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COFI’s Sub-committee on Fish Trade opens today in Agadir

Opening session for Fifteenth Session on Sub-Committee on Fish Trade

The Fifteenth session of the FAO COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade opened today in Agadir, Morocco.

Hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco, the week-long sessions are attended by 49 country delegations, civil society organizations, private industry associations, partners, and observers.

The five days of sessions will cover a wide range of topics, including recent developments in fish trade, building resilience along the value chain, Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes, Food quality for safety-related market access requirements, trade in fisheries services, Voluntary Guidelines for Small-scale Fisheries, CITES-related activities, monitoring and implementation of Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and impact of aquaculture supply on trade and consumption.

Welcoming delegations and participants to the Fifteenth session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade in Agadir, FAO’s Representative in Morocco, Michael Hage, noted that fish is one of the most widely traded food commodities – valued at 130 billion USD for 2015.

This demand is growing, and has tremendous potential to benefit developing countries, whose share of fishery exports is currently 54% of the global total when measured by value and 61% by quantity.

Fisheries and aquaculture plays an extremely important role in providing income and livelihoods to millions of families in Africa,” according to Hage. “The African continent is second only to Asia with the highest percentage of the population working in fisheries and aquaculture.

And the sector offers opportunities for rural employment, particularly among youth, by providing them the option to remain in their own villages with gainful employment, rather than being forced to migrate to urban areas or abroad in search of work.”

FAO's Florence Poulain, Marcio CastroDesouza, and Yoon Jee Kim at the opening session
FAO's Stefania Vannuccini, Audun Lem and Lahsen Ababouch at the opening of COFI's Fifteenth Session of the Sub-committee on Fish Trade

Welcoming delegates to the session, Lahsen Ababouch, Director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department thanked the Kingdom of Morocco for hosting the sub-committee meeting, noting that their generous support to African delegations has led to the largest presence of African member countries at a COFI Fish Trade Sub-Committee meeting.

Delegates received a warm welcome from the Moroccan Government. The Governor of the Souss-Massa region reminded delegates of the importance of maritime fisheries to Morocco, with its 3500 kilometers of coastline. She stressed that fisheries is a key sector for food security, economic development and social development, not only in Morocco, but throughout the African continent. She appreciated the important role of small-scale fisheries in Morocco and throughout Africa, and the key role they play in international markets and trade.

Ms. Zakia Driovich, Morocco’s Secretary-General of Maritime Fisheries and Agriculture was particularly pleased that her country was chosen to host the first-ever COFI meeting held in Africa and an Arab country. Ms Driovich called fisheries one of the most dynamic sectors for international trade and appreciated the important role FAO plays in strengthening fisheries policies and practices in developing countries, and promoting trade that will benefit those countries. 

Agadir, Morocco plays host to the first COFI sub-committee meeting held on the African continent and the first in an Arab country
Agadir, Morocco, view of the beach

The first day agenda was a busy one, covering items on Recent developments in fish trade, Fish trade and building resilience along the value chain, and Trade in fisheries services. There was intense interest and active discussion by member country delegations.

Many country delegations stressed the importance of reaching 25 ratifications for the FAO Port State Measures Agreement to enter into force as an international treaty. Over the past week, Barbados and South Africa have brought the total list of ratifications up to 21, so there is a good chance we’ll soon be marking this important achievement.

Delegates stressed the need for instruments such as the Port State Measures Agreement, catch documentation schemes and Flag State Performance as international measures that will make it increasingly difficult to sell products obtained through illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on international markets.

Delegates noted the challenges faced by many exporting countries to access international markets, particularly with more stringent non-tariff barriers. With such challenges, the need for even closer collaboration between countries, FAO and other international  organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) is crucial.

There were also calls to reduce fish waste and losses, both for environmental concerns and to meet our growing food security needs. Concerns were also raised by member countries and CSOs present as observers on growing concerns  about social and labour issues in the seafood industry, and the need to cover them in the sub-committee and other venues addressing fish trade.

The need to build resilience along the seafood value chain, particularly in light of climate change and more frequent climate-related disasters was an area that sparked much discussion among the delegates. Delegates called for greater integration between climate change work and disaster issues, and increased efforts to gather related data. Delegates also pointed to various initiatives currently being developed on insurance financing and financial compensation to fisherfolk when economic losses are suffered due to climate-related events.

The first day of the week-long COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade meeting generated interesting debate and information sharing on a wide range of fish trade topics. We’ll be summarizing the discussion of the next days in blog posts, and you can also follow the interesting discussions live through our @FAOfish Twitter account, and the hashtag #COFfishtrade.

Agadir, Morocco. Another view of the seaside
Fish is one of the most widely traded food commodities, valued at 130 billion USD for 2015

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