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The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries: moving into the second decade of implementation


Many FAO Members are experiencing difficulties in the comprehensive implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, yet most are moving to implement some of the articles.1 FAO analysis indicates that the scope and intensity of constraints relating to implementation and the nature of the solutions proposed by countries between 2002 and 2004 did not change significantly. the reasons for these difficulties vary across fisheries, regions and country groups. An understanding of the problems that countries are facing and measures to address them will be essential if ongoing efforts to embed the Code more deeply in national fisheries2 policies and action are to succeed.

Many of the problems reported are governance-related. Countries recognize that sound governance is required if the full impact of the Code is to be realized. the governance issues identified are numerous and range from primary considerations such as lack of political support for the implementation of the Code through to issues concerning the application of complex management measures such as the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to fisheries. Additional impeding factors cited by countries are that the fisheries sector is not assigned high priority by many governments because of its small economic contribution and is poorly organized in comparison with other sectors of the economy.

An important consideration with respect to the Code is its complementarity with the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development’s (WSSD) Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. Analysis has shown that there are clear linkages between the two instruments and efforts to implement the Code’s principles and goals imply concurrent action to implement the time-bound fisheries components of the Plan.3

Countries have identified the constraints affecting the Code’s implementation and have also proposed solutions aimed at addressing them and strengthening the instrument’s implementation. the information provided to FAO is summarized below.

Political support for implementation

Flagging political support for the Code undermines the momentum needed to carry forward initiatives that support its full implementation. Governments need to maintain support for implementation even when the necessary measures are politically unpopular. Governments should continue to focus and act on inherent and entrenched problems that lead to unsustainable fisheries practices, some of which have adverse consequences for food security, livelihoods and economic development. these problems, extending beyond fisheries, include poverty, demographic pressure, illiteracy and low levels of education, as well as suspicion of, and a general resistance to, change. In moulding strategies to promote change and to implement the Code, governments should consider and address ethical concerns, including the right to food and environmental stewardship (see Box 4).

Vision, leadership, planning and accountability

Some countries lack a clear vision for the fisheries sector, especially those whose governments fail to provide leadership for stakeholders and a framework for forward planning. to implement the Code effectively, countries have stressed the need for an “enabling environment” characterized by vision, leadership and planning. As part of this process, governments should specify clearly the short- and long-term goals they wish to achieve in the implementation process. It has also been noted that greater accountability on the part of stakeholders enhances the Code’s implementation and therefore accountability at all levels should be encouraged.

Box 4

Ethical issues in fisheries

That there are limits to the extraction of fishery resources has long been recognized by science. Awareness of growing concerns has been raised in global fora such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, 1992), the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations (Millennium Summit, 2000) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD, 2002). Policy and management issues related to fisheries resources have been explored largely from ecological, technological and socio-economic standpoints, while the ethical components of these issues have been addressed only in an implicit manner.

Ethical concerns related to the well-being of humans and the ecosystem are central to the debate about the future of fisheries and aquaculture. A global view of ethics is emerging. Human health and well-being and basic human rights (such as the right to food) are considered along with environmental stewardship and the intrinsic values and alternative uses of natural resources and the environment. Attention to these concerns has been increasing and will continue to increase, in part as a response to trends in areas such as demographic change, the changing situation of the resources and their associated ecosystems, progress in science and technology, and social and economic evolution worldwide exemplified by globalization, the increasing role of the market and the concentration of economic power.

The most advanced and complete policy framework and reference for global fisheries is the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Although elaborated mainly from technological, social, economic and political perspectives, it contains a number of less explicit, but nonetheless fundamental, ethical considerations and addresses both human and ecological concerns directly. In the twenty-first century this will be of growing relevance as fisheries will see a further increase in the impact of the ethical dimensions of fishing and natural resources management on fisheries development and environmental conservation.

FAO has initiated a series of studies on ethical issues in food and agriculture, including fisheries.1 the fisheries study suggests and elaborates ways to implement the ethical principles drawn from agreed international instruments relating to fisheries and ecosystems. the discussion outlines the main ethical issues in fisheries and the moral imperatives to which they give rise, considers the role and scope of ethics in this context and recalls briefly the institutional foundations of fisheries policies as reflected in the Code of Conduct. the study presents a holistic ethical approach to fisheries, paying special attention to the effects of fisheries management and social policy upon people’s living conditions.

1 FAO. 2005. Ethical issues in fisheries. FAO Ethics Series No. 4. Rome.

Policy, legal frameworks and strategies

Inadequate policy, legal frameworks and fisheries development strategies restrict the implementation of the Code by failing to provide the necessary safeguards to prevent unsustainable fisheries practices. to address these shortcomings, countries have pointed to the need to undertake policy and legislative reviews and to elaborate transparent strategies to ensure that the Code’s principles and essential elements are adequately reflected in such initiatives.

Human resource development and institutional strengthening

the lack of progress in implementing the Code is linked directly to human resource and institutional capacity constraints. Countries have underscored the need to ensure that capacity-building efforts are maintained and, owing to high attrition rates, that human resource development is sustained. related to the issue of weak institutional capacity is the need to foster more effective interagency collaboration because a lack of such cooperation has a serious impact on the Code’s implementation. Similarly, there is a need to address inadequate coordination and communication among national fisheries administrations and other national agencies and with RFBs.

Availability of, and access to, timely, complete and reliable information

the limited availability of relevant scientific, social and economic information and its poor accessibility to stakeholders inhibits the Code’s implementation (see Box 5). this situation contributes to poor levels of scientific and related research – a basic consideration for implementation. to address these shortcomings, countries should promote improvements in the collection and dissemination of information with due regard to information of highest priority. Countries have stressed that there is a lack of social and economic information to support the Code’s implementation and have encouraged greater emphasis on its collection and use. In some instances, they have also urged that fishing communities be involved in information collection in small-scale fisheries.

Participation and co-management

A centralized approach to fisheries management and lack of consultation with stakeholders are further obstacles to the Code’s implementation. there is a resultant need to involve all stakeholders, including NGOs, more fully. Countries are encouraged to facilitate an “inclusive” approach to fisheries management in which stakeholders, through their participation and co-management, are called upon to play important roles in decision-making (see Box 6). For both small-scale and industrial fisheries, there is increasing evidence that where fisheries decision-making is participatory in character and is seen to be fair and transparent, management measures are implemented more fully, with less recourse to enforcement and at lower cost.

Awareness building

Many stakeholders are unaware of the essential elements of the Code and of its central role in promoting long-term sustainability. the Code’s dissemination is adversely affected by a lack of adaptation to local needs, limited availability in local languages and, where it is available, its poor distribution. Many countries have stressed that building awareness about the Code is a primary tool in facilitating its implementation. they have proposed its translation into local languages so as to broaden dissemination and to facilitate the establishment of national awareness-raising campaigns. to support awareness building and the formulation of outreach strategies, countries have proposed that workshops and meetings be continued as a means of dissemination, that the media be used to their fullest extent and that the use of the Code’s technical guidelines (some of which are available in simplified language) continue to be promoted as a basic tool for implementation.

Box 5

Information to support implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries

Underpinning the implementation of the Code, as recognized in Articles 7 to 12, is the need for two broad categories of information: general information about the Code (its goals, coverage, etc.) and specialized and technical information of a research nature.

In order to understand more clearly the scope of these information needs, an FAO study1 was carried out in 2004 to assess the nature of the information used and produced by selected specialists working in fisheries management. the surveys, case studies, citation analysis and literature review highlighted the breadth of subjects required, the historic depth of relevant information,the scale of information from local to global, and the diversity of information sources.

Given this complexity, it is not surprising that a major effort is required to obtain the best information upon which to base decisions and policy. the lack of global information resources in developing countries presents significant, but not insurmountable, challenges and the study proposes strategies to help meet them. It is also recognized that the results of research and the development lessons learned are often lost because of inadequate opportunities to publish in developing countries. Moreover, capturing information that has been published has never been totally effective and much needs to be done to improve dissemination and the sharing of information, as well as to ensure its preservation for future generations.

The digitization of information and its availability via the Internet offer enormous potential for improved access and dissemination. Stakeholders in many developing countries are, however, still waiting for the reliable, highspeed and cost-effective access that is already available in the industrialized world. therefore, an effective infrastructure and access to Open Access information resources is essential. Improved integration of the information generated in developing countries into the mainstream of fisheries and aquaculture publications will facilitate the use and validation of research results and avoid costly and wasteful duplication of effort.

The 31st Annual Conference of the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC), hosted by FAO in October 2005, provided an opportunity to discuss information-resource sharing and networking as the most cost-effective means of meeting information needs.2 One issue that emerged from this forum was that few organizations have a mandate that permits them to extend their library and information services beyond their own defined community. there is an obvious need to do so, especially given recent trends towards the decentralization of fisheries management or at least some form of community participation in management. Stakeholders at the local level have limited access to information and their needs should also be understood and met. there is a need to qualify what is meant by the term lack of information as a constraint and a concerted effort must be made to find long-term solutions.

1FAO. 2005. Fisheries information in developing countries. Support to the implementation of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, by J.G. Webster and J. Collins. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 1006. Rome (available at http://www.

2IAMSLIC. 2006. Information for Responsible Fisheries: libraries as mediators. Proceedings of the 31st Annual IAMSLIC Conference, Rome, 10–14 October 2005. Fort Pierce, Florida, USA. In press.

Availability of resources

A lack of resources, including funds, equipment and access to research facilities, constrains the Code’s implementation, especially in developing countries, with respect to the ecosystem and precautionary approaches to fisheries and to MCS and VMS programmes. Countries have indicated the need for additional technical support from FAO and financial support from the international donor community. they have also noted that additional resources would enable them to strengthen efforts to elaborate national plans of action, as called for by the four international plans of action.

Fisheries management

Countries are experiencing problems in managing fisheries, developing fisheries management plans and in implementing the international plans of action. they have also pointed out that some fisheries are not subject to management and that such open-access conditions are leading to overfishing. Furthermore, even when fisheries are subject to management, many of the stocks under such regimes continue to be either fully exploited or overexploited and the recovery plans for these stocks, which should be a high priority, are being implemented only slowly. Countries have reported difficulties in applying more advanced forms of fisheries management practices and have indicated the need for assistance in areas such as:

Noting the strong social and economic pressures on fisheries, including vulnerability to poverty and a lack of alternative employment opportunities for fishing communities, countries have stressed that overcapacity in the fisheries sector should be addressed through employment creation in other economic sectors.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

IUU fishing, now recognized as an environmental crime, is a major impediment to achieving long-term sustainability. It undermines management efforts and rewards fishers who fail to observe national and regional management arrangements. Countries have reported that their fisheries resources are subject to persistent IUU fishing by both national and foreign vessels. Some of them have started to implement the 2001 FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU) and have elaborated National Plans of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU fishing (NPOAs-IUU), but they lack the capacity to follow through with their implementation. Capacity to thwart IUU fishing as a consequence of poorly developed MCS and VMS remains a major concern. Many countries are focusing more sharply on the implementation of port state measures and product traceability and trade measures as a means of blocking landings and sales of IUU-caught product.

