Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

Our Ocean Conference 2019 

23 October 2019 - Oslo, Norway

Excellences, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

I am very pleased to be here with you today to discuss the future of our oceans. The way we combine conservation and sustainable use is of great importance for FAO.

Oceans provide us with enormous services and products, but they must be developed sustainably for future generations. If the ocean fails, it is because we failed ourselves.  

Fisheries and aquaculture provide livelihood opportunities for over 10 percent of the world’s population.

But as the keynote speaker has showed, we need to reduce this trend of overfishing if we are to achieve the SDG 14. We are running out of time.

FAO is deeply committed to sustainable oceans and in our work we have noted a dangerous trend. Fishers in developing regions are increasingly sustainable. Fishing in the developed regions, however, have not improved as fast as we expected.

This creates a dangerous sustainability divide. FAO works with its Member States to monitor and support ocean sustainability. We support data collection systems with tools and training including the national monitoring programme that Norway has funded for over 40 years.

We assist countries in policy development, we also contribute to improve value chains, improve small scale fisheries and we help them grow.

This is in line with FAO’s mandate to eradicate hunger.

Let us remember that over 800 million go to bed hungry every day. While the global hunger rate has declined, the total number has been on the rise since 2015, also due to the rapid growth of the world population.

Why is there overfishing? Because the increasing population is driving increased demand. More and more people like to eat fish. The nature of fish is limited, due to the fact that resources are not growing as quick as we expect.

What is the real solution? We had to use sustainable management and innovation to increase production from aquaculture. It’s the only solution we can do.

You need incentive driving, marketing driving, consumption driving.

Excellences, ladies and gentleman,

We spend a long time talking about the ocean problem but not enough time looking at the ocean as a solution. This is why I propose the ocean sustainability programme.

We certainly need more investment in many sectors, such as animal husbandry, crops, horticulture, and fruit production. But in the fishery sector we urgently need to increase investment. Because the only successful way is if we dedicate enough financial resources and brainpower to developing sustainable solutions.

If we make all marine fishery sustainable, we will be able to obtain 15 - 20 percent more fish to feed the poor, which improves sustainability.

Second, let us invest in sustainable ocean growth that will greatly benefit people who live by the coast and seas. Most people who live in the coastal regions are affected by the degradation of the coastal zone. So we need to consider a coherent development of food value chains linking inland and coastal areas.

There is a whole ecosystem that we are not considering. Normally the ministries of agriculture, food and fishery are all separate. But nature is not separate. Nature is united, on the land, and near the coast.

I strongly encourage coherence and coordination between ministry of food and fisheries, and of environment as well.

So this way you can provide real development design in coastal regions. This includes less pollution and clear water near coasts. The FAO’s Blue initiative offers an adequate balance of economic and ecological aspects, including industries like aquaculture, aiming to provide a much needed win-win solution.

Fisheries can be the new world economy. You can combine the traditional fisher culture with a modern one, and you can combine fisher culture with a tourist one. Yesterday I visited the museum here. Norway has a lot of things to share. If you can select culture relics of the fisher village and they will be really attractive to people of other countries for tourist reasons.

People enjoy traditional ways of life. So that is a good idea from Norway. Tourists from Asia, China and Japan will enjoy that.

To demonstrate the importance of future investments, Africa will be the only continent where fishing will decrease, unless the investment is significant in aquaculture. If you increase investment in aquaculture by 1 percent, you will have a 10 percent chance to increase the preservation of water, oceans and rivers.  

We cannot make fisheries sustainable if people go hungry. Our goal is sustainability for ocean and seas and even big lakes. Because our friends from Burma and Cambodia, for example, they have big lakes. Big lakes are most easily polluted by paddy rice fields.

Next November, FAO will host a major fisheries sustainability conference in Rome, a platform to debate and find solutions based on innovation, to achieve this vision of 100 percent sustainable oceans. I hope to see many of you in Rome. We always say that SDGs are designed to leave no one behind. So Let us not leave any region of the ocean behind in our sustainability quest.

Thank you very much.