Climate Resilience and Equity Highlighted in COFI Declaration

Vision for 21st century includes recognition of need to address climate impacts

February 8, 2021
Tad Segal, (202) 572-3549

(WASHINGTON – Feb. 8, 2021) During its biennial meeting, held virtually this year, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on Fisheries endorsed a Declaration on the 25th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries reflecting the progress made and action still needed to protect the world’s fisheries and aquaculture, while urging action to address climate impacts on these vital resources.

EDF applauds and supports the intentions set forth in the Declaration — particularly the need for action on climate change in order to build more resilient wild fisheries. EDF also noted the Declaration calls out the importance of small-scale fisheries for food and livelihood needs of millions of people, the need to promote research and technology innovation, and the importance of women’s empowerment. These priorities will allow the fisheries sector to contribute to the global fight to end poverty, hunger and malnutrition and contribute to an abundant ocean.

Since 1965, the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries, or COFI, has served as the main deliberative forum for discussions and decisions on fisheries and aquaculture-related issues. The 128 member nations endorsed the Declaration, which will help guide future actions to reach sustainable fisheries in the face of a changing climate.

“As we work toward achieving sustainable fisheries that also help fight poverty, hunger and malnutrition, let us remember that we cannot be successful without a dedicated focus on climate mitigation and adaptation,” said Eric Schwaab, senior vice president for EDF’s Oceans and Ecosystems programs. “We must develop tools, share knowledge, build capacity and find the resources necessary to tackle this challenge of our generation.”

“Climate change is a real threat to the ocean, its ecosystems and to fisheries worldwide,” said Julio Cordano, director of Environment and Oceanic Affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile. “This is why from Chile we are convinced of the urgent need to advance in the incorporation of the ocean in climate action in the framework of the UNFCCC and that climate change is considered in the work being done in the FAO and CBD, with the aim that policies in this area are coherent and ensure marine ecosystems in the long-term.”

“SeaBOS applauds the COFI Declaration and its recognition of the need to mitigate the impacts of climate change for sustainable seafood production,” said Martin Exel, managing director of SeaBOS. “We are developing science-based emissions reductions targets ourselves, and support government actions to promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture policies and regulations to mitigate climate change risks and impacts, and provide for ‘climate smart’ seafood production.”

The 2021 COFI Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture acknowledges the contributions sustainable fisheries and aquaculture make to multiple U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equity, a healthy ocean, climate action and ending poverty and hunger. The Declaration notes that fisheries and aquaculture provide 3.3 billion people with almost 20% of their daily animal protein, while at the same time roughly one-third of the world’s fisheries are currently fished beyond sustainable limits.

Yet, science confirms that the world’s fish production will change dramatically by the end of the century, with many fish populations shifting their ranges and habitats — stressed by an ocean that is warmer, more acidic and less productive. In fact, these changes are already underway. The more delayed the response, the greater the political, economic, social and ecological ramifications, and the more difficult it will be to correct course. The impacts of a changing climate have the potential to threaten food security, jeopardize livelihoods and exacerbate equity concerns — especially for the most vulnerable regions in the tropics.

“Fishing and aquaculture have the potential to help better meet the world’s food and nutrition needs, while also contributing to climate action, if these critical resources are managed sustainably,” added Schwaab. 

EDF is currently working with governments, fishers and local communities in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe to develop and implement climate-resilient governance and management practices. EDF has issued three reports — on Myanmar, the Humboldt Current and Northern Europe — that outline actions that can be taken to tackle the worst impacts from climate change. EDF has summarized its findings in these five principles that offer the greatest chance of success:

1. Implement effective fisheries management as soon as possible;

2. Anticipate and plan for future change;

3. Build and strengthen international institutions and foster greater cooperation;

4. Build broader ecosystem resilience to help respond to the unknown;

Use principles of fairness and equity to drive future policy decisions.

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SeaBOS ( is a unique collaboration between scientists and seafood companies across the wild capture, aquaculture and feed production sectors, seeking to transform seafood production to be sustainable, and improve ocean health. The collaboration has been coordinated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University with key scientific partners from the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, University of Lancaster, and Stanford Centre for Ocean Solutions. Together, SeaBOS companies represent over 10% of the World’s seafood production. SeaBOS members include Maruha Nichiro Corporation, Nissui, Thai Union, Mowi, Dongwon Industries, Cermaq, Cargill Aqua Nutrition, Nutreco/Skretting, CP Foods, and Kyokuyo.