Box 6

Introducing and promoting fisheries co-management

Over the past 20 years it has become increasingly evident that fisheries management cannot be effective unless the people who harvest the resources (communities and fishers) are effectively involved in the management process. there is now a shift to systems of co-management, i.e. systems that involve both governments and communities/resource users in shared decision-making and planning.

Experiences with projects piloting co-management in many countries have demonstrated success, but in many cases co-management initiatives were not sustained after project support was removed. Co-management needs to be “mainstreamed” into the daily activities of government and stakeholders.

Based on lessons learned over the past ten years, the Asia–Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) contends that four pillars are essential for successful co-management:

  • an enabling policy legislative environment;
  • empowerment of communities;
  • effective linkages and institutions;
  • adequate resources.1

An enabling policy and legal framework ensures that, where there is political will, governments can facilitate and support co-management. typically, the state is entrusted with the management of the fishery resource, but it can assign responsibility to local communities/individuals to manage at the local level, or recognize their competence in this respect. Local ownership improves compliance with locally agreed rules and greatly improves the alignment of these rules with national legislation. It is essential that governments (either locally or nationally) demonstrate a willingness to change policy, involve communities and help define the roles and responsibilities of the different players.

Communities involved in co-management must be empowered to ensure effective participation and sustained involvement. the strengthening of organizations and institutions so that they fully recognize their role in the management process is a prerequisite for success.

Effective co-management requires good linkages among participating stakeholders. the networks of stakeholders must be understood and information sharing between them must be encouraged. Often, other (non-fisheries) users of the resource, such as farmers and the tourism industry, should be involved in certain stages of the process. Ecological well-being (or “state of the resource”) must be balanced with human well-being (i.e. the need for food or income); achieving this balance inevitably requires management trade-offs, which must be recognized and addressed.

Last, it must be recognized that effective co-management requires resources and time if it is to work. In the first instance, there obviously has to be a resource that is considered worth managing. the transaction costs for participation in meetings, monitoring, enforcement and management are often underestimated at the start of a co-management initiative. Governments and communities must recognize the need for these resources and commit to their provision.

Our current state of knowledge shows that there is no single template for ensuring success in fisheries co-management initiatives. Experience does show that where there is adequate will, commitment and partnership, fisheries management measures are more effective, conflicts are reduced and there is greater hope for sustainable and rational use of fisheries resources. Governments can play a leading role in committing to co-management and initiating this process.

1 FAO. 2005. Report of the APFIC regional workshop on “Mainstreaming Fisheries Management”, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 9–12 August 2005. RAP 2005/24. Bangkok.


FAO’s Committee on Fisheries, at its twenty-sixth session in 2005, called for a “decade of implementation” for international fisheries instruments. the focus of attention was instruments developed since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, including the Code (and its associated International Plans of Action and Strategy), to ensure that concerted action would continue to promote long-term sustainability in the fisheries sector. the Code provides an important reference tool for fisheries management and utilization for all countries. Its implementation is contributing significantly to attitudinal and behavioural changes within the sector – changes that are essential for securing a sustainable future for national and regional fisheries resources.

Within the limits of its available resources, FAO continues to focus on assisting countries in implementing Responsible fisheries policies and applying the measures necessary to achieve specified sustainable goals. However, FAO’s role is limited to a facilitating one as it is the countries themselves that must initiate the measures needed to implement the Code.

An important aspect of FAO efforts to promote the Code’s implementation focuses on capacity building, both in terms of human resources and institutional strengthening. Investment in capacity building is necessary for downstream implementation of the Code. Moreover, returns are generally not reaped in the short term, and capacity loss in developing countries is common as trained personnel move to the private sector, transfer within the government or migrate abroad.

Capacity building is a prerequisite for strengthening fisheries governance. It is also important for implementing more sophisticated approaches to fisheries management, especially the precautionary and ecosystem approaches. Both of these would modify the strong focus that prevails in many countries on production-oriented management regimes that have generally failed to encourage sustainable fishing practices and outcomes.

The Code provides a comprehensive, coherent and transparent framework for fostering cooperation and building bridges with bilateral and multilateral partners in accordance with the spirit of the Code’s Article 5, “the special requirements of developing countries”. Importantly, the biennial assessments submitted by countries when reporting to FAO on their implementation efforts indicate priority areas for assistance. the international donor community, on the basis of this information, is better placed to target the needs of fisheries and to commit assistance to promoting best practices for long-term sustainability.

Implementation of the Code is demanding in terms of both resources and time – and for most countries must be selective and gradual. A national plan that specifies long-term goals and the means for achieving them is a good first step. Most administrations need access to increased public resources and willingness on the part of governments to accelerate legal change. Incremental implementation will permit hands-on experience through learning by doing.


The Code overarches FAO’s entire fisheries work programme. All normative and field activities are geared to implementing the Code by building on, and consolidating, past work and achievements and ensuring that current and programmed activities reflect its principles and intent. Much of this work centres on strengthening governance in the fisheries sector. through partnership and other cooperative arrangements, FAO also provides inputs into non-FAO activities that have a direct impact on the Code’s implementation.

In the area of capacity building, FAO has directed considerable efforts to addressing IUU fishing in developing countries – a key aspect of implementing the Code. For example, a global series of dedicated regional workshops has been sponsored to support the elaboration of NPOAs-IUU, which is a basic requirement of the IPOA-IUU (see Box 7) and five regional MCS workshops have been held to disseminate information and provide training on the application of VMS.

A major FAO initiative commenced in 2005 to implement the Model Scheme on Port State Measures that was adopted by the FAO Committee on Fisheries at its twenty-sixth session. Endorsed by other organizations and fora, including the United Nations General Assembly, the Model Scheme is accepted as the basis for developing regional and national port state measures. the FAO initiative focuses on human resource development through regional workshops. the workshops are designed to strengthen national capacity and promote regional coordination so that countries can improve and harmonize port state measures and, as a result, implement the IPOA-IUU tools pertaining to port state measures and meet the requirements of both the FAO Model Scheme and of RFBs. the first workshop will be held in the Pacific Islands region with the cooperation of the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency and the West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. the region adopted the Model Scheme at its annual session in 2005.

The Code’s technical guidelines are fundamental to supporting its implementation. Fourteen technical guidelines have already been prepared, translated into the FAO official languages and disseminated. the most recent concern the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security. Others are in preparation and address the implementation of the IPOA-IUU in inland fisheries, the implementation of the 1999 FAO International Plan of Action for reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds), the implementation of the 1999 International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity (IPOA-Capacity), health management, the responsible movement of live aquatic animals, the application of international quality and safety standards for fish exports, the use and control of alien species, stocking, habitat rehabilitation and genetic resource management, information needs, fish trade, and fishing vessel registration. In addition to the Code’s technical guidelines, FAO is producing other fisheries and aquaculture guidelines that are designed to promote sustainability in the fisheries sector.

Box 7

Strengthening national capacity to combat IUU fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and its adverse impacts on national and regional efforts to manage fisheries in a long-term sustainable manner, is one of the main problems facing capture fisheries. In March 2005, Ministers declared their intention to renew their efforts to develop and implement national and regional plans of action to combat IUU fishing (NPOAs-IUU).1 they also urged the provision of additional assistance to developing countries to help them implement their commitments in preventing, deterring and eliminating IUU fishing, including the provision of advice and training to promote the development of fisheries management regimes, at the national and local levels, to combat IUU fishing.

In 2003, FAO embarked upon a series of regional workshops to broaden and deepen the implementation of the 2001 International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU). the workshops were intended to develop and strengthen national capacity so that countries would be better placed to elaborate NPOAs-IUU, the principal vehicles by which the IPOA-IUU is to be implemented.

Between 2003 and 2006, FAO convened nine regional workshops in Eastern and Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, West Africa, the Near East, South America and Central America. In total, 215 people (18 percent of whom were women) from 90 developing countries (48 percent of FAO’s Members) received training.

The workshops sought to raise awareness about the deleterious effects of IUU fishing and the need for countries to act in a concerted and decisive manner to combat such fishing and to provide a comprehensive understanding of the IPOA-IUU, its relationship with other international fisheries instruments (e.g. the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement) and its relevance to the fisheries situation in participants’ countries. they also aimed to define more clearly the steps that fisheries administrations should take to develop NPOAs-IUU and to share information about the merits of harmonizing measures on a regional basis to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.

1 the 2005 Rome Declaration on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing was adopted by the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries in Rome on 12 March 2005.

Many partner organizations are active in the fisheries sector in developing countries, providing assistance predicated, if not formulated, on implementing the Code, its associated instruments and the other international fisheries instruments concluded since UNCED (e.g. the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement). the nature and scope of this assistance varies by country and region but its underlying thrust is to encourage fishers and fishing communities to act more responsibly and to encourage sustainable fishing and utilization practices.


The outlook for the Code’s implementation remains mixed in many countries even though there are strong indications that it is taking root in many of them and guiding efforts in the management and use of fisheries. Developing countries face a suite of constraints that impede governance and inhibit their capacity to implement the Code. All countries, irrespective of their level of development, are grappling with the implementation of new approaches to the management of fisheries. Conceptually, these approaches are readily elaborated and understood but constraints are encountered when action is required to put them into practice.

The need for ongoing capacity building and institutional strengthening, taking into account the difficulties and needs identified by developing countries, is critical if further progress is to be achieved. Efforts to build on past outcomes by broadening and deepening implementation are required. Countries will continue to be strained as they seek to implement the considerable number of international fisheries instruments concluded since UNCED, especially in fulfilling the obligations they have assumed through the acceptance of some of these instruments.

The logistical aspects of promoting “inclusive” approaches to fisheries, as envisaged in the Code, are proving to be a challenge for many countries and greater efforts should be devoted to achieving higher levels of participation in decision-making. In many countries, participatory approaches to fisheries are new, requiring fundamental adjustments in both thinking and organization. Coupled with broader stakeholder participation is the need to promote greater accountability among stakeholders.

