FAO Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes and other summer activities / by Francisco Blaha

Busy January I have to admit...

As I reported before, the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) endorsed the usefulness of catch documentation schemes in combating IUU fishing and welcomed initiatives to harmonize current schemes. And requested that FAO elaborate guidelines and other relevant criteria relating to catch documentation schemes (CDS), including possible formats, based on the following principles: a) be in conformity with the provisions of relevant international law; b) not create unnecessary barriers to trade; c) equivalence; d) risk-based; e) reliable, simple, clear and transparent; and f) electronic if possible, aiming for adoption at the thirty-second session of the Committee of Fisheries. The assessment of schemes and formats shall include cost-benefit considerations and take into account catch documentation schemes already existing in certain Member States, Member Organizations and in the context of RFMOs. 

 People having fun at a FAO fisheries meetings

People having fun at a FAO fisheries meetings

I been honoured by FAO with the request to lead on this task… which is quite massive.  

I’m more an action person that a diplomat and a writer, so I said yes as long as I could work with people that know their stuff and could complement my many holes. So I’m working with my colleague Alastair Macfarlane, who has been a trade and market access pillar in the NZ Seafood Industry council for many years and has the trust of many people in the world.

Furthermore, my friend Gilles Hosch, is working on draft guidelines best practices on Catch Documentation Schemes for the Tuna Fisheries under the Common Oceans Initiative, and as we are in the same tune in regards these issues, a complementarity with his excellent work was a key condition for me to get involved, as we can move in parallel fronts. 

These developments run on parallel to the work I been doing with WWF US and the work planned this year with DevFishII/FFA and PNG’s NFA of a Pacific Region CDS to propose to the WCPFC.

So this is quite timely... but a major undertaken, I hope I can live up to the hopes and expectations these people and institutions have placed on me… 

If this wasn't enough, at the same time FAO requested me to be involved in one of their major projects “Fisheries management and marine conservation within a changing ecosystem context”, lading a review of 10 national case studies on traceability practices (Argentina, Barbados, Morocco, Peru, Senegal, Sri-Lanka, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda and Vietnam) as to identify critical points in the seafood value chain, national/regional practices for combatting IUU fishing and insuring food safety, and ways to reduce vulnerability to threats and crises especially for small scale sector.

The objective is to provide concrete recommendations to national policymakers on improved national/regional policies and provide FAO with recommendations on ways to assist national governments to improve their traceability practices, especially to combat IUU fishing.

This is one is a particularly difficult task, as our 1st big challenge was to find a method to compare “pears with oranges”, as a way to find common factors among the very eclectic mix of countries 

Hence I contacted the author of paper I read a while ago “framework for regulatory requirements related to data recording and traceability designed to IUU fishing” (Melanie Borit form NOFIMA in Norway) and not only she was very helpful, but offered to participate in the study, which is great news as no one better to evaluate the framework that the author! 

To complement the team and in order to deal with this challenge in comprehensive way, I also involved my friend and fellow Waiheke islander Kim Thomson whom I worked with in the frame of NZ fisheries, and now she is taking the bulk of the complexity of this task.

So the easy January spearfishing, surfing, sailing and doing beach life is off the window big time… but then I’m happy to stretch my brain and hopefully come up with some useful tools at the end.