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Sixteenth session of FAO’s COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade opens today in Republic of Korea

Today in Busan, Republic of Korea, the sixteenth session of FAO’s COFI Sub-committee on Fish Trade (COFI-FT) opened.

Fish is one of the most widely traded food commodities in the world, estimated at a value of 143 billion USD in 2016. And developing countries play an increasingly important role in fish trade. In 1976, developing countries accounted for only 37% of world fisheries trade (based on volume), while today developing countries supply a full 60% of the fish traded annually.

The COFI Sub-committee on Fish Trade began meeting in 1986. The meeting, held every two years, is open to FAO Committee on Fisheries member countries.

The sixteenth session runs from 4-8 September. Delegations from Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia, Micronesia, Monaco, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United States of America, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe and the European Union (Member Organization) are attending this session of COFI-FT.

The Republic of Korea hosts the Sixteenth session of COFI-FT in Busan.
Early morning in the coastal city of Busan, Republic of Korea.

The full agenda can be found here and supporting documents here.

The week dedicated to fish trade envisions a full agenda of discussions and decision on various topics of interest, including:

  • Recent development in fish trade
  • An overview of the COFI Sub-committee on Aquaculture
  • Fish trade related activities at FAO
  • Social sustainability in fisheries value chains and the link to trade
  • Reduction of fish food loss and waste
  • Voluntary Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes
  • An update on CITES-related activities
  • The impact of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on livelihoods, trade,
    food fish supply and consumption
  • The impact of climate change on future fish supply, trade and
    consumption
  • Monitoring the implementation of Article 11 of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

“Although every session of COFI-FT raises new issues and areas of work, we’re particularly excited about some new items on the agenda this year,” said Audun Lem, FAO Deputy-Director and Secretary to COFI-FT.

“At the request of COFI-FT members, for the first time ever we will have a dedicated agenda item on social sustainability in fisheries value chains and the link to trade. This reflects the excellent discussion we’ve had at past COFI sessions during side events on decent work in the fisheries sector.

This issue has been gaining greater attention among the general public, and member countries requested its official inclusion in our agenda to ensure more work is done to ensure that the fish reaching our plates have been harvested not only in an environmentally sustainable manner, but also one that provides decent work to the men and women who work in fisheries and aquaculture around the world along its long value chain.”

FAO’s Stefania Vannuccini addresses recent developments in fish trade on Day 1 of COFI-FT.
Trends in the first half of the year point to exports of fish and fishery products reaching an all-time record high of more than 150 billion USD for 2017.

“Another item we are seeing in the official agenda for the first time is one that addresses the effects of climate change on future fish supply, trade and consumption,” according to Lem. “This addition reflects the increasingly visible role fisheries and aquaculture are playing in international climate change meetings and negotiations, including the most recent UNFCCC Conference of the Parties. We’re pleased to see important issues such as climate change discussed in the context of fish trade.”

The Sixteenth session was opened today delivered by Ms Shin Hee Cho, Director General, Overseas Fisheries and International Policy Bureau, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Republic of Korea on behalf of the Republic of Korea.

FAO’s Stefania Vannuccini, Senior Fishery Officer, presented to the Sub-committee recent developments in fish trade. Within that presentation, she noted that trends in the first half of the current year point to exports of fish and fishery products – excluding aquatic plants – reaching an all-time record high exceeding 150 billion USD.

The issue of fisheries subsidies was also a priority item. During the discussions, the Sub-Committee strongly supported FAO’s collaboration with the World Trade Organization, particularly in connection with the current negotiations on fisheries subsidies. The Sub-Committee noted the crucial role of FAO in providing capacity building and technical assistance on fisheries subsidies for developing countries, especially taking into consideration the need for a positive outcome at the next WTO Ministerial conference in December 2017 in Buenos Aires.

Side events this week include Challenges related to Ciguatera fish poisoning, Blue Growth: Social and human-rights issues and access to trade, and the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI).

Today’s side event on the Challenges related to Ciguatera fish poisoning sparked interesting discussion about ciguatera fish poisoning, a growing concern within the fisheries, fish trade and food safety communities. Ciguatera fish poisoning is caused by eating fish contaminated with ciguatoxins. The toxins form in some harmful algal blooms, which are extending their geographic distribution due to climate change.

According to FAO Senior Fishery Officer John Ryder, “FAO is working with partners on issues related to ciguatera, and today’s side event was an opportunity to provide an overview of the type of work being done, and discussing with the trade community how we can collaborate better in the future. The European Union presented its ongoing work on ciguatera issues. And we were especially pleased to have participation from the Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea to discuss the challenges they face in their own countries and in the Pacific region.”

If you’re not with us in Busan for COFI-FT this year, follow our wrap-ups in our Blue Growth blog posts, or follow our live tweeting from @FAOfish or through the hashtag #COFIfishtrade

The side event on Challenges related to Ciguatera fish poisoning sparked interesting discussion about cigatera fish poisoning, a growing concern within the fisheries, fish trade and food safety communities.

Developing countries are important players in fish trade. In 1976, they accounted for only 37% of world fisheries trade (based on volume), while today they supply a full 60% of the fish traded annually.
Busan’s coastline.

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