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Press Release 98/64


Rome, 3 November - The drafts of three non-binding global documents aiming at a more sustainable management of vulnerable fisheries resources were approved by representatives from 81 countries and the European Community attending an international conference on fisheries, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

The draft documents "International Guidelines/Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity", the "International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks" and the "International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries" will be submitted to the FAO Committee on Fisheries in February 1999 for final adoption.

With the consensus approval of the texts, the countries have now prepared the ground for the formal joint declaration of their political commitment next February to take concrete actions in order to better manage fisheries at the national and international levels with respect to the three major issues requiring urgent attention.

The participating countries expressed their concern about excess capacity in world fisheries, "a problem that among others, contributes substantially to overfishing, the degradation of marine fisheries resources, the decline of food production potential, and significant economic waste".

The conference approved draft voluntary International Guidelines/Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity with the objective of achieving "an efficient, equitable and transparent management of fishing capacity". According to the draft document, "where capacity is undermining achievement of long term sustainability outcomes" countries implementing the Guidelines/Plan of Action, "should endeavour initially to limit at present level and progressively reduce the fishing capacity applied to affected fisheries".

Countries emphasized the need to improve data (information) on fishing capacity, especially as regards the characteristics of fleets, their mobility, and their effect on the sustainability of the stocks which they exploit. The conference approved related measures as well as the timely undertaking of diagnoses which would allow the systematic identification of fisheries requiring urgent measures.

The draft document approved by the conference foresees the voluntary adoption of national plans of action for the management of fishing capacity as well as a range of complementary measures aimed at strengthening regional collaboration and reducing fishing capacity applied to overfished stocks.

The conference considered many of the complex issues related to excess fishing capacity, its causes and its management such as, the case of the small-scale fisheries and the effects of fleet mobility, conditions of access to fisheries, subsidies, fisheries management methods and fleet reduction measures. The document approved by the conference provides guidance on some of these issues and contains provisions for further collaborative work to be undertaken with the assistance of FAO on developing a better understanding of the management of fishing capacity.

Several delegations disputed the listing in the working document of a number of fishery resources which FAO Secretariat considered significantly overfished, stating that the information regarding some commercial fish stocks was inaccurate and that the management efforts taken by states in recent years and their positive results should have been taken into account.

The countries also expressed their "concern over the increase of shark catches and the consequences which this has for the populations of some shark species in several areas of the world's oceans". The conference approved a draft voluntary International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks which says "that it is necessary to better manage directed shark fisheries and certain multispecies fisheries in which sharks constitute a significant bycatch. In some cases the need for management may be urgent."

According to the non-binding Plan of Action, "management and conservation strategies should aim to keep total fishing mortality for each stock within sustainable levels." It should be recognized "that in some low-income food-deficit regions and countries shark fisheries are a traditional and important source of food, employment and income. Such fisheries should be managed on a sustainable basis to provide a continued source of food, employment and income to local communities".

The countries implementing the voluntary Plan of Action would commit themselves to regularly assess the status of stocks and "to adopt a national plan of action for conservation and management of shark stocks (Shark-plan)" if necessary. The Plan provides that "states should strive to have a Shark-plan by the year 2001".

The plan will aim "to ensure that catches are sustainable, to assess threats to shark populations, and to minimize incidental catches as well as waste and discards from shark fisheries." At least every four years states would assess the implementation of their Shark-plan.

In addition, FAO would report every two years on the progress made in the implementation of the International Plan of Action. According to FAO, the more countries implement the Plan of Action, the more will be known about shark stocks so that appropriate management action can be taken to protect those whose catch is or becomes unsustainable.

The conference also approved a draft International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries. The voluntary Plan says that "States with longline fisheries should assess these fisheries to determine if a problem exists with respect to incidental catch of seabirds." If such is the case states should adopt a national Plan of Action for reducing bycatches of seabirds.

Countries are expected to start the implementation of the national Plan of Action by the year 2001. States should regularly, at least every four years, assess the implementation of their Plans to identify "cost-effective strategies for increasing effectiveness". FAO will report every two years on the progress made.

The incidental bycatch of seabirds, which affects, among others, the albatrosses and petrels of the Southern Ocean, could be significantly reduced by mitigation measures such as setting catch lines under water so that baited hooks are out of reach to seabirds, using bird-scaring lines or setting lines at night.


For further information please contact the FAO Homepage ( or
Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105; fax: 0039-06-5705 4975; e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@FAO.Org.


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