Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI)
There is a widely shared understanding of the need to achieve sustainable and responsibly managed marine fisheries. But coastal states and fishing nations face a complex challenge: ensuring that fishing and fish trade contribute to income, employment, food and nutrition for millions of people, while also conserving marine biodiversity for future generations.
The importance to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development has been recognised and strengthened by the United Nations in 2015 as one of its sustainable development goals (SDG #14).
While there are many aspects to achieve sustainable fisheries, the public availability of credible information is essential. Indeed, the need for governments to share information on fisheries is already described in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the subsequent FAO’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Since then, the importance of collating and sharing information with all stakeholders has been a message conveyed in other landmark documents on fisheries reforms, such as the 2012 Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests and the 2015 Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication. Intergovernmental bodies, such as the European Union and the African Union, have also put forward transparency as an aspect of fisheries reforms that must be strengthened. This contributes to stronger demands for governments to disclose information on a range of issues. Large-scale commercial fishing companies are also experiencing growing public scrutiny about their economic, environmental and social impacts.
However, even with a greater public interest in the fisheries sector, basic information still often remains out of the public domain. Such information includes the status of fish stocks and marine ecosystems, conditions attached to fishing authorisations, the contracts of fishing access agreements signed between fishing nations and coastal states or the amount of fish taken from the ocean. But without such information, the quality and credibility of decision-making can be undermined, while the prospect of effective oversight and accountability diminishes.
Transparency is therefore a prerequisite for informed public debates on fisheries policies and for achieving meaningful participation in fisheries decision-making. But it is not only the availability of information that counts; it is also essential that it is accessible and that citizens have the assurance that the information provided by governments and fishing companies is credible. This challenge is unlikely to be met by a single actor or a stakeholder group alone. Instead, it needs a collective effort by all relevant stakeholders to incorporate a variety of perspectives and enhance transparency and trust over time.
In this context, the Fisheries Transparency Initiative has been developed as a unique effort that complements and supports other national, regional and global efforts for achieving responsible fisheries governance. The purpose of the FiTI is to increase transparency and participation in fisheries governance for the benefit of a more sustainable management of marine fisheries. The FiTI is a global initiative and does not focus on a single country or on a region. Also, the FiTI is not owned or operated by one organisation nor does it represent the work of a single interest group. Instead, the diversity of different stakeholders is a central feature of how the FiTI works, for national implementations as well as international governance.
The HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform is currently acting as the International Secretariat of the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI).