Blue Growth blog

An international celebration for 20 years of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries

The Atlantic Ocean Spanish port city of Vigo played host to the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct  for Responsible Fisheries .

The Code of Conduct, unanimously adopted by member states at the FAO Conference in October 1995, helps to promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Over its first two decades, the Code has been bolstered with subsequent instruments and guidelines adopted to support it, including the various International Plans of Actions, instruments to fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, ecolabelling for certification, and guidelines on small-scale fisheries to meet the challenges we face over the next twenty years.

The first twenty years of The Code was celebrated 8-9 October 2015 at the First International Fisheries Stakeholder Forum, co-organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Government of Spain, the regional Government of Galicia, Conxemar (the Spanish seafood industry), and FAO. The event attracted 600 international participants to Vigo for the two-day event, including 70 country delegations from 5 continents. The delegations included 10 Ministers, 12 Vice-Ministers and 10 Directors-General of Fisheries organizations, including the European Commissioner  for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The sessions at the event addressed many of the issues at the heart of the Code of Conduct:

  • Fishing for the Future
  • Market reports
  • Consumers & Industry, Trade and Challenges
  • Fisheries Management and Fishing Rights
  • IUU fishing – The situation and prospects
  • Sustainability and certification
  • A Ministerial Roundtable on Blue Growth
FAO Fisheries staff at the event

Side events included segments dedicated to Shaping an international network for women in the seafood industry; the Official launch of the Global Sustainable seafood Initiative (GSSI) Benchmark tool, the Nordic Council; Dialogue on benefits of decent employment in fisheries and aquaculture; and a Workshop on aquaculture perceptions. We’ll be examining these side events and the interesting issues and discussions raised in future posts.

Throughout the event, a wide range of stakeholders provided insight into the major achievements witnessed during the first two decades of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. There were also numerous presentations and discussions about the areas of work that will need additional work to attain the objectives of the Code. There were lively discussions about IUU fishing and efforts to combat it, certification and ecolabelling, ocean governance, consumer trends and the need for better integration of social issues into the seafood industry.

Speaking at the event, Spain's Agriculture, Food and Environment Minister Isabel García Tejerina said, “This is the biggest fisheries event ever held by FAO outside of its headquarters in Rome. We are proud to celebrate the Code of Conduct anniversary event in Vigo. This demonstrates the strong collaboration between the Government of Spain and FAO, and the organization’s important work in fisheries.”

FAO was extremely pleased with the collaboration and the recognition by the international community about how revolutionary the Code was when it was adopted twenty years ago, and recognition of the importance of the work we still must achieve together to fully achieve the important objectives of the Code.

"The Code of Conduct has been an unmitigated success, because it captures both the essence of nature conservation and the need for developing countries to grow and prosper," said Arni Mathiesen, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture speaking at the opening session.

“Many of the fish stocks that are unsustainable today became that way before adoption of the Code in 1995,” he added. “And while actions by the international community since then have halted a further deterioration, I’m convinced we can do more to rebuild our stocks, and must work together on these objectives over the next two decades of the Code.”

Intrafish covered all the events of the Vigo’s International Fisheries Stakeholders Forum. You can read highlights from the two-day event here:

The event was held in Vigo’s beautiful Teatro Afundación
FAO Fisheries Assistant Director-General Árni Mathiesen speaking with EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella
Ministerial Round Table. Blue Growth: The Political View
Spain's Agriculture, Food and Environment Minister García Tejerina, FAO Fisheries Mathiesen, President Freire of Conxemar and Vigo’s Mayor Caballero
View from Vigo – Sunset over the Cíes Islands
The FAO-Conxemar team


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