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As a result of the process of globalization of problems, impacts, technologies, knowledge and public awareness, societies with different values are slowly converging in their perceptions. Yet, technologies, institutions, market practices and intellectual property rights are hardly value-neutral, carrying with them hidden assumptions, and sources of inequity. Insofar as these changes are a potential source of conflict and social upheaval, they have brought to the fore numerous issues related to societal values and morals. Many of these ethical issues are central to fisheries and their role in relation to resources allocation and management, food security and rural development. Their resolution requires reflection, dialogue and action and the process, in fisheries, has just started.
The issue that fisheries governance has confronted for some time, such as overfishing, bycatch and discards, food quality, safety on board, illegal fishing, endangered species, resource allocation and fishing rights, etc., have always been considered respectively as being of an ecological, technological, social, economic or institutional nature. Many of them are progressively being addressed also in the realm of ethics and in relation to ethical concepts such as basic human interests for welfare, freedom and justice, and their connections with central issues including the value of food, human well-being, human health, natural resources and nature. Today, ethical concerns are central to the debate about the sort of future we want in fisheries and for fishers as well as for people as a whole, the sort of conditions we see acceptable today and for the future generations. They are prompted by very significant trends in demography, excessive pressure on fishery resources, degradation of the aquatic environment, industrialization of fisheries and aquaculture, concentration of economic power, globalization, increasing role of the market, new biotechnologies (particularly genetic engineering) and the information revolution.
The ethical issues which emerge out of these trends relate to, inter alia, poverty and hunger (and the bias against the hungry and the poor), ineffective guardianship of aquatic resources (as shown by growing overfishing in EEZs and the high seas global commons), the parallel erosion of biodiversity and cultural identity (particularly of small rural communities), and in places the threats to acquired peoples' rights. The list of issues with ethical dimensions include ecosystem well-being, conservation, responsible use, safety at sea, education, poverty, cultural diversity, equity, social efficiency, right to food, food safety, transparency and democratic decision-making processes.
The actions required are numerous and case-dependent. These include:
- strengthening the mechanisms to balance interests and resolve conflicts, whether national regional or global: FAO Committee on Fisheries, regional fishery bodies, national and local fishery committees;
- promoting more and more effective participation in decision-making and enforcement, e.g. promoting the development and participation of NGOs;
- promote dialogue on what is ethical, identifying areas where societies have common perceptions and values e.g. around concepts such as precaution, fair trade, equity, resource conservation, the use of nature, justice;
- disseminate widely the information needed to make " ethically correct" decisions;
- ensure transparency of decision-making and clarity of decisions;
- foster the use of science and technology for human and ecosystem well-being, bearing in mind traditional practices and cultures;
- ensure that agreed norms and standards take ethical considerations into account;
- develop and adopt ethical codes of conduct (related to the above);
- periodically review ethical commitments and achievement in the face of changing circumstances, and;
- track vulnerable elements of the system (both the natural resources and human component) and related sources of ethical concern.
Many international organizations, including FAO, and a number of instruments of relevance to fisheries, such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the Convention on Biological Diversity, or the Codex Alimentarius, address the subject, albeit not always explicitly and sometimes using different terminology. It is therefore not easy to report. The FAO Code of Conduct, which brings together the requirements of the key international instruments of relevance to fisheries addresses many of the issues identified above (e.g. discarding; destructive fishing practices; state of resources; environmental degradation; equity; food safety and security). Selected issues are examined every two years in the State of Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA). The Organization has started an active process to improve the regional fisheries bodies. It has organised conferences on fisheries and food security, fishing rights, fisheries in the ecosystem, precaution, illegal fishing, etc. and developed related guidelines to promote action. A global fisheries information system is under development and will contribute to transparency. In general, howerver, the framework is underpinned by science and technology and ethical arguments are emerging very slowly.
A specific framework has recently been proposed by the FAO Sub-Committee on Ethics in Food and Agriculture to address ethical issues and aim at a more equitable food and agriculture system. Such a system would include improved well being of human societies, protection of the environment, and greater public health. It includes basic elements on:
- beneficence hunger alleviation, increase standard of living, environmental protection;
- safety precautionary approach, human and animal rights, human and environmental health;
- autonomy participation, right to knowledge, access to resources, and;
- justice equity, food security, inter-generational equity, sustainability.
The FAO Fisheries Department has elaborated a first document on ethical issues in fisheries with a particular focus on ethical analysis and a pilot application of that analytical framework on the question of fishing rights.
It is difficult to predict how these issues will evolve. On the one hand democratization and information are increasing the opportunities for progress and the public demand is growing. On the other hand, the diversity of societal perceptions and the real or perceived social and economic costs of some of the solutions are significant challenges. The overall international context is positive and, in fisheries, the very important progress made during the last decades in international instruments and frameworks indicate that the issues with ethical considerations will be addressed even more effectively in the coming decade. With the growing recognition of uncertainty and related limitations of science as the sole foundation of fishery management advice, it is likely that ethical consideration wil progressively be integrated.
|Title||Building a more ethical food and agricultural system
( DOCUMENT )
|Author(s) / Editor(s)|| Prepared by Devin Bartley|
|Description||Instruments and mechanisms can be employed to build a more ethical food and agricultural system that addresses the issues and challenges of raising levels of nutrition and standards of living, securing improvements in the efficiency of the production and distribution of all food and agricultural products, bettering the condition of rural populations; and thus contributing to an expanding world economy and ensuring humanity's freedom from hunger. Such an ethical system would be efficient, safe, and equitable, while respecting the diversity of value systems. Building such a system does not and cannot mean the creation of a blueprint - a detailed plan that risks becoming an end in itself. Instead, it must be a participatory process as well as one that changes over time in response to new scientific data, changes in goals and objectives and new ethical issues raised by FAO and its partners.|
|Type of Document|| Paper: Working paper|
|Publication Date||August 2001|
|Related to Topics||Ethics in fisheries
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