FAO's legal advisory services in the field of fisheries concentrate on assistance to governments in the formulation or revision of fisheries legislation on one hand and on the other, in the drafting of regional instruments and/or the strengthening of regional fisheries bodies. Advice is normally provided on an interdisciplinary basis in close collaboration between the Legal Office and the Fisheries Department, where expertise on matters associated with capture fisheries and aquaculture is available.

The term fisheries includes both marine and inland capture fisheries as well as marine and inland aquaculture. In the formulation and revision of national fisheries legislation, in particular marine fisheries, FAO is guided by the recent developments which have taken place within the United Nations and FAO.

They are:

  • the entering into force of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;
  • the 1993 FAO Agreement to promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas;
  • the 1995 UN Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks; and
  • the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

The core issues in FAO's work on marine fisheries legislation are the conservation, management and utilisation of the living resources of the EEZ, followed by institutional issues and enforcement (e.g. Angola, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Gabon, Guyana, Jamaica, Senegal). Particular efforts are developed to introduce workable legal innovations and to provide legal instruments which can readily be used and assimilated.

Issues of increasing importance often relate to monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries (e.g. West Africa and South West Indian Ocean), the creation of property rights in fisheries resources and the introduction of co-management regimes (e.g. Bulgaria, Estonia, Namibia, Tonga, Uruguay).the use of satellite-based vessel monitoring systems at national and regional level (e.g. Namibia, Mozambique, FFA, CSRP). Aspects of foreign fishing, including licences and agreements and chartering of boats remain important.

The fundamental importance of the conservation of the resources on the high seas has led some countries towards revising their legislation with the assistance of FAO (e.g. Angola, Namibia, Malaysia, The Maldives, Vietnam, and OECS member countries including, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda) to reflect as far as possible the recently concluded international instruments, including the legislative adoption of objectives such as the precautionary approach to fisheries management, increased flag state responsibility and the gathering and exchange of information on high seas activities and thus to implement these legal instruments through their national legislation.

While much of the attention of the past two decades has focused on marine fisheries, particularly the EEZ there is now renewed concern with the legal regime governing inland fisheries.

Legal assistance provided in this area tends to support the integration of inland fisheries in the overall management process of the water resources (e.g. Malaysia, Bulgaria). Moreover, aspects of community-based management (e.g. Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso) and the recognition of territorial use rights have been extensively promoted in legislation relating to inland fisheries and lagoon fisheries.

Increasingly, technical assistance has been provided on aquaculture related issues (e.g. Bangladesh, Cyprus, Malaysia, Namibia, Mozambique, Tonga). Key features in aquaculture legislation relate to the access to coastal areas (e.g. Tonga and Mozambique), fish health (e.g. Ethiopia, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Tonga) as well as the environmental management of aquaculture - location restrictions, waste water management etc. (e.g. Namibia).

Support has also been provided to sub-regional or regional organisations, in particular by means of improving the legal framework governing activities of regional fisheries management organisations (e.g. the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission, Regional Fisheries Committee for the Gulf of Guinea, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation) and of initiating a process of harmonization of fisheries legislation and regulations on a bilateral or sub-regional basis (e.g. Organization of the Eastern Carribean States). Several international fisheries agreements relating to shared inland waters have also been initiated or completed with the assistance of FAO (e.g. Lake Kariba, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria).


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