Policy Statement: Recommendations to the 30th Session of the Committee on Fisheries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (COFI)

  • June 27, 2012

The Pew Environment Group recommends that FAO members take the following actions at the 30th Session of COFI.

To further ensure the effective implementation of FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Agenda item 6) and related instruments through the precautionary approach, the conservation of forage fish, tunas and sharks, and the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, FAO Members should:


Outcome: COFI 30 Builds on Rio+20 Momentum 

Target and limit reference points
  •  Recommend that States and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) implement the precautionary approach as a priority, by setting target and limit reference points for all fisheries in 2012 and 2013. 

Forage fish

  • Recommend that States and RFMOs explicitly consider the role of forage fish as prey for larger fish and other marine predators when making fisheries management decisions.
  • Recommend that States and RFMOs adopt the scientific tools available in the April 2012 Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force report Little Fish, Big Impact, including fishing mortality rates and minimum forage fish biomass thresholds that are highly likely to sustain predator populations.
  • Recommend that, in the absence of sufficient information about forage fish stock dynamics and the status of dependent predators, States and RFMOs adopt precautionary fishing limits and biomass thresholds, as described in the Task Force report. 

Fishing Gear Selectivity

  • Recommend that States and tuna RFMOs follow basic-data provision improvements such as:
    - requiring that the data on the exact numbers, locations and rate of loss of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) be shared with fisheries scientists;
    - increase observer coverage on surface longline fishing vessels.
  • Recommend that States and RFMOs effectively manage deep-sea fisheries to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems through the full implementation of UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions 61/105, 64/72 and 66/88 and the International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas, including through a phase-out of destructive fishing practices such as deep-sea bottom trawling.


  • Recommend that sharks or shark parts should not be retained onboard fishing vessels until rigorous science-based management plans based on stock assessments or ecological risk assessments(ERAs) are developed and in place.
  • Recommend that States and RFMOs prohibit the retention of threatened and endangered shark species.
  • Recommend that States support regulating international trade in threatened and endangered shark species under CITES.
  • Recommend that shark-fishing States develop and fully implement an NPOA-Sharks that is in accordance with the IPOA-Sharks.
  • Recommend that States and RFMOs that have not yet done so establish and implement species-specific data collection requirements for all sharks taken in all fisheries.
  • Adopt an ongoing and transparent mechanism to monitor progress of the implementation of the principles of the IPOA-Sharks.

COFIOcean governance and relevant outcomes from Rio+20 (Agenda item 9)

  • It is premature to make recommendations for action, as the Rio+20 outcomes will not be known until late on 22 June. The Pew Environment Group hopes that leaders at the Rio+20 Summit make critical decisions to ensure the health of the ocean, including by making progress on combating illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; addressing fisheries subsidies; ensuring healthy fish stocks; and filling gaps in governance, including on biodiversity.

Combating IUU fishing (Agenda item 10b), FAO Members should:

  •  support the prompt and wide ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) and the interim application of its provisions where possible; 
  • encourage States, individually and through RFMOs, to strengthen port State measures (PSMs) applicable at the national and regional levels;
  • approve the draft terms of reference for the Ad Hoc Working Group referred to under Article 21 of the PSMA;
  • support mechanisms that ensure the timely sharing of information related to all aspects of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) in the fisheries sector, particularly data that facilitate port State actions and enable the identification and tracking of vessels and their beneficial owners; the use of the IMO numbering scheme is of particular relevance to achieving this goal;
  • encourage States to intensify efforts to initiate actions, bilaterally and through the FAO and RFMOs, to provide financial and technical assistance to developing country States for implementing PSMs.

FAO's Programme of Work in fisheries and aquaculture (Agenda item 11) and Multi-year Programme of WOrk (MYPOW) of the Committee (Agenda item 12), FAO Members should:

  • call on COFI to endorse, as a matter of urgency, the UNGA's request for the FAO to provide additional technical advice and guidance on encounter protocols and related mitigation measures, and the application of criteria for identifying vulnerable marine ecosystems and conducting assessments. 

Topics: Oceans, Environment