Maintaining momentum to support the Code’s implementation is an ongoing issue for many countries. In the face of limited capacity and stressed by the workload, many fisheries administrations are buckling under the strain. this stress is also highlighting and exacerbating other administrative shortcomings that impede implementation. this situation points to the need for countries to continue monitoring their progress with regard to implementation and to take remedial action to the extent that their resources and capacities permit.

Sustainable growth and expansion of aquaculture: an ecosystem approach


Aquaculture has a long tradition in some parts of the world, and many examples of well-integrated aquaculture systems can be found throughout mainland Asia and in the Pacific Islands. In the past, these activities were generally limited in impact owing to their small scale and their low-input nature. the systems were reliant on locally produced inputs, often within the larger farming system. With the progressive development of aquaculture as a commercial enterprise capable of generating significant income at household or business levels, these linkages have tended to be broken. Even in less-developed economies (such as certain countries in Africa) where aquaculture was introduced some decades ago as a low-investment subsistence alternative, today’s production is increasingly aimed at satisfying market demands rather than supplying fish for household needs.

Commercial aquaculture development invariably involves the expansion of cultivated areas, higher density of aquaculture installations and the use of feed resources produced outside the immediate area. With more intensive production methods there are also tendencies to introduce alien species, use more intensive formulated feed regimes and, in some systems, administer chemicals for the control or management of diseases. All these practices can have an aggregated effect at the ecosystem level and compromise its overall integrity.

Common effects of many aquaculture practices on the ecosystem may include any of the following:

The large-scale (extensive and/or intensive) development of shrimp culture in some areas has resulted in the degradation of wetlands and mangroves, and has also caused water pollution and salinization of land and freshwater aquifers. the misapplication of chemicals, the collection of seed from the wild and the introduction of alien species have also caused concern in some locations. Even intensive aquaculture practices that do not require external feeds, such as mollusc culture, can under certain conditions produce local anoxia of bottom sediments and increased sedimentation. Expansion of commercial aquaculture has also led to instances of negative interaction with coastal small-scale fisheries, when there is competition for space with fishers and/or when escaped fish or environmental deterioration negatively affects fisheries. Some of these effects can indeed “jeopardize the options for future generations to benefit from the full range of goods and services provided by ecosystems”.4

As is the case in most food production systems, aquaculture has, or can have, negative impacts. these must be kept within socially acceptable limits.5 the inadequate environmental management of (intensive or extensive) aquaculture is an issue that needs to be taken seriously. Letting aquaculture development proceed irresponsibly or taking only partial approaches to its management incurs a risk that the negative impacts may counteract any benefits from aquaculture or that it will not produce the expected benefits. In the long term, aquaculture may fail to provide the additional fish supplies needed to meet the demands of a growing world population.

Nevertheless, aquaculture itself is also subject to the negative impacts of anthropogenic factors such as contamination of feed and of aquatic environments by urban waste and agricultural pollution, and landscape mismanagement. these factors limit the scope and nature of aquaculture development in some regions of the world.


The conventional approaches

It is not surprising, perhaps, that attempts to deal with the negative impacts of aquaculture have taken many forms. On the one hand, those responsible for governing the sector have developed broad principles (e.g. the Earth Summit) and codes of conduct (e.g. the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries). On the other hand, those who are asked to harmonize the expectations of aquaculture entrepreneurs with the exigencies of the ecosystem often have recourse to control and command strategies (e.g. licences, standards for feed, use of pharmaceuticals).


In an attempt to control inadequate developments, countries worldwide have implemented a large number of aquaculture regulations. these have varied from the general – for example, banning of mangrove utilization for aquaculture practices – to the very specific – for example, determining maximum production per area, rules for disease control, and use of drugs.

However, these regulations – neither on their own nor taken together – do not provide a comprehensive framework for ensuring the sustainable use of aquatic environments. that will happen only when aquafarming is treated as an integral process within the ecosystem.

Advances in technology have made production more efficient and have facilitated intensification. Yet the regulations in place cannot guarantee sustainability, especially as most of them focus on the individual farmer and do not consider the additive (cumulative) or synergistic effects of multiple farms on a particular area. At the same time, farmers’ economic appraisals tend to have a narrow (short-term) view, focused on the more immediate production results. Such appraisals do not include the medium-and long-term revenues and costs that may be imposed on the farming activity itself and on the rest of the society in the form of a reduced supply of ecosystem goods and services.

Moreover, and equally important, the regulatory structure for aquaculture often does not allow, or facilitate, a production mode or approach that is conducive to a balanced ecosystem. Nutrient cycling and reutilization of wastes by other forms of aquaculture (polyculture) or local fisheries are frequently prohibited or discouraged.6

Decision-making tools

Environmental impact assessment7 (EIA), in its various forms, is possibly the most common tool in use. EIA has been used worldwide by those in charge of controlling the impact of all kinds of human activities that are potentially damaging for the environment, including commercial aquaculture. A typical EIA considers the positive as well as negative aspects of the activity, whether direct or indirect, and of an environmental, social and economic nature. However, as employed, the EIA usually does not take into account other kinds of impact that are relevant for aquaculture. Frequently it is activity-oriented, even farmer-oriented, but does not consider strategic or integrated planning.

A wide range of EIA and monitoring procedures are currently employed worldwide and some of them are well adapted for use with aquaculture proposals and activities. Yet in many other cases such procedures are simply not used, not sufficiently developed, or are well known but not implemented. Also, they may be inadequately designed inasmuch as they are not capable of providing key information on changes in the ecological features of the specific environments that sustain – or are proposed to sustain – given aquaculture practices.8 A major drawback of EIAs is that they usually cannot be applied to existing aquaculture enterprises because they do not provide the detailed information necessary to apply remedial measures for any harm already done to the environment.

A further problem is that EIAs alone do not ensure a sufficiently coherent view of the ecosystem. Frequently, where aquaculture is practised there are also, inter alia, agriculture, industrial or urban development and tourism. these all use common resources (e.g. coastal areas, water), yet in many cases each is evaluated independently without considering the future likely development of other users and of the combined effect on the ecosystem. Likewise, EIAs often fail to take into account the human and social aspects of the target activity, in particular with regard to the poorest segments of society.

The ecosystem approach to aquaculture

The mandate

The concern about the impact of human development on the ecosystem goes back several centuries. recently, the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, concluded that environmental management policies, often developed for one sector without much regard to other sectors, were not adequately covering the full impacts of human development and exploitation on the environment.9 Following the summit there was a concerted move to develop and apply a more holistic approach to policy decision-making with regard to sustainable development. this included a more ecosystemic approach to development and management.

The first principle for an ecosystem approach, as described by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is that the objectives of management of land, water and living resources are matters of societal choice.10 But, this novel approach to management of natural resources also implies focusing on changing human behaviour and attitudes towards the use of natural resources.

In 1995, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was adopted by the FAO Conference. the Code also deals with aquaculture more specifically through Article 9, addressing many aspects relevant for its sustainable development.

All of the above amount to an implicit recognition by those concerned that a number of potential impediments to continued growth and intensification of aquaculture must be overcome, if this activity is to conform to the growing expectations of society for ecologically sustainable development (ESD).11 the ecosystem approach to aquaculture will indeed be the way to overcome these impediments and can serve as the ESD implementation framework that is essential to satisfy the conceptual objectives of UNCED, WSSD, CBD and other international instruments.

The implications

An agreed definition of the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) already exists.12 the ecosystem approach to aquaculture can be modelled on this definition, as follows:

An ecosystem approach to aquaculture (EAA) strives to balance diverse societal objectives, by taking account of the knowledge and uncertainties of biotic, abiotic and human components of ecosystems including their interactions, flows and processes and applying an integrated approach to aquaculture within ecologically and operationally meaningful boundaries. The purpose of EAA should be to plan, develop and manage the sector in a manner that addresses the multiple needs and desires of societies, without jeopardizing the options for future generations to benefit from the full range of goods and services provided by aquatic ecosystems.

This definition implies the need to use proper instruments, processes and structures to deal effectively with issues of an environmental, social, technical, economic and political nature. Following the principles of the EAF13 and ESD, the EAA should have three main objectives within a hierarchical tree framework: i) human well-being, ii) ecological well-being and iii) the ability to achieve both, i.e. effective governance.

The EAA framework can be developed and applied/used at least at the scales or levels described below,14 but with the requirement to provide adequate norms and regulations for each level.

At the farm level with the implementation of sound EIA or similar decision-making tools (i.e. those that ensure proper consideration of, and accounting for, ecosystem effects of the proposed activity) for new aquaculture activities and the development of retrospective impact assessment and mitigation tools for activities that already exist. At this level, some of the relevant decisions to be made with an ecosystem perspective are site selection, production level, species to be used (exotic versus native), farming systems and technologies and, very important, the socio-economic effects at the local level. Likewise, improved management practices are usually implemented and followed up at the farm level.

At the proper geographical scale. this can vary and consist of, for example, the watershed, the coastal zone, the offshore marine area or the biogeographical region where aquaculture activities take place. the application of strategic planning and management guidelines and tools should promote the development of human societies around integrated and sustainable aquaculture. Issues such as escapees, disease transmission, contamination from and to aquaculture, competition for land and water use will be relevant at this level. Likewise, the implications for human well-being are highly relevant at this geographical scale, for example regarding job availability, rural development, consideration of indigenous communities and gender issues. the latter aspects need to be considered within existing scenarios and alternative projects for human development in the area.

While the EAA should be the responsibility of aquaculture agencies, its full implementation will require collaboration with, and cooperation from, agencies responsible for managing other activities that have an impact on the aquatic ecosystem (e.g. capture fisheries administration, coastal zone development bodies, watershed management organizations, agriculture, forestry, industrial development). the design of aquaculture management zones could be a relevant tool, particularly when including the benefits of integrated multitrophic aquaculture15/polyculture or integrated aquaculture–fisheries initiatives. Such approaches can also be relevant at the farm level. Further important aspects, at both farm and regional levels, are anthropogenic impacts on aquaculture and the need for increased protection from such impacts.

At the industry level. At this broader level the EAA should apply where issues such as availability of raw material (in particular fish) for feed manufacture and broader ecosystem impacts on fisheries and agriculture resources need to be considered. tools such as lifecycle assessment (LCA)16 of aquaculture commodities could be useful at this level. Other relevant issues include those relating to markets and marketing, employment and salaries, and social opportunities for the region and the country.


A good model for practical implementation of EAA can be found in Australia, were an ESD approach to aquaculture has been developed and is being implemented.17 the approach combines analytical and participatory methods and aims to achieve ecosystem and human well-being through effective governance.

