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Background and Overview

Fisheries, including aquaculture, provide a vital source of food, employment, recreation, trade and economic well-being for people throughout the world, both for present and future generations and should therefore be conducted in a responsible manner. National and international fisheries policies and management practices that better reflect the principles of the Code of Conduct will lead to an improved and sustainable economic, social and environmental contribution of the fisheries sector. The optimization of the contribution of fisheries to achieving benefits in terms of food, employment, recreation and trade as well as ecosystem and socio-economic well-being will benefit populations throughout the world.

To promote long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources, following a call from the International Conference on Responsible Fishing (1992) to strengthen the international legal framework for more effective conservation, management and sustainable exploitation and production of living aquatic resources, the 1995 FAO Conference adopted the  (no link available) .

After two decades since its adoption, the Code continues to be a reference framework for national and international efforts, including in the formulation of policies and other legal and institutional frameworks and instruments, to ensure sustainable fishing and production of aquatic living resources in harmony with the environment.

The Code is voluntary and is to be interpreted and applied in conformity with international law, the provisions of which form an integral part of the Code.

In an effort to promote the Code, FAO has translated this non-technical publication into the official languages of the Organization. In addition, FAO has been advised that, in a number of instances, governments, industry or NGOs have taken the initiative to translate the Code into several languages, e.g.: Catalan, Indonesian, French, Thai, Albanian, Romanian, German, Malayalam, Singhalese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean, Polish, Estonian, Maltese, Russian, Japanese, Croatian, Malay, Slovenian, Icelandic, Georgian, Latvian, Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Tamil.

The promotion and implementation of the Code is being addressed at all sessions of FAO regional fishery bodies (RFBs) as well as Committee on Fisheries (COFI). FAO regards the implementation of the Code and the strengthening of RFBs as being intrinsically linked.


The Code sets out principles and international standards of behavior for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The Code recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fisheries and the interests of all stakeholders of the fishing and aquaculture industries. The Code takes into account the biological characteristics of the resources and their environment and the interests of consumers and other users.

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