FAO unveils new partnership for improved monitoring of world fisheries
1995 fish stocks agreement needs revitalizing, agency tells UN meeting in New York
23 May 2006, New York/Rome - Today FAO unveiled an ambitious new collaborative initiative for improving reporting on the status of world fish stocks at a UN meeting on international fisheries policy being held here this week.
The Fisheries Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS) pools information gathered from various regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), FAO and other agencies into a comprehensive, one-stop source of information on world fisheries and fishery resources. It includes data on catches and stock levels, fishing fleet activities, fishing mortality and biomass trends, management practices and more.
Currently ten organizations* have signed the partnership agreement and are contributing data to FIRMS, including FAO, which also plays a coordinating role. The information is standardized and fact-checked and then posted to the partnership’s website, where anyone can access it.
Already some 500 major fishery resources from different world regions have been profiled, with more to come.
"As more data are input and more partners join this collaborative effort, a fuller overview of world fisheries will emerge that will add a high level of extra detail to regular reports on fishery resources assessments of FAO and other agencies," said Richard Grainger, FAO's chief of fisheries information and statistics.
"By standardizing data and putting it through such a rigorous quality control process, the partners are creating an authoritative and highly reliable source of information on world fisheries that is truly unique," he added. "There are a lot of inaccuracies on fisheries floating around out there, and good decisions and responsible management require complete, reliable and authoritative and easily-accessed information."
According to Grainger, the initiative will help government authorities more effectively manage fish stocks and will also support strengthened international collaboration on responsible fishing.
The FIRMS partnership website is located at http://firms.fao.org.
Need for stronger management on high seas
The FIRMS launch came during this week's Review Conference of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement at UN headquarters in New York (22-26 May).
The 1995 Agreement aims to ensure responsible fishing of highly migratory fish stocks and other fishery resources which straddle the boundaries between national jurisdictions and the high seas.
Recent years have seen a marked increase in high seas catches, and concern is growing that more needs to be done to ensure that fishing there is conducted responsibly. According to an FAO paper prepared for this week's meeting, about 30 percent of highly migratory tuna and tuna-like species, over 50 percent of highly migratory oceanic sharks and nearly 66 percent of straddling stocks are overexploited or depleted.
However, to date participation by the international community in the 1995 Agreement has been less than anticipated. It took six years just to get enough signatures for it to enter into force, and while 57 countries have signed on, only four of the world's top 10 top fish producing countries have done so.
"The level of participation needs to grow in order to give the Agreement greater, and broader, support, and the quality of participation could stand to be improved as well," said David Doulman of FAO's Fisheries Department, who is participating in the New York meeting.
Developing countries need assistance
One step that should be taken, according to FAO, is to increase assistance to developing countries so that they can more fully meet their obligations under the agreement.
FAO also thinks that more should be done to make regional fisheries bodies -- intergovernmental organizations established by blocs of countries to jointly oversee shared fisheries -- more effective. Such RFMOs have a key role in implementing the 1995 Agreement and in combating illegal fishing.
* FIRMS partners include: the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna; FAO; the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission; the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas; the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea; the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission; the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization; the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre; and the Statistical Office of the European Communities. Talks regarding possible participation in FIRMS have been held with: Australia's Bureau of Rural Science, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Fisheries Informatics Centre (Viet Nam), France's Institut francais de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer, Namibia's Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the National Marine Fisheries Service of the United States.
Information Officer, FAO
Liaison Office for North America
(+1) 202 653 0011
(+1) 202 468 8800
Information Officer, FAO (Rome)
(+39) 06 570 53168
(+39) 348 141 6802
e-mail this article