A relevant step towards EAA was provided by GESAMP in 2001 when it published its guidelines and tools for the planning and management of coastal aquaculture development.18 the planning process proposed uses EIA but within a broader framework that considers the integration of aquaculture with other coastal activities and assesses costs and benefits in a more comprehensive manner.

Several research initiatives focusing on a more ecosystemic approach to aquaculture are currently in progress, such as the ECASA project in the Mediterranean Sea,19 which is facilitating the adoption of the EAA in this region.

Even though the EAA is still at a very early stage of development, relevant lessons can be drawn from its application within the ESD framework as well as from experiences and knowledge obtained from freshwater integrated fish farming and coastal polyculture systems (e.g. fish and mussels, fish and seaweeds). these experiences derive from the sustainable use of ecosystems through enhancing or combining aquaculture activities with other activities, such as fisheries (e.g. aquaculture-based fisheries) and agriculture (e.g. rice–fish farming). these culture systems contribute positively to environmental improvement by recycling nutrients and organic matter through integrated farming systems. Integrated aquaculture–agriculture practices have shown how rice–fish culture can help farmers reduce the use of environmentally damaging pesticides, while fish culture naturally improves the fertilization of rice fields, protein production and economic viability. Wastewater-fed freshwater aquaculture and coastal mollusc and seaweed farming can be used to recover excess nutrients, thereby reducing risks of eutrophication and other negative effects.20 these technologies and management approaches can also be considered as important mitigation strategies to be applied in existing farms for which no appropriate planning was done or for which EIA types of tools were not used, or were used improperly.

Considering consumers’ increasing awareness of environmental and food safety issues, some farmers and (more often) farmers’ associations/consortia have adopted a variety of standards and labels, most of which are specifically intended to allay consumers’ concerns about negative environmental consequences. Examples of such labels are the “better management practices”, clean production agreements, “principles of responsible aquaculture”,21 and certification and ecolabelling schemes.22 Certain portions of the industry, at least, in different countries and regions, are becoming more aware and better prepared to adopt a full EAA.

Other key aspects to be considered when implementing an EAA include the following.

Box 8

Risk analysis

“Risk” has been defined as “a combination of the severity of consequences and likelihood of occurrence of undesired outcomes”, and “hazard” as “the presence of a material or condition that has the potential for causing loss or harm”.1 No matter how well managed a system is, there will always be associated hazards and risks.

The process of risk analysis is driven by multiple objectives for resource protection as embodied in a number of international agreements and responsibilities.2 the principal components of a risk analysis process are illustrated below.3


When applying any risk analysis, all people at risk should be included. Civil society dialogue and public–private partnerships should be promoted. the use and dissemination of reliable scientific information should be an integral part of risk management. At the national level, enabling legal and policy environments that support the application of risk assessments and management measures should be promoted. In order to understand more clearly the risks, hazards and vulnerabilities; to develop methods to assess them as well as study the connections between the different risk events and patterns; and to identify integrated approaches to risk management, awareness raising and capacity building will be necessary and should be treated as matters of priority, especially for developing countries.

Key challenges in applying risk analysis to aquaculture are the inadequacy of scientific information, both in terms of quality and quantity, and the lack of appropriate methodology.

1R.W. Johnson. 1998. risk management by risk magnitudes. Chemical Health & Safety, 5(5): 1–2.

2Examples include the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Codex Alimentarius.

3FAO. 2004. Surveillance and zoning for aquatic animal diseases, edited by R.P. Subasinghe, S.E. McGladdery and B.J. Hill. FAO Fisheries technical Paper No. 451. Rome.


Box 9

Alien species in fisheries and aquaculture

The ecosystem approach, as defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity, recognizes that the decision to develop, use or conserve resources will be a matter of societal choice and the sovereign rights of governments. One aspect of these choices concerns the use or not of alien species. Wise choices will depend on accurate information.

Article 9.2.4 of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries recommends that “States should establish … databases … to collect, share, and disseminate data …” the FAO Database on Introductions of Aquatic Species (DIAS) contains over 4 000 records of introductions of fish, molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic plants and other aquatic organisms.

The information in DIAS is incomplete, however. this mostly reflects the fact that concerned authorities have not monitored and evaluated past introductions. Monitoring and evaluation of the use of alien species in fisheries and aquaculture need to be improved and preferably should include analysis of both environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Analysis of the information contained in DIAS revealed that the ten species most often introduced include omnivores, herbivores and carnivores, as listed below ranked from most to least common:

  1. Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)
  2. rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
  3. Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambica)
  4. Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
  5. Grass carp (Ctenopharygodon idella)
  6. Nile tilapia (Tilapia nilotica)
  7. Large-mouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
  8. Mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis)
  9. Big head carp (Aristichthys nobilis)
  10. Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Aquaculture was the main reason for the deliberate movement of aquatic species across national borders (see Figure).

Although DIAS does contain reports on the impacts of alien species, the information is incomplete and indicates that improved monitoring and assessment are needed. Impacts of introduced species fall into two broad categories: ecological, which includes biological and genetic effects, and socio-economic effects. However, these two categories are not independent and socio-economic changes brought about by alien species can, in turn, cause further ecological changes. Although records in DIAS indicate that there are more positive social and economic benefits than negative impacts from the use of alien species, adverse impacts can be serious.


Negative environmental impacts, which are not always immediately obvious, have included loss in native biodiversity from:

  • direct ecological interactions such as predation and competition;
  • genetic contamination when alien species breed with local strains or species;
  • disease transmission when alien species bring in new pathogens;
  • habitat alteration.

Negative economic impacts may arise when the biodiversity that is affected supports agriculture or fisheries. An example of this is the introduction of the golden apple snail into 15 countries, mostly in Asia, in the hope of developing an export industry. However, none of these 15 countries has reported snail exports and, instead, rice farmers in these countries have suffered as the snail consumes large quantities of paddy (rice). Other examples include the European crayfish and European oyster industries that were destroyed by pathogens that accompanied crayfish and oysters imported from North America.

There are benefits to the use of alien species, however. Agriculture provides a clear example – most of the world’s agriculture is based on animal and plant species grown outside their natural range. Such benefits can also be obtained in aquaculture. Chile introduced Pacific and Atlantic salmon in the 1970s and is now the world’s leader in farmed salmon production. the oyster industry in Europe is now based on the Pacific oyster. Tilapia, a group of species originating in Africa, is cultured worldwide and provides income and high-quality protein to many rural areas. Tilapia production in Asia is increasing both in farms and in culture-based fisheries, and many of these farmers and fishers are in the lower income classes.


Scientific support to decision-making needs to be improved. Such support includes work to adapt and promote the adoption of a precautionary approach and of integrated assessments covering environmental, social, economic, institutional and political issues. the need for scientific support is spreading across all sectors and should lead to an upgrading of aquaculture research, particularly in strategic analysis and in developing and evaluating different scenarios such as shortages of fishmeal and the spread of pandemic diseases. While efforts towards more ecosystem-friendly aquaculture will be made, the global drift of populations towards coastal areas will grow. this will increase the risk of conflicts between aquaculturists and other users of the coastal zone as well as create opportunities for synergies. It is not easy to foresee what might be the societal response in terms of allocations of (water and land) resources and in terms of what is an acceptable environmental impact and what is not.

Ongoing and foreseen technological developments, in particular for feeding, water recirculation systems and offshore aquaculture, will contribute to the implementation of the EAA. However, these costly technologies are also demanding in terms of energy and will pose unique challenges and opportunities for the EAA, particularly offshore. In general, as for the EAF, the EAA is likely to be adopted first in developed countries. Developing countries will require technical and other forms of collaboration to enhance their capacity to contribute to a global improvement in the sustainability of aquaculture production.

Promoting aquaculture as a real economic and social opportunity and a truly sustainable activity will require profound changes to, and better integration of, national administrative and governance structures. the required changes in governance of the sector, although not trivial, are not unique to aquaculture. they apply also elsewhere and are likely to happen in the fisheries subsector more generally. this deep contextual change, affecting legal frameworks, administrations, development banks, etc., should facilitate aquaculture development. Administrations should come to see aquaculture as best managed jointly with fisheries and/or with other coastal activities such as agriculture. the need for such structural changes in the public administration can be seen as an obstacle but can also be seen as an opportunity to release the social benefits that are likely to develop through synergies among food production sectors.

Stimulated by ecolabelling schemes, supported by governments’ efforts to improve infrastructures and capacity building, and by action research, aquaculture should be able to evolve in the direction of the EAA, particularly if participative processes are put in place.

The allocation of fishing rights: an evolving issue


The topic of allocation – how to share, portion, allot, distribute – is at the heart of any and all efforts around the world to manage fisheries. there is worldwide recognition that the question of how to share limited fisheries resources must be addressed and that this means finding ways of determining who can catch what. these are sensitive decisions, but there is growing recognition in both the private and public sectors that the longer fishing communities and fisheries managers avoid allocating fishing rights, the greater the risk of making decisions that, ultimately, do not lead to fisheries that are as healthy or as sustainably utilized as they could be.

There is also a growing recognition that classical fisheries management approaches to limiting catches of fish do not create economically viable fisheries, and that rights-based approaches can create the conditions that allow commercial goals to support, and not to undermine, biological objectives. However, negative perceptions about rights-based approaches persist, in part because they require resolving the fundamental fisheries management dilemma of who gets which fish.


The challenges of allocating fishing rights

Allocating fishing rights is contentious because it means making some explicit social, political, legal and economic decisions. these decisions can have significant impacts on people – ranging from a few individuals and their communities to entire states and regions of the world. Indeed, in essentially open access situations where there is extreme overcapacity, the process of moving from an open access to a rights-based management system that involves the allocation of fishing rights is likely to require major structural reforms that are well beyond the resources of a local fishing industry and its communities.

The allocation of rights need not create permanent losers, as fishers who are not granted rights can be compensated with public or private funds as part of temporary support for structural reform in fisheries. this support is temporary because once stock recovery has occurred, fishing effort has shrunk and overcapacity has been reduced, the sector itself can start to generate public revenues. Such revenues are essential in developing countries, in particular for building various forms of infrastructure (e.g. for transportation, health and education). For some of those countries, the main challenge associated with allocating fishing rights lies in finding the resources needed to finance the introduction of fishing rights, where they do not exist, or to resuscitate traditional systems of property rights.

Legally, allocating fishing rights implies that the state must have the possibility of allocating such rights in the first place. Currently, some legal systems do not support the allocation of fishing rights.

