FAO Members endorse Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture


The 34th session of FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI34) ended its week-long meeting on Friday with its Members endorsing the first-ever Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, urging stronger action to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and stressing the importance of recovering from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Declaration outlines a global vision for fisheries and aquaculture, while highlighting the sector's essential contributions in the fight against poverty, hunger and all forms of malnutrition. This is central to efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and make agri-food systems more inclusive, resilient and sustainable, a global concern that will be discussed at the UN Food Systems Summit, in September.

In her closing remarks on the last day of COFI34, FAO Deputy-Director General, Maria Helena Semedo, said fisheries and aquaculture were of critical importance for global agri-food systems transformation.

"We all share a common goal - the sustainable management of our valuable aquatic resources," Semedo said. "This is vital to having better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all so that, together, we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals."

The Declaration builds upon existing international instruments aimed at promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture around the world, such as the landmark FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, recognizing successes since the endorsement of the Code and identifying new and urgent priorities.

COFI34 marked the 25th anniversary of the Code with a High-level Special Event. Since its adoption in 1995, the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries has been the main instrument for developing international agreements, guidelines and tools to ensure the effective conservation, management, utilization and production of living aquatic resources.

In 2018, global fisheries and aquaculture production (excluding aquatic plants) reached an all‑time record of nearly 179 million tonnes. Overall capture fisheries, with 96.4 million tonnes represented 54 percent of the total, while aquaculture, with 82.1 million tonnes, accounted for 46 percent.

The 2020 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report estimates that total fish production is set to increase to 204 million tonnes in 2030, up 15 percent from 2018, with aquaculture's share growing from its current 46 percent to 53 percent. Aquaculture has been the fastest expanding food production sector globally over the last decades, growing at an average of 5.3 percent per year since the turn of the century.

FAO estimates that 34.2 percent of all marine fish stocks are fished beyond biological sustainable limits, a threefold increase since monitoring started in 1974.

IUU fishing

At COFI34, Members acknowledged the need for greater monitoring and transparency in fishing operations, and noted further efforts were needed to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Countries were urged to become a party to the FAO Agreement on Port State Measure (PSMA), considered a potent international instrument to combat IUU fishing.

During COFI34, the Russian Federation announced it was becoming a Party to the PSMA, joining another 68 FAO Members including the European Union on behalf of its Member States, which have adhered to the Agreement since its adoption in 2009.  Earlier this year, the United Kingdom also agreed to become a Party to the Agreement, following its departure from the EU.

FAO confirmed that it would be further strengthening its $20 million Global Capacity Development Programme to support countries in enhancing their capacity to implement the PSMA and complementary international instruments.  

COVID-19 response

COFI Members also requested that FAO supports fisherfolk communities affected by the pandemic through its COVID19 response and recovery programme .

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the fisheries and aquaculture sector through changing consumer demands, market access and logistical problems related to transportation and border restrictions.

The report The impact of COVID-19 on fisheries and aquaculture food systems, featured during the COFI34, showed that fish supply, consumption and trade revenues for 2020 are all expected to have declined due to containment restrictions, while global aquaculture production is expected to fall by some 1.3 per cent, the first fall recorded by the sector in several years.

The report also noted that global fisheries and aquaculture could face further disruption in 2021 as lockdowns affect supply and demand across the sector.

COFI34 recognised the importance of the sustainable use of aquatic resources for biodiversity conservation. In addition, the meeting stressed the crucial need to improve data collection in the fisheries sector to support evidence-based decision making, especially in support of small-scale fishers, whose critical role will be celebrated during the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022.

FAO is working with Duke University and WorldFish, a non-profit research organization, to assess the economic, environmental and social contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security, nutrition and development at global level.

The next COFI session (COFI35) will be held from September 5-9 in 2022. The committee is the only global inter-governmental forum where FAO Members meet to consider issues and challenges facing fisheries and aquaculture.

Fisheries and aquaculture will also be discussed at the World Ocean Summit in March, as well as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November and in the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in December. 

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