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FAO’s annual fisheries appointment in Vigo

World Congress on Cephalopods

FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department was pleased to return for its fifth year to the Galician coastal city of Vigo, Spain, for its annual appointment of international collaboration on fisheries issues.

Last year, FAO and Conxemar, the Spanish frozen seafood industry, collaborated with the city of Vigo, the Region of Galicia and Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment to host a successful Congress celebrating the 20th anniversary of FAO’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. You can see our past blog post about that event here.

This year on 3 October, the city of Vigo and Conxemar played host to the FAO-Conxemar World Congress, on Cephalopods at the city’s Centro Social Afundación. A full auditorium of experts spent the day discussing emerging trends, regional perspectives, international trade, domestic consumption,  fisheries practices and marketing practices of the octopus, squid and cuttlefish sectors.

Globally, 5 million tonnes of cephalopods are harvested annually. This represents 5% of world capture volume.

Welcoming participants to the city, Vigo’s mayor Abel Caballero reminded visitors of how Vigo developed and grew around the sea, and thank to fishing and its industry. He welcomed this partnership with FAO and Conxemar for this annual meeting, calling it a shining example of cooperation at the global level to resolve problems related to sustainable fisheries and fisheries management. “I believe in a world of words to resolve our most challenging problems.” He noted that fishing communities like Vigo, so dependent on their natural and fisheries resources, fully understand the need to respect and sustainably use those resources to benefit future generations.

FAO’s Director of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Manuel Barange, welcomed this five-year collaboration with Conxemar for this annual event, noting this year’s unique opportunity to bring together governments, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders to secure the ecological, economic and social sustainability of our cephalopod resources – crucial for the food and livelihoods of so many. He also welcomed the following day’s FAO Vigo Dialogue on an extremely important and timely topic: Decent work in the seafood sector.

Conxemar’s President José Luis Freire spoke of his pleasure in welcoming participants to Vigo, and the success of the fifth collaboration with FAO for an event that has become an international reference for fisheries stakeholders worldwide.

Participants joined the Congress from around the world. Informative panels during the morning session provided regional perspectives of the cephalopod industry – and its main opportunities and challenges – in South America (Argentina, Chile, Peru and the South Atlantic 200 miles from shore), North America (the US’ east coast and California), Africa (Mauritania, Senegal and South Africa), Asia (China, India, Indonesia and Thailand).

Panellists compared and contrasted markets in these regions, and answered participants’ questions about these markets and opportunities.

The afternoon was dedicated to sessions on sustainability, which included discussion about the need for the fisheries community to better communicate the progress that has been made in fisheries management, thereby weakening anti-fisheries campaigns by other parties basing these communications on inaccurate science and often designed to appeal exclusively to emotions. This panel discussed the issue of seafood certification, noting that the wide range of available ecolabels meant that consumers have many options to ensure the traceability of their seafood. However, such a wide range of options can also lead to confusion.

The Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) discussed progress following the launch of its benchmarking tool, which benchmarks certification schemes against the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related instruments, exactly one year ago in Vigo. Alaska Seafood discussed how it worked with GSSI to benchmark its brand, just announced this past July.

Another panel discussed innovative technologies in information gathering and data management.

In summarising the day’s event and its discussions, FAO’s Director Manuel Barange spoke about the need for the international community to communicate the trends of the fisheries sector. Although great strides have already been made in fisheries management, it is important to continue with these efforts to ensure we continue along the path to sustainability. Towards this end, it is imperative that countries collaborate to put an end to illegal, unreported and unreglated (IUU) fishing, mentioned by so many developing countries as one of the biggest challenges they face to achieving sustainable fisheries managment. The new FAO Port State Measures Agreement went into force June 2016, and Barange urged all countries to accede to the agreement to join the collective effort to stop IUU fishing.

Barange spoke of climate change and the challenges countries face as they formulate policies and strategies to help them adapt to climate change’s effects. He noted that FAO is working with developing countries to develop guidelines and best practices that will assist them in this process, and he called on the international community to collaborate on this work.

Finally, Barange addressed FAO’s Blue Growth Initiative, noting its reliance on emphasizing all three pillars of sustainable growth: environmental/ecological, social and economic. “I am convinced that Blue Growth is the only way for us to move forward to improve fisheries management and the livelihoods of those who depend on it in the 21st century.” He informed participants that FAO would require the commitment and expertise of its countries, organizations and industries to make this a reality.

The day’s events wrapped up following numerous presentations and discussions, marking another successful international fisheries appointment in Vigo.

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