In addition, once rights have been established, there is a need for legal systems that can support and uphold the implementation of such rights. In particular, there need to be adequate legal foundations to uphold the elements of security, durability and enforceability of the exclusiveness of these rights – and such conditions may not always exist.

To add to the social, political and legal challenges of allocating fishing rights, the design, implementation and operation of rights-based programmes need to reflect the particular circumstances and goals of the people who are participating in them. Although the fundamental principles are the same, there is no single perfect design that can be applied indiscriminately across different types of fisheries.

Many of the highly publicized rights-based programmes developed over the past 20 years have started out by allocating fishing rights to the individual people actively fishing in a fishery, but this approach is only one of many. Fishing rights have also been allocated to communities and other groups whose members may have fished in a particular fishery or area.

Once allocated, the enforcement of fishing rights – and ensuring the exclusivity of these rights from infringements by people outside rights systems – can have two types of impact. In some fisheries, especially those where current enforcement activities are minimal, enforcement costs can rise – but these costs may be more than offset by the increased profits accruing to the participants in the fishery. In other fisheries, where enforcement costs have already skyrocketed to ensure compliance with complex controls and regulations, enforcement costs can fall as participants in the fishery begin to realize the value of their asset and engage in self-enforcing behaviour, reducing the need for intensive and costly enforcement. In both situations, technological advances in communications, monitoring, control and surveillance are making it easier and cheaper to undertake enforcement activities in areas previously thought unmonitorable because they are remote or the fishers are spread over enormous areas.

Finally, one of the major challenges associated with allocating fishing rights is that the very success of rights-based programmes creates a threat to their existence – simply because they create the conditions for profitable fisheries that are not confronted by the serious issue of overfishing caused by overcapacity. Where such rights have been allocated, the original decisions concerning allocations are frequently challenged by those outside the system who want to participate in the now profitable and sustainable fisheries.

Fortunately, the many lessons learned about allocating fishing rights mean that these challenges are not insurmountable.

Overcoming the challenges of allocating fishing rights

The basic characteristics of fishing rights are well known and agreed. Fishing rights need to be durable (long-lasting), divisible, transferable, exclusive and secure,23 and many of the centuries-old community-based management systems around the world were premised on these characteristics – at least until the imposition of modern top-down concepts of management altered them.

Furthermore, with the contemporary evolution of rights-based fishery management programmes, the process of allocating fishing rights and the phrase “rights-based approach” no longer equate with one very particular type of rights-based management that has received a great deal of attention – the use of individual transferable quotas (ITQs). recent developments in the allocation of fishing rights mean that the world has far more options than simple ITQs as the sole means of rights-based management. Efforts are increasing to codify informal rules and to amend legal frameworks to incorporate customary fishing rights into contemporary legal parlance and/or establish the conditions necessary to support them.

The current variety of schemes for formally allocating fishing rights has vastly expanded the range of fisheries and fishing situations to which rights-based schemes can be applied. Indeed, fishing rights have been allocated under longstanding programmes such as the community development quota (CDQ) systems that have been operating in fishing communities in the Bering Sea; the various types of territorial use-right systems such as those found in Fiji, Japan, the Philippines and Samoa; the Management and Exploitation Areas for Benthic resources in Chile; and the Beach Management Units found in Kenya, Uganda and the United republic of Tanzania.

Very importantly, the process by which these systems are designed and implemented has changed considerably over the past ten years. Participatory processes with extensive stakeholder- and community-based dialogues are now recognized as critical when designing and allocating fishing rights in order to meet the needs and engage the support of the people who are affected by them. Managing people’s expectations and deliberately considering how people respond to positive and negative incentives are becoming standard procedures, because doing so helps to diffuse tensions regarding issues of equity and social justice and has been shown to help legitimize the final product.

In addition to transparent processes and guidelines to reduce the potential for community conflict and uncertainty, solid policies – a combination of planning and market-based mechanisms supported by governance and legislative frameworks – are now considered absolutely necessary as part of the allocation of fishing rights.

Where the rights-based management programmes are already supported by a legal framework, fishers and managers are increasingly aware of the benefits of such programmes and are working to achieve their implementation. Communities – of fishers, conservationists and non-consumptive users – are realizing the value that their fisheries assets can have if managed to achieve both sustainability and profitability, in the case of commercial fishing, and this is important because it means that communities are realizing that they can benefit from becoming the stewards of their fisheries assets. the designation of fishing rights as a shared community asset has the potential not only to inspire resource stewardship, but also to provide for the possibility of future access to food, income and biodiversity – and this may be especially critical for communities afflicted by high incidences of HIV and AIDS.


Seven years ago, deliberations from the Fishrights99 conference held in Fremantle, Western Australia, highlighted many of the essential aspects of using property rights in fisheries management. More recently, the Sharing the Fish ’06 conference held in Perth, Western Australia, served as a focal point for communicating many of the recent developments pertaining to the related activity of allocating fishing rights.

In terms of the practical aspects of allocation, there is a growing body of documentation and analysis regarding the lessons learned from allocating individual and community-based fishing rights in fisheries around the world, ranging from conference proceedings24 and workshop reports25 to specific case studies.26

More locally, some countries and, within them, fisheries departments are developing and using economic and bioeconomic models to assist fishers, communities and managers in looking at the effects of allocating fishing rights on the many different groups27 that can be considered within the fishing sector.28 Moreover, these models are also starting to be used to address the allocation of water to various uses (fishing versus the generation of hydroelectricity, agricultural purposes or marine parks)29 and the (re)allocation of rights to the space in which fisheries may occur to ports and other coastal activities.

Despite these efforts, there is still a need to explore systematically alternative governance models30 and legislative alternatives for allocating fishing rights so as to reveal the full potential of using mixed spatial and output control regimes. there are lessons to be learned from community-based regimes, the integration of governance and biological objectives, and models of individual behaviour in alternative regimes.


Those who harvest, sell and buy fish are gradually becoming aware of the power and importance of rights-based approaches and they are exerting a growing influence on their future use.

Communities are looking to realize the full value of their fisheries assets – not only for their members who are alive today, but also for their future generations. Fishers in developed countries are aware that the days when fishing under de facto open access regimes was a good gamble are over and are moving to operate within management programmes that offer increased fiscal stability and reliability. Commercially, products that are harvested and processed in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way are being mainstreamed into world markets by corporations and being demanded by consumers.

At the same time, with the evolution of rights-based management systems and the processes by which these are developed, designed and implemented, political concerns over the allocation of fishing rights are being addressed from the ground up, thereby eliminating some of the political hazards that have previously hindered their uptake. this, in turn, is providing signals to politicians that controversies surrounding fishing rights are surmountable and worthy of their attention.

Combined, these various ground-level interests are driving the adoption of rights-based approaches to fisheries management and, with these, the allocation of fishing rights. the message that is emerging from the world community is that there is a need for a new governance paradigm that allows for and supports allocating fishing rights.

In the absence of a coordinated worldwide effort to develop a coherent framework for allocating fishing rights, progress will continue at more localized levels (in communities, RFMOs and species-specific organizations) where there is opportunity for collective action, far-sighted leadership and improved institutional frameworks – so that capture fisheries, while limited, can be economically viable.

Impact of market-based standards and labels on international fish trade


Fish and fishery products are the most traded food in the world. thirty-eight percent (live weight equivalent) of the total yearly production, estimated at around 140 million tonnes in 2004, enters international trade. Over half of this trade in value originates in developing countries, where it represents an important source of foreign exchange earnings, in addition to providing employment for many millions in the fish industry (see pp. 41–52).

Developed countries accounted for about 81 percent of the total value of fish imports, estimated at more than US$75 billion in 2004. About 74 percent (in value) of these products were imported by the European Union, Japan and the United States of America, which dominate the world market both in terms of prices and market access requirements.

While fish supply from wild capture fisheries has stagnated over the years, the demand for fish and fishery products has continued to rise. Consumption has more than doubled since 1973; the increasing demand has been steadily met by a robust increase in aquaculture production, estimated at around 45 million tonnes in 2004 or 32 percent of total world fish production, up from a mere 3.9 percent in 1970.

As a result of the globalization and expansion of international food trade, the food industry has experienced significant consolidation and concentration in the industrialized countries. this has led to the emergence of fewer but more powerful food firms, with substantial bargaining power vis-à-vis other players up and down the supply chain. Although wholesale and restaurant chains strongly influence fish distribution in many countries, power has been shifting to the retailers as a result of increased consolidation of retailers, inter alia, into supermarket chains and the growth of goods produced under a retailer’s or private label. this supermarket system is expanding rapidly to developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.31

As the last link in the supply chain between producers and consumers, retailers have seen their responsibility towards consumers increase, resulting in a greater need for controlling safety, quality and other food attributes to prevent any risk of damage to their reputation.

Reasons for development of market standards

Several concurrent developments account for the development of market standards and the possible expansion of their use in fish trade:

Examples of market standards used in fish trade

the market standards currently used in international fish trade primarily address consumer protection and resource sustainability. Small market niches are governed by specific standards such as “label rouge” in France, “Quality Mussels” in Ireland or Canada or “organic farmed fish” labels. Furthermore, some countries and producers’ associations have established labels to certify implementation of best practices or codes of conduct.33

Below follows a brief review of various market standards in use in international fish trade.

Food safety and quality

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was founded in May 2000 as a retail-led network of food safety experts and their trade associations to enhance food safety, strengthen consumer confidence by setting requirements for food safety schemes and improve cost efficiency through the food supply chain.

According to the GFSI, its standards are based on Codex Alimentarius and other legislative requirements to address consumer health and safety concerns. the Initiative also addresses the requirements of certification bodies. the benchmarked food safety standards can then be applied by food suppliers throughout the supply chain, upon agreement with retailers, when defining contracts for sourcing products. retailers and suppliers have the discretion to apply the benchmarked standards to specific products, and this may vary across countries according to regulatory requirements, product liability and due diligence regulations as well as company policies. Due diligence is observed when a retailer, or supplier, takes all reasonable precautions to prevent customer illness or injury by preventing the sale of an unsafe or illegal product.

In 1998, BRC, responding to industry needs, introduced the BRC Food technical Standard to evaluate its own-brand foods marketed by retailers. these standards would also serve to provide United Kingdom retailers and brand owners with evidence of due diligence to use in case of prosecution by enforcement authorities.

The BRC standard covers the HACCP system, quality management, factory environmental standards, and product and process control. Suppliers undergo an evaluation by BRC-certified auditors who are recognized by an accreditation body. the standard has recently been revised to reflect new EU legislation and is claimed to be used in many countries worldwide.


