Background

In 2001 Iceland hosted a Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, organised jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and with the co-sponsorship of Norway. A new conference, organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Governments of Iceland and Norway, with technical support of FAO and others, will address progress made towards implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries. The conference will be held in Bergen, Norway from 26 to 28 September 2006.

An ecosystem approach for sustainable use is central to the implementation of international agreements such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Its principles are also embodied in the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and in binding law such as the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. A political commitment to implementing the ecosystem approach by incorporating ecosystem considerations into fisheries management resulted from the 2001 Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem. The need to incorporate the ecosystem approach in responsible fisheries was reaffirmed and consolidated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002, where a target year of 2010 were set for its achievement.

Consistent with the above commitments, many nations and regional and international governmental and non-governmental organizations have embraced the ecosystem approach and a number are progressing towards actual implementation. Experience has been gained at various scales, including the local, national and regional (e.g. the Large Marine Ecosystems-LMEs) scales, in both developing and developed parts of the World. Despite some progress made, there is still widespread uncertainty as regards the scientific and governance requirements, and the possible social and economic consequences of implementing an ecosystem approach.
 
The aims of the conference are to review concepts and address implementation issues related to applying the ecosystem approach to fisheries, to exchange experiences made and constraints encountered so far, and to identify strategies and best practices that will facilitate further implementation in practical fisheries management.