United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on Fisheries

​Background and Purpose

The Committee on Fisheries (COFI), a subsidiary body of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Council, was established by the FAO Conference at its 13th Session in 1965. FAO COFI is held once every two years and as a preeminent international fisheries management forum, COFI attracts high-level participation from most of the world’s fishing States, non-government organisations and fisheries bodies.

The two main functions of COFI are to review the programs of work of FAO in the field of fisheries and aquaculture and their implementation, and to conduct periodic general reviews of fishery and aquaculture issues of an international nature. The Committee also reviews specific matters relating to fisheries and aquaculture referred 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. COFI has also been used as a forum for the negotiation of global agreements and non-binding instruments.

The work performed by COFI aims to supplement the work of other fisheries and aquaculture organisations. There are two Sub-Committees under COFI - the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade and the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture.

Australian Participation

Australia is a founding member of the FAO and actively participates in COFI meetings. Australia was the inaugural chair of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture and was instrumental in the initiation and development of the FAO International Plan of Action on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Australia recognises the importance of COFI as a unique forum for addressing international fisheries issues. Priority areas of interest to Australia in the COFI program of work are promoting ecosystem-based fisheries management and combating IUU fishing.

COFI has been instrumental in progressing a number of FAO agreements to which Australia is a party including:

  • Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (2009)
  • Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (1993)
  • Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (1993)
  • Agreement for the Establishment of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (1948)

COFI has also been instrumental in developing international plans of action for sharks, seabirds and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  In response, Australia has developed national plans of actions to assist Australian fisheries and conservation managers and the public implement these international guidelines in a domestic context.


COFI membership is open to any FAO Member and non-Members eligible to be an observer of the FAO. Representatives of the UN, UN bodies and specialised agencies, regional fishery bodies, international and international non-governmental organisations participate in the debate, but without the right to vote. Australia is a member of COFI.


Sessions of the Committee are held biennially. The Sub-Committees on Fish Trade and on Aquaculture meet inter-sessionally. COFI meets at FAO Headquarters in Rome. FAO provides secretariat support for COFI.

For more information on COFI see the FAO Fisheries website.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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