Fisheries and aquaculture can potentially contribute more to improved global food security and nutrition, but efforts must be stepped up to ensure further development is efficient, inclusive and sustainable, and recognises the vital role of small-scale fishers and fish farmers, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said.
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu opened the 35th Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI35), the only global inter-governmental forum that provides recommendations and policy advice to governments, regional fishery bodies, civil society organizations, as well as the private sector and international community.
“Today, more than ever, as we face many global challenges, fisheries and aquaculture play an increasingly important role in providing food, nutrition and jobs across the world,” Qu said, adding: “our valuable aquatic resources must be managed and used responsibly and sustainably, guided by the best science available” in what FAO terms a Blue Transformation.
This week’s COFI meeting (5-9 September) will discuss how to grow global aquaculture sustainably and equitably, improve fisheries management and increase efforts to eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and how to ensure biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture in the context of a changing climate.
The COFI opening session included remarks by Peter Thomson, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Oceans and Rafael Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, with which FAO has extensive cooperation.
Implementing Code of Conduct
Members will also discuss the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, a key instrument which has been guiding efforts to advance sustainable fisheries and aquaculture around the world for over 25 years.
To further support the implementation of the Code, the Committee will call on countries to endorse the first Voluntary Guidelines for Transshipment, a new instrument that will provide Members and organizations with critical standards to apply in their policies and regulations.
Regulating, monitoring and controlling transshipment supports sustainable fisheries. The aim is to tighten the loopholes that enable fish derived from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to be transferred from one vessel to another without authorization and enter the market.
As FAO’s 2022 flagship report The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture reveals, aquaculture has witnessed dramatic growth and consumer demand is expected to drive further expansion. The growth of aquaculture, particularly in Asia, lifted total production of fisheries and aquaculture to an all-time high of 214 million tonnes in 2020.
Global consumption of aquatic foods (excluding algae) has increased at an average annual rate of 3.0 percent since 1961, reaching 20.2 kg per capita, more than double consumption in the 1960s.
FAO is committed to ‘Blue Transformation’, a visionary initiative to meet the twin challenges of food security and environmental sustainability while ensuring equitable outcomes and gender equality. COFI35 will provide an opportunity to discuss this further in the context of advancing environment-friendly policy and practices, as well as technological innovation.
Qu also announced the launch of the first-ever FAO fish recipe book, the product of his initiative at the last session of COFI, inviting Members and FAO staff to share how they experience fish as food in their lives. The book combines food recipes from around the world with FAO’s technical information on the ecology, sustainability and nutritional content of the fish used in the recipes, some submitted by renown chefs.
Artisanal fisheries and aquaculture
To mark the International Year for Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, a high-level event was also held recently to discuss the critical contribution that small-scale fishers and fish farmers make to the lives and livelihoods of entire communities around the world, especially in developing countries.
“We can all do more, and we must continue to listen to the voices and needs of small-scale , fishers, fish farmers and fish workers,” Qu said as he opened the event, paying tribute to the ”women, men, youth, Indigenous Peoples and rural communities who are the backbone of the small-scale fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors. Today, we are here to recognize and support this historic, yet dynamic and innovative way of living, and to preserve it for future generations.”
Qu stressed the importance of developing national plans and strategies in support of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, building on established instruments such as the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.
Those addressing the IYAFA event included Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, Minister for Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia, Tsimanaoraty Paubert Mahatante, Minister of Fisheries and Blue Economy of Madagascar, Jorge Luis Prado Palomino, Minister of Production of Peru, Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Minister for Environment, Water, and Agriculture of Saudi Arabia, Alicia Villauriz, Vice-Minister for Fisheries of Spain, Maxine Burkett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Fisheries and Polar Affairs, United States Department of State and Margaret Nakato, winner of the 2020-21 Margarita Lizárraga Medal and a member of the IPC Working Group on Fisheries, that represents millions of small-scale fishers and fish workers globally.