In the past decade, significant resources have been used worldwide in the seafood industry to promote the purchase of seafood only from sustainable sources, and several major corporations have built comprehensive food-sourcing campaigns around sustainable seafood initiatives. these initiatives aim to tap into growing consumer demand for environmentally preferable products, channelling purchasing power towards seafood products from sustainably managed fisheries and/or aquaculture activities.

Consequently, a number of ecolabelling initiatives have been introduced in the fisheries sector as market-based incentives to improve fisheries management systems.34 Ecolabels are certifications given to products that are deemed to have a lower negative impact on the environment than other similar products. By appealing to consumer preferences, the ecolabelled products may generate higher returns than those that either do not qualify for ecolabelling or those whose producers do not seek to obtain such labelling. Several national, international, industry-sponsored, NGO-led and consumer–supplier partnership certification and standards schemes in the fisheries sector already exist – each with distinct criteria and assessment methods that have variable levels of transparency. the claims made by ecolabels also vary widely – some indicate that a product is not overfished, others focus on the absence of marine mammal bycatch and still others promise that their product is “ecosystem friendly”.

Some schemes focus on ensuring that a management system or process is “sustainable”, while others focus on the performance or outcome of the management system. Schemes that set standards for processes or systems without prescribing sustainable outcomes are not necessarily comparable with schemes that seek to grade performance or ensure sustainable production. A related issue is how to maintain sustainable results. On the implementation side, for example, monitoring and data collection pose significant problems in many countries and there are particular challenges related to traceability.


Given the increased use of market standards in the fruits and vegetables sector and the globalization of food trade, several retailers are extending their use to aquaculture products. At the same time, market standards represent a means for reducing public concern over veterinary drug residues in aquaculture products. Several initiatives have been developed recently, although the extent of their use in fish trade and their impact are not yet fully known.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) developed the responsible Aquaculture Program to promote best management practices for aquaculture. this programme encourages the culture of safe, wholesome seafood in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, with a view to improving the efficiency and long-term sustainability of the aquaculture industry.35

In response to the industry’s growing call for more formal recognition of sustainable practices, the GAA aligned with the Aquaculture Certification Council,36 an international non-profit organization that offers “process” certification for shrimp production facilities with a primary orientation towards seafood buyers. this body exclusively applies GAA’s Best Aquaculture Practices standards in a certification system that combines on-site inspection and effluent sampling with mandatory requirements for product safety and traceability.

In 1997, a European retail working group, EurepGAP,37 established its own standard for good agricultural practices to reassure consumers that food that exhibited the EurepGAP label had been produced in a safe and sustainable manner. Originally developed with reference to fruits and vegetables, the standard was expanded in 2005 to include integrated quality assurance schemes for aquaculture. the EurepGAP partnership collaborates with both retailers and producers and consults regularly with consumer groups, NGOs and governments in the development of its protocols.

EurepGAP is a quality and safety management system aimed at providing tools for verifying best practices in a systematic and consistent way through the use of product protocols and compliance criteria. It is designed to permit benchmarking of local schemes to EurepGap, thus extending participation under the scheme. this is seen as important in fulfilling a basic aim of facilitating trade in safe and sustainable farm production.

Organic fish-farming labels

A number of companies are working to win a market niche with “organic seafood”. Organic labelling usually signifies that food has been farmed without artificial inputs – especially synthetic fertilizers and pesticides – and has been grown using environmentally sound farm management techniques. Organic labelling of seafood focuses on aquaculture products. Efforts to explore organic labelling of fish are more recent, and less than 1 percent of aquaculture fish is organic.38 this share is expected to increase rapidly, however, especially with technical support from development agencies.


The unprecedented development in market standards raises a number of major issues:

  1. If trade liberalization is to bring benefits to all, including to developing countries, then rising market standards should not constitute a barrier or additional impediments for entry to major markets by producers and processors from developing countries.
  2. In the absence of regulatory frameworks, the setting of market standards by a company, or by a coalition of companies or retailers, which can exercise significant market power, may increase the risk of anti-competitive behaviour as this power may be used to impose lower prices throughout the supply chain.
  3. How are the boundaries defined between public regulations on the one hand and private market standards on the other? And who is responsible for what? While governments that use standards as trade barriers can be challenged through the rules of the WTO, what mechanism should be set to deal with companies whose standards are challenged as technical barriers to trade?
  4. the uncertainties described for market standards also hold for ecolabelling schemes. While it is recognized that ecolabelling will encourage suppliers to implement responsible fishing practices, ecolabelling can also be seen as a private-sector attempt to replace governmental conservation policy. How can ecolabelling schemes be reconciled with the public sector’s responsibility to protect and regulate the use of natural resources?

Nevertheless, and in spite of these major issues, some argue that meeting and adhering to market standards can have a positive effect, including for developing countries, in particular by spurring new competitive advantages and investments in technological capacity.

Some governments and industry groups fear that these standards may disguise underlying intentions to protect domestic industries and restrict market access, or that they may be used to add a new layer of constraints for exporters by adding to existing food safety and quality requirements in major markets. Also, the burden of complying with these standards may fall disproportionately on small suppliers, for whom the cost of acquiring information about, and achieving, certifiable status and standards is relatively higher.

Furthermore, as certification programmes proliferate, consumers and producers face choices regarding which programmes carry the most value. Competing certifying claims may confuse consumers, causing them to lose confidence in standards, thereby depriving the approach of its value. Questions also arise concerning which certification programmes best serve consumer protection, the environment, the public and the industry. Such a scenario is serious, as the credibility of standards, and of the associated certification and accreditation bodies, is of paramount importance.


Possible actions to mitigate existing concerns are briefly described below.

Increased transparency

For some exporters, business will become riskier and more uncertain as importers impose new and more stringent market standards. Increased transparency in the development and application of these standards would reduce the risks that exporters confront and enhance market access. Furthermore, a thorough study is needed on the impacts of market standards for both importing and exporting countries, including an assessment of the costs and benefits of complying with these standards. In respect of costs, such a study would evaluate the direct costs imposed on the exporters by the need for new physical infrastructures, larger implementation capacity and better technical know-how.

Harmonization and equivalence

regional and international cooperation is necessary for the development of harmonized and transparent standards and compliance procedures. these standards and procedures may build on the work of the FAO/World Health Organization (WHO) Codex Alimentarius (safety and quality), FAO (ecolabelling, organic fish farming) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (certification, accreditation). More attention should be given to opportunities for mutual recognition of standards and simplification of compliance procedures. this, in turn, should lead to cost reductions, especially for developing countries and small enterprises.

Technical assistance and phase-in for developing countries

International efforts to manage the negative impacts of standards could be coupled with similar efforts in regional and bilateral economic arrangements. In developing countries, external funds are needed to support implementation and compliance, and, when possible, industry standards could be accompanied by phase-in periods.


A key challenge is how to elaborate criteria that are general yet applicable to specific regions, countries and fisheries. the acceptance and credibility of standards are closely related to how the standards were developed, the standards themselves, and the accrediting or certifying process by which suppliers are evaluated.

The FAO guidelines on ecolabelling from marine capture fisheries provide an internationally agreed reference for harmonizing ecolabelling schemes and also for certification and accreditation. However, there is a need to clarify the relationship between ecolabels and international trade rules and to create synergies between the two as well as to provide a neutral forum for translating the FAO guiding principles into transparent and credible criteria and guidelines for developing the ecolabels and their certification and accreditation.


The development of market standards and labels and their potential impact on international trade have been the subject of recent debates in many international fora. Sanitary and quality issues are the subject of regular debates within the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and technical Barriers to trade (TBT) Committees of the WTO. However, these discussions have been dealing mainly with the regulatory requirements and with the implementation of the special and differential treatment of developing and least-developed countries and have not touched upon market standards. WTO Members, in the Doha Declaration, committed themselves to examining labelling requirements for environmental purposes within the framework of the Committee on trade and Environment, where discussions have been taking place since 2001. these discussions have focused on voluntary schemes based on the lifecycle approach.

Market standards have also been debated by the Nordic Council of Ministers,39 the Commission of the European Communities,40 the International Centre for trade and Sustainable Development,41 the FAO Committee on Fisheries42 (which developed international guidelines for ecolabelling), its Sub-Committee on Fish trade,43 and the World Aquaculture Society.44

The debates in these fora highlight that while market-driven standards and labels can offer opportunities to spur competitive advantages and investment in technological developments to expand market shares and extract more value, many developing countries and small-scale enterprises fear that these standards can disguise underlying intentions to protect domestic industry or create additional burdens to already existing and highly demanding regulatory requirements.


Consumer pressure on the fishing industry and on governments to improve fisheries management is increasing. Campaigns seeking to reduce or eliminate consumption of particular overfished stocks or endangered species (e.g. the recent swordfish boycott by restaurants on the east coast of the United States of America) are becoming more common. In addition to concerns relating to the safety and quality of fish products, other issues of global concern, such as environmental protection, social requirements and IUU fishing, are likely to be increasingly governed through market-driven standards and schemes.

The growing influence of large wholesale, retail and restaurant chains over fish markets seems to indicate a trend for the increasing use of market standards and certification schemes. However, the extent of this trend and its implications for the governance of fish trade are not well known and need to be studied further, taking into consideration regional specificities. Should market standards become important tools in the governance of fish trade, it will become imperative to develop an international plan of action to ensure coherence with WTO trade measures. Such an action plan ought to address, inter alia, transparency, the use of science-based criteria, harmonization and equivalence, and technical assistance to developing countries. the technical Guidelines for responsible Fish trade currently in development for the implementation of the relevant articles of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries is likely to address market-based standards.

HIV and AIDS in fishing communities: a public health issue but also a fisheries development and management concern


In the past decade, it has become evident that AIDS-related illness and mortality are devastatingly high in some fishing communities.45

A synthesis of surveys conducted since 1992 in ten low- or middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America for which data were available (Brazil, Cambodia, the Democratic republic of the Congo, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Uganda) shows that, in all except one (Brazil), HIV prevalence rates among fishermen or in fishing communities are between 4 and 14 times higher than the national average prevalence rate for adults aged 15 to 49. these considerable rates of HIV infection place fisherfolk among groups more usually identified as being at high risk; they are greater than those for other mobile populations such as truck drivers and the military in all countries (again except for Brazil) for which relative data are available.46 Because fisherfolk are numerous compared with people in other subpopulations with high HIV prevalence, such as injecting drug users, military personnel and prisoners, the number of fisherfolk likely to be HIV positive may be very high, making them a priority for support for prevention, treatment and care programmes for HIV and AIDS.

