NOAA 99-R111
Contact: Gordon Helm


The United States has successfully negotiated with the world's fishing nations final agreements that will tackle the difficult problems of excess fishing fleet capacity and improve international conservation and management of sharks and seabirds, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today.

The agreements came during the fifth day of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's Committee on Fisheries annual meeting in Rome that concluded Friday.

"We now have solid agreement on global plans of action for all three measures that will help us to begin the process of conserving and protecting the world's ocean resources," said chief U.S. negotiator Terry D. Garcia, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. "These plans spell out specific goals and objectives to be met over the next six years. I applaud the fine work of the world's fishing community to finalize these landmark agreements."

Late last year, FAO participants agreed on the need for all FAO members to put into effect a comprehensive series of measures to better identify the status of and manage the world's fishing fleets. These measures include regularly assessing their levels of harvesting capacity, maintaining national records of fishing fleets, developing and implementing national capacity management plans, and within the context of these national plans, reducing and progressively eliminating subsidies that contribute to the build-up of fishing capacity.

Friday's agreement formalized those measures into identifiable goals, which include developing a global register of all fishing fleets operating on the high seas and collecting information needed to better analyze the causes of overcapacity, including open access fisheries and unsustainable fishery management and subsidies. Under the global plan of action on managing capacity, FAO members agreed to achieve world wide an efficient, equitable, and transparent of fishing capacity preferably by the year 2003, and no later than 2005.

"We will soon have better data on the status of the world's fishing fleets, along with the means to cooperatively reduce overcapacity during the next six years," said Garcia.

The world fishing nation members also approved final Plans of Action regarding two important conservation and management issues–sharks and seabirds. The plans provide concrete and specific steps to improve the conservation of sharks and seabirds at the national, regional, and global levels, calling for FAO members to develop and implement national plans by 2001.

"These international plans of action should establish sound management practices world-wide for the conservation of sharks and reducing incidental seabird bycatch," said Garcia.

The world fishing body also recognized the world-wide problem of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing on the high seas and agreed to steps to be taken in advance of its next meeting, scheduled for early 2001.

These initiatives arise from the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and are efforts to implement several of its key provisions. The Code is the only international agreement that addresses practically all aspects of fisheries, including marine and freshwater, capture fisheries and aquaculture, and harvesting and shoreside operations.