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Fish trade talks continue in Agadir - Day 2

The early bird catches the fish. Sunrise on the beach in Agadir
COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade Secretariat with a full day’s agenda ahead of them

Following a busy opening day of the Fifteenth Session of the COFI Sub-committee on Fish Trade in Agadir, Morocco, the second day of the week-long fish trade meeting continued with another day full of discussion and dialogue on numerous trade issues.

The morning agenda continued an item introduced during the previous day’s session, Trade in fisheries services.

Other agenda items addressed throughout the day included:

  • Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes,
  • Review of food quality and safety-related market access requirements,
  • Update on Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)-related activities
  • Monitoring the implementation of article 11 of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
  • The impact of aquaculture supply on trade and consumption.

Discussion on Catch Documentation Schemes was complex, country delegations supported the importance and value of catch documentation schemes as an effective tool to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries.

But at the same time, these delegations raised concerns about the need to ensure that the schemes do not become an unnecessary barrier to trade, or a financial or administrative burden to countries, and especially developing countries.

The member countries also requested that special consideration be provided to small-scale fisheries in any system adopted.

The item reviewing food quality and safety-related market access was of key interest to participants. FAO has always been active in this area, and informed delegations about recent examples, including work undertaken with the Codex Alimentarius Commission on a bivalve sanitation pilot project in southern Africa. Joint work on ciguatera fish poisoning undertaken with Codex, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). See our earlier post on this joint work.

Delegates on Day 2. Left to right, Brett Norton and Joe Hawkins of the Canadian delegation

There was discussion on work FAO undertakes supporting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Delegates supported this cooperation agreement, appreciating the important role FAO plays in assisting CITES with the decisions on protected species that can severely affect developing countries. Lahsen Ababouch, Director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department thanked Japan for its extrabudgetary funding that supports this important work on FAO-CITES collaboration.

Discussion in the afternoon included a new item, the impact of aquaculture supply on trade and consumption. According to Audun Lem, Deputy-Director of  FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department “The relationship between the two sub-committees – fish trade and aquaculture – has always been close, but they have distinct mandates. We believe there can be better synergies between the two, and this is why we’ve introduced this item looking specifically at how the rapidly growing aquaculture sector impacts upon trade.”

Many aquaculture-related issues were raised by delegates during the discussion.

Delegates participated with lively discussion
Aina Afanasjeva of Eurofish, New Zealand’s delegate William Emerson, and FAO Fisheries’ John Ryder continue discussions during the coffee break

The delegate from Bangladesh pointed to his country’s own example of changes related to climate change and climate-related disasters that have led to an increased reliance on aquaculture. “If we did not have aquaculture development in countries such as Bangladesh, we would not have fish.”

Cabo Verde took the floor, explaining that the country had not yet developed an aquaculture sector, but that they were working alongside FAO to develop one and believed they could benefit from all the recent guidelines and best practices to build a strong and sustainable aquaculture sector.

Nigeria noted that it had invested heavily in the aquaculture sector, but noted that there are expensive barriers to trade for developing countries wishing their products to enter into international markets.

The delegate called for a greater emphasis on capacity building efforts on the part of FAO and partners to better understand safety standards and certification schemes for aquaculture products.

The day wrapped up with a side event by the German Government on the Global Sustainable Seafood initiative (GSSI).

GSSI is not a seafood certification scheme, but a benchmarking tool that ensures that certification schemes are in keeping with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related guidelines and instruments.

The project began with the support of Germany. Although not largely thought of as a major player in the fisheries sector, Germany is the 7th largest importer of fish globally, and it is the world’s largest market for certified seafood products.

When the project began in 2013, the German retailers, importers, and consumers had to sift through over 140 different certification schemes, leading to obvious confusion.

The GSSI benchmarking tool emerged after a three-year period of expert consultations with fisheries experts and civil society organizations, with FAO serving as an observer.

The tool was launched at FAO’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in October 2015 in Vigo, Spain.

Discussions were lively, with many developing countries concerned that certification schemes place small-scale fisheries, particularly in developing countries, at an unfair advantage.

The COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade will continue throughout the week. We’ll be continuing our coverage through the Blue Growth blog, and following discussion and side events though @FAOfish and the hashtag #COFIfishtrade.

The drafting committee, comprised of regional representatives, hard at work at the end of the day’s plenary sessions
Fish trade is a dynamic topic, which emerged clearly in the wide-ranging discussions during the first two days of the COFI Fish Trade meeting
Morning in Agadir

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