FAO talks set strategic direction for aquaculture work

01 Nov 2017
Parallel discussions with small island developing states brought in various perspectives of SIDS from the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean Photo: FAO

Parallel discussions with small island developing states brought in various perspectives of SIDS from the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean Photo: FAO

The ninth session of FAO’s Sub-committee on Aquaculture saw a strong focus on working together to overcome challenges facing the global aquaculture sector.

The week brought together 188 delegates at FAO Headquarters in Rome hailing from 94 countries to take a critical look at how the sector can help achieve the objectives of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable challenges

Throughout the first day, participants were active in discussions, raising challenges countries face in developing sustainable aquaculture, highlighting successes and requesting support and assistance from FAO.

Issues raised by countries during the day of discussion included the need to develop ecosystem approaches to aquaculture and to strengthen spatial management to better balance competing interests for available land and coastlines.

The subject of the importance of implementing the Code of Conduct for responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture as a solution to help build capacity in those nations struggling with its implementation was also raised.

Running in parallel to the COFI Sub-committee on Aquaculture was a separate, but related meeting on SIDS that addresses the development of Blue Growth strategies and aquaculture development in the island nations.

Sector threats

Day two in particular saw the COFI Sub-committee on Aquaculture moving quickly through its agenda of items.

Key items discussed were challenges and threats to the aquaculture sector, including diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

There were many member countries noting the need to encourage more youth employment in the aquaculture sector and to ensure that young people aiming for a career in fish farming receive the training and skills.

Delegates were also extremely interested in approaches such as aquaponics and rice-fish farming.

Antimicrobial resistance

A heavily anticipated lunchtime side event explored the emerging challenge of antimicrobial resistance, commonly known as AMR,  in the aquaculture sector. Although there is a growing understanding about the challenges of AMR and how to overcome them in the livestock sector, there is often less understanding from the aquaculture sector.

Panel members for the event included Juan Lubroth, FAO chief veterinarian, Melba Reantaso, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department’s AMR and aquaculture expert, Esther Garrido Gamarro of FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture department, Huan Sein Lim of Singapore, Moi Eim Yeo of Malaysia and Anna Zito of the European Union’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Malaysia’s Yeo presented her country’s action plan for confronting AMR challenges to its aquaculture sector, which includes significant communication and outreach efforts to support ten various communities involved in the aquaculture sector.

Anna Zito of the European Union’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries presented the new EC action plan against antimicrobial resistance, noting that the plan was spurred by concerns of the health and economic costs AMR could incur in Europe’s aquaculture sector.

Small island focus

The special event on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) generated substantial interest. Beginning a day prior to COFI Aquaculture and continuing in parallel sessions throughout the week, it brought together SIDS countries from the Caribbean, African and Pacific regions.

Seminar chairman, Thomas Nelson of Saint Lucia, summarised the interesting and wide-ranging talks in which SIDS participants engaged during the event.

Mr Nelson noted that while SIDS countries around the world have very different cultures, languages and environmental and socioeconomic realities, their days working together in the seminar illustrated that they share many commonalities and similar challenges when implementing Blue Growth policies and developing aquaculture on their island nations.

There is much to gain from working closely together.

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