Available estimates of HIV prevalence and reports of illness and death from AIDS-related conditions are based either on surveys of fishermen or of fishing communities in general. Prevalence rates for the many women working in fishing communities have not been assessed but are likely to be similar or even higher, given that men and women living and working in the same communities share a similar risk environment and are also often linked through sexual networks. In some African fishing communities, for example, women fish traders and fishermen are linked both occupationally and sexually through so-called “sex for fish” transactions, where informal contracts between fishermen selling to female fish traders include the exchange of sexual services instead of, or supplementary to, the exchange of money. Furthermore, the subordinate economic and social position of women in many countries increases their vulnerability.

Vulnerability to HIV and AIDS stems from complex, interdependent causes that may include the mobility of many fisherfolk, the time fishers and fish traders spend away from home, their access to daily cash income in an overall context of poverty and vulnerability, their demographic profile (they are often young and sexually active) and the ready availability of commercial sex in many fishing ports. Also significant are cultural factors related to fishing as a high-risk, low-status and uncomfortable occupation, which lead to high-risk sexual behaviour practices.47 Many of these causes make fisherfolk not only vulnerable to HIV and AIDS but also more likely to miss out on access to prevention, treatment and care.48 Exposure to water-borne diseases and to malaria, along with poor sanitation and limited access to medical care, also combine to increase susceptibility to infection. these proximate risk factors are all related to underlying poverty, insecurity and marginalization affecting both women and men in many fishing communities. the proportion of people infected with HIV in a fishing community, and the impacts of AIDS-related morbidity and mortality in that community, will depend on the extent to which the above factors occur and on how they combine to increase vulnerability.49

As fisheries become more integrated into the global economy and labour market, the probability increases that mobile fisherfolk become a “bridge” population, linking areas of high and low prevalence.50 In Walvis Bay, Namibia, for example, visiting Asian and European fishermen, most of whom have received little advice on sexual health risks, frequently establish relationships with Namibian sex workers, or become involved in other forms of “transactional sex”.51

It is important to stress that AIDS in fishing communities is not a phenomenon exclusive to one region. Indeed, in terms of the overall dimension of the epidemic, and taking into account differences in the size of fishing populations between continents, it is likely that more fisherfolk in South and Southeast Asia are infected with HIV than in Africa.52



Impacts of HIV and AIDS and implications for fisheries management and development

Although reports of high prevalence of HIV and incidence of AIDS-related illness have been reported sporadically in the literature from around the world since the early days of the AIDS epidemic, this issue has only recently become a prominent concern in fisheries management and development, so there is limited formal survey information and economic analysis of its impact on the sector. However, a considerable body of evidence on the impacts of HIV and AIDS, both from other rural production sectors and from work on poverty analysis in fishing communities, does exist and can be summarized as follows:53

Box 10

What makes women in fishing communities vulnerable to HIV/AIDS?

Women in fishing communities play important roles in fish processing and marketing activities. They also undertake many of the non-fishing, incomegenerating activities that compensate for the seasonality and day-to-day variability of fishing and related activities. As well as funding and performing most childcare and household tasks, women also often assume responsibility for family food security, health, social and education expenses.

Inequities that contribute to women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS may include a combination of the following: 1

  • Traditional gender roles and low levels of education constrain
  • women’s participation in community-level management structures and processes.
  • Women in fishing communities sometimes occupy low-margin competitive activities such as small-scale fish trading and alcohol manufacture and sale, in which sex is used as part of the exchange (transactional sex and “sex for fish”).
  • Women are often sexually active at an earlier age than men and may be biologically more susceptible to infection.
  • Women may lack negotiating power on safer sex practices.
  • Legislation related to women’s rights, when it exists, is poorly enforced.
  • Men often control decision-making, both within the family economy and concerning access to natural resources, savings and credit, education, and to social and political networks.

1 FAO. 2005. Impact of HIV/AIDS on fishing communities: policies to support livelihoods, rural development and public health. New Directions in Fisheries: A Series of Policy Briefs on Development Issues No. 2. Rome.

- Revenue generated by individuals from their fishery-related activities that would have been invested back into the fishery or other economic activities (land, livestock, business enterprises), or spent on services that keep cash in circulation in rural markets, is instead diverted to meeting the expenses of illness in the household.
- Health services are burdened by the costs of dealing with AIDS-related illness, deflecting resources from other health needs, such as maternal and child care and malaria treatment.
- Local governments faced with the costs of AIDS may therefore reduce resources for other service needs. Moreover, working time is redirected towards assisting affected colleagues and attending funerals.


The fisheries sector is an important contributor to development and to national economies. Fisheries have links with services and other industries and make a substantial contribution to GDP, employment, nutrition and revenue generation.54 Supporting and promoting sectoral development will help reduce the spread and impacts of the epidemic both within the sector and within the population in general. Preventing infection with HIV and the onset of AIDS will help to maintain and enhance the sector’s contribution to poverty reduction and food security and to reduce the risks of HIV transmission in fisheries-dependent regions.

One important task is to invest in preventing infection with HIV in fishing communities. this can be achieved by addressing (largely male) risk behaviour, which is thought to be related to occupational risk factors, social factors related to mobility and, more generally, to the social, political and economic marginalization of many fisherfolk.55

A second important – and related – task is to address women’s higher vulnerability to HIV arising from gendered socio-economic disadvantages in many societies. Inequalities in men’s and women’s access to and ownership of assets, income-earning opportunities, power relations and negotiation of sexual relationships need to be addressed as a priority in fishing communities. Such efforts require novel partnerships between donors, fishery agencies and health agencies, and within and between communities themselves.56

All over the world, the impoverishment and marginalization of small-scale fisherfolk increases their vulnerability to the diseases of poverty, including AIDS. reducing poverty in fishing communities will also address many of the conditions that put fisherfolk at risk of being infected with HIV. recent guidelines for improving the contribution of the small-scale fishery sector to poverty reduction57 provide an appropriate framework for national governments to respond to poverty in fishing communities.


Until recently, initiatives responding to AIDS in the fisheries sector were fragmented and working in isolation, largely at the community and project levels and lacking in national policy support and access to global funds to combat AIDS. Moreover, these initiatives relied on approaches developed for farming or urban communities that often proved inappropriate and/or ineffective for fishing communities. this situation is changing and higher-level policy responses involving national governments, international organizations, donors and NGOs working in both the fishery and health sectors are beginning to respond to the information that is reaching them from fishing communities and the external organizations who work closely with them.

For example, an International Workshop on responding to HIV and AIDS in the Fishery Sector in Africa was held in Lusaka, Zambia, in February 2006. the workshop was organized by the WorldFish Center and sponsored by the International Organization for Migration, FAO and the Swedish International Development Agency. It was co-hosted by the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the National AIDS Council. Ninety participants attended from 13 countries in Africa and from international organizations. they represented government agencies in the fisheries and health sectors, research institutions and civil society organizations active in working with fishing communities. the purpose of the workshop was to enable professionals and organizations working in response to HIV and AIDS in African fisheries to share experiences, appraise the efficacy of their approaches and identify actions in research and development that will further improve their impact. the workshop reviewed and compared research findings and approaches applied in response to HIV and AIDS in fishing communities and the wider fishery sector, identified good practice examples for wider application, identified next steps in development and research to scale up these examples and initiated a network of practitioners in Africa for capacity building, scaling-up and further development of approaches.58

At the national level, the Department of Fisheries resources in Uganda, responding to reports of the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS on the country’s fishing communities, has recently published a strategy to ensure that the sector receives an appropriate allocation of government and donor resources.59

The importance of recognition at the national and international policy levels is also illustrated by a project in the Congo where AIDS-affected fishing communities at Pointe Noire work in partnership with the National AIDS Control Programme, which is supported by the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. this has allowed funding of community-led initiatives for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and mitigation.60

Elsewhere, the South Pacific Commission was among the first to recognize and respond to the problem of high incidence of HIV in fishing communities.61


the differential in HIV prevalence between fisherfolk and the general population is likely to persist for several years, unless there is a major response to include fisherfolk in populations identified as being at risk. So far, although individual governments and some UN agencies have responded, there has been no acknowledgement of fisherfolk as a “neglected group at higher risk” by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS).62 Unless UNAIDS acknowledges the epidemic among fisherfolk in this way, it is unlikely that global, coordinated action resulting in significant lowering of prevalence of HIV in fishing communities will take place. Although prevention efforts targeted at sex workers will help reduce the transmission of HIV in client populations (including fishermen), this is not likely to be enough to reduce the high risks of HIV transmission within fishing communities because transactional sex, not sex work, is one potential major route of transmission (e.g. in Zambian inland fisheries).63

Box 11

The FAO strategy on chronic diseases

The HIV/AIDS pandemic and major debilitating diseases, notably malaria and tuberculosis, have a major impact on nutrition, food security and rural livelihoods. FAO’s mandate relates directly to the Millennium Development Goals of significantly reducing the number of people who live in extreme poverty and extreme hunger. These goals can only be achieved if considerable attention is focused on combating the diseases associated with poverty. AIDS is one such “disease of poverty”, and addressing its impacts has become an important part of FAO’s core mission to help meet the Millennium Development Goals related to poverty and hunger

FAO has recently been making efforts to bring agriculture and food security to the centre of the fight against killer diseases. In 2005, 23 out of 27 FAO divisions implemented one or more activities on HIV/AIDS. In early 2004, the Organization approved the Priority Area for Interdisciplinary Action (PAIA) on AIDS to strengthen intra- and interagency collaboration in responding to AIDS and other diseases.

Through its normative and operational work and through strengthened partnerships, FAO aims to contribute to:

  • preventing further transmission of HIV/AIDS and other poverty-related diseases through addressing structural problems of rural livelihoods that are drivers of poverty and vulnerability to the diseases of poverty;
  • improving the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS and associated infections through advice on good nutrition, nutritional support, protection of property rights, access to investment opportunities and elimination of stigma;
  • mitigating the impact of poverty-related diseases through support in formulating enabling agricultural/rural development sector policies, plans and programmes and strengthening institutional capacity as part of the wider social and economic development strategy.

Source: FAO. 2005. Addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS and other diseases of poverty on nutrition, food security and rural livelihoods, 2005–2015: the FAO strategy. Rome.


