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FAO Responsible Fisheries Code Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary

Sustainability Politics

GLOBAL - Twenty years after its birth, FAOs Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries shared a moment in the limelight with ministers, researchers and leaders in the fisheries industry at the first International Fisheries Stakeholders Forum in Vigo, Spain.

"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.”

Seafood products are among the most widely traded food commodities in the world, totalling some $145 billion per year. Fish is the main source of animal protein for billions of people worldwide and the livelihoods of over 10 per cent of the global population depend on capture fishing and aquaculture.

Pressure on the world’s marine resources is likely to increase as the world prepares to feed nine billion people by 2050, making sustainable management of fisheries even more important.

Managing conservation and growth

Since 1995, when it was drafted by 170 countries, the Code of Conduct has set universal standards to guide governments and private actors in conserving and managing the world’s oceans, rivers and lakes.

At the same time, it recognises countries’ need for development and the important role a vibrant and growing fisheries sector can play in driving prosperity through blue growth initiatives.

“All stakeholders, including the academic community, civil society and the private sector have unanimously recognised the code of conduct,” said FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva, who underlined its role as the basis for blue growth strategies that sustainably use aquatic resources to improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

A comprehensive tool

From responsible fishing practices to handling, labelling and trade, the code covers virtually all aspects of the fishing industry and has guided government policies on all continents.

As a result, today, most countries have fisheries policies and legislation compatible with the Code.

New EU guidelines requiring markets to indicate the fishing zones their catch was sourced from are among many examples of policies that are part of the legacy of the code and which empower modern consumers to make conscious choices about the food they eat.

At the same time, the code aims to protect and grow the livelihoods of small-scale fishers and aquaculture producers in developing countries and help them enter international markets and comply with diverse import standards.

“The Code is a living document and it keeps on adjusting to the needs of the time,” stressed Mr Mathiesen.

More recently, new provisions and action plans have been added to address new challenges, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and the need to maintain sustainability in the rapidly growing aquaculture sector.

FAO is continuing its work to support governments in building their technical capacity to implement the principles set out in the code and strengthen their statistics and information systems, in order to facilitate more informed policy decisions at the national and regional levels.

It also helps small-scale producers become more competitive in international markets by providing and analysing up-to-date fish marketing data and trade information through its networks, like FAO Globefish.

Fisheries management: a collaborative business

The two-day forum is taking place on the sidelines of Conxemar 2015 – one of the world’s leading tradeshows in the seafood business that attracts thousands of international visitors each year.

FAO is partnering with the Conxemar seafood association, Spain’s Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Environment, and the regional government of Galicia on a two-day fisheries stakeholder forum where fisheries experts will join traders, producers and policy makers in discussing the state of ocean governance, the expanding role of fish farms in creating food security, improving seafood safety and traceability, reducing food waste, and sustainably harnessing marine resources for economic growth.

Welcoming 72 delegations from five continents to Vigo on Wednesday evening, Spain's Agriculture, Food and Environment Minister Isabel García Tejerina said: “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 organisation’s important work in fisheries.”