FAO expert consultation on Catch Documentation Schemes / by Francisco Blaha

All of next week I’ll be back at UN FAO headquarters in Rome, a place where I lived during my time as a fishery officer for them. July is a nice time to be there, balmy nights, aperitifs and so on… not that I would have much time to be outside, tho…

 regulatory sword fight venue :-)

regulatory sword fight venue :-)

FAO is conveying an expert consultation on catch certification and invited a various experts from different parts of the world to sit and discuss a series of technical guidelines that emanated from a background study.

I’m one of the 2 authors (with Alastair MacFarlane) of the study and guidelines. Our methodology was based on the review of the existing bibliography and our experience in the issue. We incorporated the work done by my friends Shelley Clarke (Best Practice Study of Fish Catch Documentation Schemes, 2010) and Gilles Hosch (Activity on Tuna CDS Best Practice, present).

A number of documentation schemes have developed over the last twenty years and others are under consideration. We reportedthe current state of play of existing schemes and a draft set of Technical Guidelines for schemes from a supply, market and cooperative perspectives and are offered for discussion.

Needles to say it is not an easy process, a lot of heavy politics and patch defending from some of the stakeholders, furthermore this type of semi-diplomatic work does not come natural to me.

I’m firstly an operational guy (fishers, boats, wharfs, industry, fishery officers work), then I like research and fact finding and lately increasingly involved in data management, but I'm definitively not a meeting room guy. It frustrate me intensely the long discussions about words here and there...  I really care about concepts and plans ahead, but that surely is a personal view out of not being engaged much in the necessary bureaucracy. 

A lot of my contributions to the study were vetoed or removed, (for example: the details on the administrative burden for the supplying states -particularly least developed countries-, nor any of the operational difficulties associated to the forms and timings around the schemes, as this was determined to be too sensitive and critical of the organizations and trade-blocks driving the schemes.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forwards to the next days, even if meeting rooms are not my element, but based on my background and experience in dealing with these certifications from a small countries perspective that need to export, I feel I can contribute to the discussions and hopefully to a catch certification system that is able to minimize the prevalence of IUU fish and at the same time does not imply a disproportionate burden to lesser developed countries. 

Once, I read that in this type of processes; if you are not sitting at the table, you become dinner ☺. So let see!