact help safeguard the future of the fishing sector," Mr Nomura said.
"Much remains to be done in order to ensure that fisheries worldwide are being conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner, but the indications are that countries and private industry are both starting to respond to overexploitation and environmental concerns," he added.
The pace of Code implementation varies from place to place, FAO noted today, with the main challenges in many instances being limited financial resources and technical capacities.
In other cases, measures already in use -- such as setting approved fishing levels based on stock assessments or introducing fishing rights -- could be improved upon.
FAO's report corresponded with Saturday's celebration of World Environment Day 2004, the theme of which was Wanted! Seas and Oceans: Dead or Alive and which highlighted such diverse problems as pollution and litter, coastal development, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices.
Slower progress at national level
The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries -- drafted in 1995 by FAO and 170 countries during extended negotiations --- is not binding, but by endorsing it governments commit themselves to operating according to the Code's principles and standards, a number of which are aimed at protecting ocean ecosystems and marine animal and plant species.
Following the Code's adoption, four supplemental international plans of action addressing specific key issues -- excess fishing capacity, illegal fishing, shark fisheries management and accidental captures of seabirds -- were also negotiated and adopted.
Countries signing on to these action plans are now expected to adapt them for use at the national level.
Progress on this front has been slower than in adoption of the Code of Conduct, according to FAO, but some advances have been made.
So far, nine countries have national plans in place to limit excess fishing capacity, FAO said, and another 42 countries are in the processes of drafting such plans.
Plans addressing shark fishing now exist in six countries, with ten other countries close to finalizing them.
Thirty-five have developed plans to curtail illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Fewer countries have official schemes in place to prevent bird deaths, but many have indicated that steps to tackle the problem are being adopted on an individual basis in their fisheries sectors.
A code to fish by
According to FAO, additional activities carried out by the Organization to promote the implementation of the Code and its International Plans of Action include:
- preparation of dozens of guidelines that spell out responsible fishing and aquaculture practices and management approaches;
- the launch of FAO's FISHCODE programme, which helps developing countries implement the Code;
- In collaboration with national and regional fisheries agencies around the world, convening dozens of meetings, workshops and training sessions on Code implementation.
The Organization also noted that the Code has been translated into 40 different languages and disseminated through a variety of channels, including governments, regional fisheries bodies, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations.
"Fisheries are one of many human activities having environmental impacts on the oceans, but at the same time millions of people depend on fisheries for food and income," Mr Nomura said. "Responsible management is key to reducing those impacts and ensuring that fisheries continue to make those contributions to society."
Information Officer, FAO
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