  1. Based on questionnaire responses by FAO Members in 2002 and 2004 relating to implementation of the Code.
  2. Fisheries implies aquaculture, as appropriate.
  3. S.M. Garcia, and D.J. Doulman. 2005. FAO's Fisheries Programme and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. In S.A. Ebbin, A. Hakon Hoel and A.K. Sydnes. A sea change: the exclusive economic zone and governance institutions for living marine resources, pp. 169-193. Dordrecht, Germany, Springer.
  4. FAO. 2003. The ecosystem approach to fisheries. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries No. 4, Suppl. 2. Rome.
  5. FAO. 1997. Review of the state of world aquaculture. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 886, Rev. 1. Rome.
  6. J. Taylor. 2004. Defining the appropriate regulatory and policy framework for the development of integrated multitrophic aquaculture practices: the Department of Fisheries and Oceans perspective. Bull. Aquacul. Assoc. Canada, 104(2): 68-70.
  7. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a process for anticipating the effects on the environment caused by a development. Where effects are identified that are unacceptable (externality costs exceeding the social and economic benefits), these can then be avoided or reduced during the design process or the project could be plainly rejected.
  8. Information obtained from countries reporting to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
  9. United Nations. 1992. Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992. A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. I). New York, USA.
  10. United Nations Environment Programme. 2000. Report of the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. UNEP/ CBD/COP/5/23. Decision V/6, pp. 103-106 (available at meetings/cop/cop-05/official/cop-05-23-en.pdf). Most countries are party to the CBD (188 parties, 168 signatures).
  11. The United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg in 2002, addressed all aspects of sustainable development, with the major focus on poverty and development. There was agreement that environmental degradation is a concomitant of poverty and cannot be satisfactorily addressed until poverty itself is addressed.
  12. Op. cit, see note 4.
  13. FAO. 2005. Putting into practice the ecosystem approach to fisheries. Rome.
  14. Modified and adapted from W.J. Fletcher, J. Chesson, M. Fisher, K.J. Sainsbury and T.J. Hundloe. 2004. National ESD Reporting Framework: the "how to" guide for aquaculture. Version 1.1. Canberra, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC).
  15. Finfish aquaculture and seaweed and shellfish aquaculture for bioremediation of coastal waters (seaweeds and shellfish are used as biological nutrient removal systems) and for economic diversification.
  16. FAO. 2006. FAO-World Fisheries Trust Workshop on Comparative Environmental Costs of Aquaculture and Other Food Production Sectors. Meeting Report (in preparation). LCA is a method for environmental assessment that identifies the impact of a product from raw material to waste, identifying the impact categories, e.g. resource use, water, energy, land, contribution to climate change, to eutrophication and to decreasing biodiversity. This approach provides a good accounting mechanism for different food production systems and also helps identify the most relevant stage in the production chain where technological developments are needed to reduce impacts.
  17. Op. cit., see note 14.
  18. GESAMP (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOCAA/MO/WHO/IAEA/UN/UNEP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). 2001. Planning and management for sustainable coastal aquaculture development. GESAMP Reports and Studies No. 68. Rome.
  19. ECASA (Ecosystem Approach to Sustainable Aquaculture) is an EU-funded Framework 6 Research and Technical Development project with 16 research partners from 13 member states. It is the successor to several 4th and 5th Framework Programme projects that have helped to push forward research on an ecosystem approach to aquaculture, especially in the Mediterranean (for further information, see
  20. Op. cit., see note 5.
  21. FAO's work, in cooperation with partners in the Shrimp Consortium, has resulted in the publication FAO/NACA/UNEP/WB/WWF. 2006. International principles for responsible shrimp farming. Bangkok, NACA.
  22. For example, the Global Aquaculture Alliance and the Aquaculture Certification Council (
  23. FAO. 2000. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2000, pp. 52-57. Rome.
  24. See, for example, FAO. 2000. Use of property rights in fisheries management, edited by R. Shotton. Proceedings of the FishRights99 Conference, Fremantle, Western Australia, 11-19 November 1999. Workshop presentations. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 404/2. Rome.
  25. See, for example, FAO. 2004. The conservation and management of shared fish stocks: legal and economic aspects, by G. Munro, A. Van Houtte and R. Willmann. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 465. Rome.
  26. See, for example, FAO. 2001. Case studies on the allocation of transferable quota rights in fisheries, edited by R. Shotton. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 411. Rome.
  27. These groups may include consumptive as well as non-consumptive users and include indigenous/aboriginal groups, recreational groups, commercial fishers within a fishery and different commercial fisheries.
  28. See, for example, R. McLeod and J. Nicholls. 2004. A socio-economic valuation of resource allocation options between recreational and commercial fishing uses. Australian Government FRDC Project 2001-065 and Department of Fisheries. 2005. Integrated fisheries management report: abalone resource. Fisheries Management Paper No. 204. Perth, Government of Western Australia.
  29. J. Conrad, H. Franklin, L. Nostbakken, S. Stone and C. Viteri. 2006. Fisheries management in the Galapagos Marine Reserve: a bioeconomic perspective. Economic and Sector Study Series, RE3-06-002. Washington, DC, Inter-American Development Bank.
  30. FAO. 2002. Report of the Norway-FAO Expert Consultation on the Management of Shared Fish Stocks. Bergen, Norway, 7-10 October 2002. FAO Fisheries Report No. 695. Rome.
  31. OECD. 2004. Private standards and the shaping of the agro-food system. AGR/CA/ APM (2004) 24.
  32. FAO. 2005. Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products. CAC/RCP 52 - 2003. Rev 2. Rome.
  33. Examples include the Industry Standards for the Live Reef Food Fish Trade, the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers' Code of Conduct for Aquaculture, the Thai Marine Shrimp Culture Code of Conduct or Fundacion Chile's "Code of Good Environmental Practices for Well Managed Salmonoid Farms". The last two resulted from the requirements of importers and retailers.
  34. Examples of ecolabelling schemes include the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Dolphin-safe/Dolphin friendly labels, the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC), Carrefour's "Peche responsible" logo and Unilever's Fish Sustainability Initiative.
  35. Through adherence to its published codes: Guiding principles for responsible aquaculture. Codes of practice for responsible shrimp farming and Best Aquaculture Practices standards.
  36. Aquaculture Certification Council Inc. (
  37. The Global Partnership for Safe and Sustainable Agriculture - EurepGAP (
  38. Examples of organic labelling schemes include the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Naturland Organic Standards, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia, Bio Gro New Zealand Production Standards, KRAVKontroll AB Organic Standards and Debio Standards for Organic Aquaculture.
  39. Nordic Council of Ministers. 2000. An arrangement for the voluntary certification of products of sustainable fishing. Nordic Technical Working Group on Fisheries Ecolabelling Criteria. Final Report. Copenhagen.
  40. Commission of the European Communities. 2005. Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee. Launching a debate on a Community approach towards eco-labelling schemes for fisheries products. COM(2005)275 final. Brussels.
  41. International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development. 2006. A Review Meeting on Fisheries, International Trade and Sustainable Development: A policy paper. Geneva.
  42. FAO. 2005. Guidelines for the ecolabelling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries. Rome.
  43. FAO. 2006. Tenth Session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade, 30 May-2 June 2006, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
  44. World Aquaculture Society. The 2006 Annual Meeting and Conference, 9-13 May 2006, Florence, Italy.
  45. E.H. Allison and J.A. Seeley. 2004. HIV and AIDS among fisherfolk: a threat to "responsible fisheries"? Fish and Fisheries, 5(3): 215-239.
  46. E. Kissling, E.H. Allison, J.A. Seeley, S. Russell, M. Bachmann, S.D. Musgrave and S. Heck. 2005. Fisherfolk are among groups most at risk of HIV: cross-country analysis of prevalence and numbers infected. AIDS, 19(17): 1939-1946.
  47. Op. cit, see note 45, and C. Bishop-Sambrook and N. Tanzarn. 2004. The susceptibility and vulnerability of small-scale fishing communities to HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Report of a sector project funded by Policy Advice for Sustainable Fisheries, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH and FAO HIV/AIDS Programme, Rome (available at pe3_040101d1_en.doc).
  48. J.A. Seeley and E.H. Allison. 2005. HIV and AIDS in fishing communities: challenges in delivering antiretroviral therapies to vulnerable groups. AIDS Care, 17(6): 688-697.
  49. C. Bishop-Sambrook and N. Tanzarn. 2004, op. cit., see note 47.
  50. E.H. Allison and J.A. Seeley. 2004. Another group at high risk for HIV. Science, 305: 1104.
  51. C. Keulder. 2006. Ships, trucks and clubs: the dynamics of HIV risk behaviour in Walvis Bay. In WorldFish Center. Responding to HIV and AIDS in the Fishery Sector in Africa: Proceedings of the International Workshop, 21-22 February 2006, Lusaka, Zambia, pp. 41-49. Cairo.
  52. Op. cit., see note 46.
  53. Op. cit., see note 50, and FAO. 2005. Impact of HIV/AIDS on fishing communities: policies to support livelihoods, rural development and public health. New Directions in Fisheries: A Series of Policy Briefs on Development Issues No. 2. Rome.
  54. FAO. 2006. Contribution of fisheries to national economies in West and Central West Africa. Policies to support wealth creation, sustainable livelihoods and responsible fisheries. New Directions in Fisheries: A Series of Policy Briefs on Development Issues No. 3. Rome.
  55. Op. cit., see notes 45, 48 and WorldFish Center. 2006. Responding to HIV and AIDS in the Fishery Sector in Africa: Proceedings of the International Workshop, 21–22 February 2006, Lusaka, Zambia, pp. 41–49. Cairo.
  56. The Sustainable Fisheries Livelihood Programme (SFLP) has recently produced a policy brief (op. cit., see note 53) outlining appropriate response strategies.
  57. FAO. 2005. Increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security. technical Guidelines for responsible Fisheries No. 10.Rome.
  58. WorldFish Center, 2006, op. cit., see note 55.
  59. Government of Uganda. 2005. Strategy for reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on fishing communities. Department of Fisheries resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, Kampala, Government Printer.
  60. Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme in West Africa. 2004. Fisheries and AIDS. SFLP Liaison Bulletin No. 17 & 18, pp. 4–35.
  61. Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). 1999. Safe sex and safe seafaring – something to think about. 1st SPC Heads of Fisheries Meeting, Noumea, New Caledonia, 9–13 August 1999. Background Paper 10. Noumea, New Caledonia.
  62. UNAIDS. 2006. AIDS Update. Geneva.
  63. S. Merten and T. Haller 2006. “Fish for sex” exchange in the Kafue Flats, Zambia. In WorldFish Center. Responding to HIV and AIDS in the Fishery Sector in Africa: Proceedings of the International Workshop, 21–22 February 2006, Lusaka, Zambia, pp. 59–64. Cairo.

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