WWF Statement on 34th Session of UN FAO’s Committee on Fisheries | WWF
WWF Statement on 34th Session of UN FAO’s Committee on Fisheries

Posted on 08 February 2021

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Code of Conduct For Responsible Fishing, a landmark in fisheries management, WWF acknowledges the efforts underway globally to address the state of the world’s fisheries and the renewed commitment demonstrated by the adoption of the 2021 COFI Declaration.
WWF was encouraged to see support by the FAO and member states for addressing the combined climate and biodiversity crises, and the importance of providing technical guidance to increase the resilience and adaptability of fisheries management measures.

“WWF continues to urge member states to recognize that an integrated ocean-food-climate approach is a powerful means of addressing biodiversity loss, delivering sustainable development opportunities to coastal communities and tackling climate change,” said Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative. “Our ocean and the people who depend on it are facing a perfect storm of climate change and pressure to produce more food. We must stop overexploiting fish stocks and eroding the coastal habitats and ecosystems that support them.”

WWF also was pleased to see a large number of countries point to the role that small-scale fisheries (SSF) play in food security and poverty eradication. WWF is an eager partner in supporting the implementation of the FAO SSF Guidelines, particularly through our Accelerating Coastal Community-led Conservation Initiative. Coastal fisheries play a critical role in delivering nutritional and income security to small-scale fisheries communities across the world.

More countries have ratified or progressed toward ratification of the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA), the first binding international agreement that specifically targets illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. WWF applauds the FAO’s PSMA capacity-building program, which has already reached over 40 countries. The fight against IUU fishing and the longstanding loophole of trans-shipment has been under greater scrutiny, with some delegations making clear that there will be zero tolerance for IUU fishing.

However, WWF believes the ambition demonstrated by the COFI34 Session and its delegations is still insufficient to address the current crisis level of overfishing, and that there is still reluctance to move forward quickly to address the issues of human rights abuses in the sector and the elimination of harmful subsidies.

Member states seem to be under the illusion that they have ample time to make incremental improvements in order to maintain current levels of fishing. It’s simply not so. With 34.2% of all assessed fisheries classified as overfished, and a projected catch decline of up to 40% in some tropical zones by 2050 due to climate change, significant action is needed now.

Such actions must be founded on the best available science, which is why WWF is deeply concerned by the efforts of some countries to question the scientific integrity of the “State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” (SOFIA) report. SOFIA is the flagship publication in fisheries and must remain an independent scientific publication whose text is not subject to political negotiation by FAO members.

“The coming decade is crucial to step up global ambition for nature, climate and people,” said Di Carlo. “The previously underappreciated role of ‘blue food’ in our societies is being recognized, as is the fact that fish are more than food. Sustainably managed fisheries are integral to ocean health, and a healthy ocean plays an essential role in feeding the planet and keeping the climate in balance. The stakes could not be higher.”
The crew of the
The crew of the "Don Luciano" artisanal fishing boat pull up nets of Southern hake fish
© Meridith Kohut / WWF-US