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The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries celebrates 25th anniversary

31 october 2020
On October 31, 1995, the FAO Council adopted the Code, which covers inland and marine fisheries as well as aquaculture. The paper is a handbook for students and fisheries professionals. Regular customers follow the Code's guidance involuntarily by choosing marine eco-labeled products.

In 2018, mankind set a new record: global fish production reached about 179 million tonnes, 87% of which was consumed by humans. This is equivalent to an annual supply of 20.5 kg per capita. This number is estimated to grow by one kg in the next decade. In order to supply this high demand, the modern fishery must comply with certain rules, such as intelligent management, scientific approach, transparency of international markets. These are key principles to support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Twenty-five years ago, they were arranged into the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

“The Code was the first step on the way to sustainable fishing. And it is not about the stability of the fish population – this one is always subject to natural fluctuations. Sustainability in this matter means that marine resources are not over-exploited, the environment and the fish stocks remain healthy for future generations,” said Konstantin Zgurovsky, senior advisor of WWF-Russia’s Sustainable Marine Fishery Program.

Alexander Bonk, head of the Department of Marine Resources, Fisheries and Aquaculture of Kamchatka State Technical University, supported the idea:

“At that time, when the Code was being developed, the countries of the world had faced stock depletion of species which we call “overburdened”. Those species are the most expensive in the market and the most demanded, the anthropogenic pressure on them is always heavy. The Code prevents them from full extinction. If there was no Code ever adopted, we would have witness an appalling condition of salmon, cod, and halibut stocks.”

According to FAO’s The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, the world catches of Alaska pollock ranked second, following anchoveta and followed by skipjack tuna. Russia is among the other six countries which produce half of the world seafood products.

The Code is not a binding instrument, however, the states, which adopted it, use the Code’s principles as a foundation for their fishery policy. Although, the general public and average fishermen do not know much about the Code, the international agreements and the legislation within the country are based on the Code’s principles either directly or indirectly.

“The Code was a positive step for international fishery management. It introduced marketing mechanisms to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Thanks to the Code, international organizations for fishery management appeared in all parts of the world. The Code encouraged the development of different kinds of environmental sustainability certifications, MSC being one of them,” said Tatyana Shuvalova, director of WWF-Russia’s Regulation of Environmental Protection and Nature Management Program.

Konstantin Zgurovsky is sure:

“A great number of supermarkets and restaurants prefer to buy eco-labeled seafood. Many customers look for sustainable products and reject questionable seafood. By voting with a fork, for lack of a better word, customers can encourage sustainability as much as the government agencies.”

According to the experts, the Code is still relatable today. Alexander Bonk persuades that the students of his university who decided to bind their lives with ichthyology study the Code generally. And Konstantin Zgurovsky reminds:

Twelve years ago, WWF encouraged a study to figure out how the Code’s recommendations were followed in 53 countries. The survey showed that Russia’s place was not very high. A number of important steps were made in our country to address IUU fishing, several international agreements were signed, and the general situation has obviously changed for the better. It is time to repeat such a study.
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