Countries are making progress in implementing the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which is now 15 years old, but still extremely relevant. However, additional efforts are needed, declared participants at the close of the 29th session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries.
The Committee, the only global intergovernmental forum to examine and address major challenges facing fisheries and aquaculture, said that the Code’s principles must be more widely included in national policy, legislation and implementation.
It encouraged a broader application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture, requesting that FAO provide countries with technical assistance, especially for the problems confronting the world’s small-scale fisheries, including inland fisheries.
This was one of the largest Committee meetings, attended by 565 participants, including 115 Member States, specialised UN agencies and observers from over 70 intergovernmental and international non-governmental organisations.
“The Committee on Fisheries is a unique international meeting where delegates can discuss the most pressing issues confronting fisheries and aquaculture and make the most appropriate decisions. The increasing number of participants attests to its importance in the global arena,” said Mohammed Pourkazemi, Chairperson of the meeting.
The Committee recognised that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major global threat to long-term sustainable fisheries, particularly to developing countries. Noting the adoption of the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures, the Committee agreed that port state measures are a powerful and cost-effective tool in combating IUU fishing and welcomed the forthcoming FAO Technical Consultation on Flag State Performance.
It also gave its support to the development of a global record of fishing vessels – an online database to provide vessel-related information on fishing and support vessels – as another useful tool in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
During its week-long meeting, the Committee also adopted three sets of guidelines - on aquaculture certification, on the eco-labelling of fish and fishery product from inland capture fisheries, and on by-catch management and reduction of discards. Noting the important role of small-scale fisheries, which provides livelihoods for over 540 million people, the Committee asked FAO to prepare guidelines on small-scale fisheries, focusing on the needs of developing countries and complementing the Code.
Members also asked FAO to prepare a report on the extent of the implementation of the 1999 International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
Aquaculture, acknowledged by the meeting as a key contributor to future food and nutrition security and for its overall benefits to social and economic well-being, needs better management to ensure sustainable and responsible growth. Regarding climate change, the Committee told FAO to raise awareness of the role of fisheries and aquaculture in ensuring food and nutritional security and how climate change could affect this relationship.
The Committee also endorsed the reports of the two intersessional Sub-Committee meetings on aquaculture and trade and discussed the programme of work for FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. The 30th session of COFI will take place in July 2012.