SEAFDEC, led by the SEAFDEC Secretary-General, Ms. Malinee Smithrithee, and senior officials from the SEAFDEC Secretariat and Departments, participated as observer during the 34th Session of Committee on Fisheries (COFI34) which was organized virtually by FAO on 1–5 February 2021. The COFI34 was attended by more than 500 participants including government officials and representatives from international organizations, civil society organizations, and academe. The COFI34 key highlights were marking the 25th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and drafting the Declaration for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Moreover, the major topics of the COFI34 agenda include: 1) current state of fisheries and aquaculture, 2) impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, aquaculture biosecurity and sustainable growth, 3) role of small-scale fisheries and the livelihood of coastal communities, and 4) illegal fishing and fish operations at sea. The Committee is a subsidiary body of the FAO Council and the only global inter-governmental forum that addresses the issues and challenges related to fisheries and aquaculture.
In line with the agenda of COFI34, SEAFDEC and FAO are continuously working in partnership to conduct various activities in Southeast Asia for the sustainable utilization of fishery resources of the region. Such activities include the publication of the Southeast Asian State of Fisheries and Aquaculture every five years, harmonization of fishery statistics adopting the FAO standards, development of human capacity on the application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, promotion of the FAO SSF Guidelines focusing on human rights-based approach and gender equality, enhancement of the cooperation among the ASEAN Member States on combating IUU fishing, and establishment of capacity building programs to support the implementation of port State measures. In addition, SEAFDEC in partnership with several partners including FAO made concerted efforts to address the impacts of climate change to fisheries and aquaculture, particularly enhancing the capacity of small-scale fishers to be resilient to disasters and climate change (e.g. diversified livelihood, safety at sea, early warning system, solid waste management). SEAFDEC is also collaborating with FAO to tackle the issue on abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG).