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VI. FAO and safety at sea in developing countries

Many developing countries face the need to design and implement a system to manage their fisheries and may look for external advice and aid to help them meet this need. FAO is the obvious UN agency to promote a holistic approach to fisheries management, including safety at sea, in the developing countries. This is in full accordance with FAO's mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, and follows naturally from the Organization's formulation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its mandate to monitor the application and implementation of the Code and its effects on fisheries worldwide.

From its creation in 1945, FAO has taken an active part in the composition and implementation of international fisheries standards and instruments to further its aims, often in close cooperation with other UN agencies concerned, primarily the IMO and ILO.

One of FAO's major strengths stems from the thousands of field projects that the Organization has run over the years. Working in cooperation with local experts and together with project beneficiaries, FAO has built up an extensive body of knowledge about local conditions and a network of contacts at local, national and regional level. Since its inception, FAO has implemented hundreds of fisheries projects directly related to the establishment of fisheries training institutions, improving the quality of design, construction and equipment of fishing vessels, and above all, working directly with fishing communities; all these have a bearing on safety at sea.

Local networks and the knowledge of local conditions in different developing countries and regions are of supreme importance, and should be regarded as a valuable resource that has been created through the efforts of FAO over more than half a century.

As increasing numbers of developing nations rise to the new responsibilities placed upon them by the 1982 UN Convention and other international agreements concerning the management of fisheries and other natural resources, they are likely to seek external advice on how to set up appropriate management systems. These systems must be worked out by legislators and stakeholders cooperating in each country, taking account of biological, economic and social conditions. These conditions vary from one country to another and the management system must be tailored accordingly. FAO has the experience and expertise to deal with the various issues that arise when countries request advice in such matters, be they legislative and legal questions, the assessment of fishstocks or technical know-how on the construction of boats and application of appropriate gear. The Organization also has a long tradition of cooperation with local people in developing countries from the community level to the highest authorities in civil service and government.

As stressed throughout this study, fisheries management schemes should aim to promote both the sustainable harvesting of living marine resources, and acceptable working conditions for fishermen. Safety at sea should be regarded as an integral, indispensable component of fisheries management.

With the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the accompanying Technical Guidelines, FAO has provided a framework on which different fisheries management systems can be built. The Code seems to meet with general approval and has already been used as framework for a new fisheries management legislation.64

Although it is generally quoted that the Code of Conduct refers to safety in four paragraphs, if training and certification of competency are recognized as important for safety, it is, in fact, dealt with in at least eight paragraphs (see Box 6). This means that FAO can use the Code of Conduct as a vehicle to promote various issues relating to safety at sea. This can be done when monitoring the implementation of the Code. The questionnaire that is sent out biennially to all member states serves not only to gather information, but also to highlight key issues. It is therefore important as a tool to raise awareness of safety as an integral part of fisheries management.

Box 7. The Code of Conduct and safety at sea

6.17 States should ensure that fishing facilities and equipment as well as all fisheries activities allow for safe, healthy and fair working and living conditions and meet internationally agreed standards adopted by relevant international organizations.

8.1.5 States should ensure that health and safety standards are adopted for everyone employed in fishing operations. Such standards should be not less than the minimum requirements of relevant international agreements on conditions of work and service.

8.1.6 States should make arrangements individually, together with other States or with the appropriate international organization to integrate fishing operations into maritime search and rescue systems.

8.1.7 States should enhance through education and training programmes the education and skills of fishers and, where appropriate, their professional qualifications. Such programmes should take into account agreed international standards and guidelines.

8.1.8 States should, as appropriate, maintain records of fishers which should, whenever possible, contain information on their service and qualifications, including certificates of competency, in accordance with their national laws.

8.2.5 Flag States should ensure compliance with appropriate safety requirements for fishing vessels and fishers in accordance with international conventions, internationally agreed codes of practice and voluntary guidelines. States should adopt appropriate safety requirements for all small vessels not covered by such international conventions, codes of practice or voluntary guidelines.

8.3.2 Port States should provide such assistance to flag States as is appropriate, in accordance with the national laws of the port State and international law, when a fishing vessel is voluntarily in a port or at an offshore terminal of the port State and the flag State of the vessel requests the port State for assistance in respect of non-compliance with subregional, regional or global conservation and management measures or with internationally agreed minimum standards for the prevention of pollution and for safety, health and conditions of work on board fishing vessels.

8.4.1 States should ensure that fishing is conducted with due regard to the safety of human life and the International Maritime Organization International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, as well as International Maritime Organization requirements relating to the organization of marine traffic, protection of the marine environment and the prevention of damage to or loss of fishing gear.

64 The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

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