GENEVA – 03 October. At the occasion of the 2018 WTO Public Forum, the FiTI was invited by the FAO to contribute to its Working session “FAO Instruments supporting the Sustainability of Traded Fish and Fisheries Products”.
Every year, the Public Forum of the World Trade Organisation opens its doors to trade delegations from all around the world, but also to academics, government officials and other interested participants to discuss trade-related matters. For the second year in a row, the FAO was invited to organise an event on fisheries, emphasising the growing interest for the topic. The increased interest in fisheries can be easily explained with key numbers: today, according to FAO figures, fish and fish products represent 50,4% of all global agricultural trade in terms of value.
Targeting an audience of primarily non-fisheries experts, the goal of the session was to emphasise the critical importance of ensuring sustainable fish production and trade all around the world. After presenting the main pillars of sustainable fisheries production, the objective was also to show that various solutions and instruments already exist to support sustainable fisheries management and advance towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 14, which sets clear targets in terms of conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources by 2020.
Over the years, the FAO has authored a number of instruments and guidelines aimed at supporting good management of fisheries all along the value chain, starting with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in 1995. Several instruments followed, focussing on fighting IUU fishing; ensuring the sustainability of the small-scale fisheries sector; or providing guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes (2017).
The common link between all these instruments? The need for information, or transparency. A basic principle put forward by the WTO, and an underlying pillar in all FAO instruments.
The need for transparency is exactly the reason why the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) was created. The FiTI’s purpose is to increase transparency and participation in fisheries governance for the benefit of a more sustainable management of marine fisheries. By enhancing the availability and credibility of public information on the management of a country’s fisheries sector as well as on the activities of fishers and fishing companies in a country’s jurisdictional waters, the FiTI seeks to support instruments such as FAO’s, which rely on the availability of information to make an impact. With regards to sustainable trade of fish and fish products, the FiTI e.g. requests from participating countries the publication of a number of key information on their post-harvest sector and fish trade (FiTI Standard, B.1.7).
The discussions at the 2018 WTO Public Forum clearly showed that fisheries is a cross-sectoral matter that touches a wide range of issues, such as environmental sustainability, food & nutrition security, social cohesion, but also investment and trade. It also clearly highlighted the need for collective action to establish a global level playing field through increased transparency and participation.