Presently COFI constitutes the only global intergovernmental forum where major international fisheries and aquaculture problems and issues are examined and recommendations addressed to governments, regional fishery bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, fishworkers, FAO and the international community on a worldwide basis. COFI has also been used as a forum in which global agreements and non-binding instruments were negotiated.
COFI began with just 30 member nations, but in 1975 membership opened to all FAO Members and non-members eligible to be an observer of the Organization. The 26th session of COFI, held in 2005, was attended by 748 registered participants, representing 137 countries, 28 NGOs and 43 organizations (specialized agencies of the United Nations and intergovernmental organizations).
COFI may establish sub-committees on certain specific issues, for example the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade or the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture. Such subsidiary bodies meet in the intersessional period of the parent Committee.
The First Session of COFI was in 1966, and thereafter annually till 1975; since 1977 the sessions have been held biennially.
Functions of COFI
The two main functions of COFI are to review the programmes of work of FAO in the field of fisheries and aquaculture and their implementation, and to conduct periodic general reviews of fishery and aquaculture problems of an international character and appraise such problems and their possible solutions with a view to concerted action by nations, by FAO, intergovernmental bodies and the civil society. The Committee also reviews specific matters relating to fisheries and aquaculture referred to it by the Council or the Director-General of FAO, or placed by the Committee on its agenda at the request of Members or the United Nations General Assembly.
In its work, the Committee supplements rather than supplants other organizations working in the field of fisheries and aquaculture.