From 28 to 29 February 2000 FAO convened an Expert Consultation on the Proposed Sub-committee on Aquaculture of the Committee on Fisheries in the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok. The Consultation was attended by 33 participants from 14 countries, two regional intergovernmental organizations, two international non-governmental organizations and the FAO Secretariat. The Consultation was welcomed by Mr Dong Quinsong, Deputy Regional Representative and Officer-in-Charge of FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. The Consultation elected Mr Glenn Hurry as Chairperson of the Consultation, and Mr Yugraj Singh Yadava was as Vice-Chairperson. Mr Jiansan Jia, Chief Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service, Fisheries Department, FAO, provided an introduction on the purpose and background for the Consultation.

The report of the Expert Consultation will be published by FAO in due course. The Consultation adopted the report on 29 February 2000 and recommended that it be presented to the 24th Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI). Following is a summary of the discussions and findings of the meeting.

Background to the Expert Consultation

At the 22nd Session of COFI held at FAO Headquarters in March 1997, the importance of aquaculture as a major provider of food and income was emphasized. Aquaculture has expanded to one of the fastest growing food production sectors, continuously exceeding annual peaks in global production and value, with global production and value levels reaching 36.1 million tonnes in 1997 (1998: 39.4 million tonnes) and with a total value of US$50.4 billion in 1997 (1998: US$52.5 billion). Developing countries produce about 90 percent of total global aquaculture output for both domestic consumption and export. Low-income food-deficit countries account for over 80 percent of global aquaculture production. The report of the 22nd Session of COFI stated, "Given the increasing importance of aquaculture as a means of providing employment and contributing to food security, the Chinese delegation proposed that a sub-committee on aquaculture be established under the Committee's auspices. Owing to budgetary constraints and other factors, some delegations questioned whether such a sub-committee needed to be established or if the work could be accomplished by the Committee. A number of delegations supported the Chinese proposal."

At its 23rd Session in 1999, COFI again, "agreed that sustainable aquaculture could have high potential in securing food availability and poverty alleviation in developing countries. There was broad support in the Committee to the proposal to establish a COFI Sub-Committee on aquaculture. Noting that extra-budgetary funds for such a body had not yet been identified, suggestion was made that consideration be given to funding such a sub-committee from Regular Programme resources. The Committee agreed that the above priorities should be reflected in the Programme of Work and Budget 2000-2001". In order to reduce costs it was considered opportune to hold the Consultation in conjunction with the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, which was organized by the Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia and the Pacific (NACA) in cooperation with FAO and hosted by the Government of Thailand, on 20-25 February 2000 in Bangkok.

The objectives of the Expert Consultation were to:

  • to review key issues in aquaculture and to determine those of international importance requiring the establishment of an intergovernmental forum for the development of norms and action aiming at sustainable contribution of aquaculture to food security and economic development in FAO member countries;

  • to study the practical implications of the establishment of the proposed Sub-committee on Aquaculture, including the determination of benefits for FAO member countries and interested parties and the financial implications of holding regular biennial meetings;


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  • to elaborate and draft Terms of Reference and Rules of Procedure of, and outline a possible Programme of Activities for the Sub-committee, including a draft agenda for the first two sessions of the Sub-committee.

The findings of the Expert Consultation

The Expert Consultation concurred:

  • with the growing contribution of aquaculture to global food security and economic development;
  • with the diversity of international trends that present challenges to the sector and call for greater international cooperation and normative work;
  • with the increasing need to address aquaculture in food security issues in a global forum; and
  • that a Sub-committee dealing with these issues would facilitate and complement the work of COFI.

The Consultation confirmed that a global intergovernmental mechanism is needed that can provide the opportunity for information exchange, discussion and consensus-building among various parties interested in global aquaculture development and provide means to advise and guide COFI and FAO. The Consultation confirmed that the growing importance of aquaculture and its interactions justified a specific focus.

The Consultation noted the statement of the 1999 Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries, "FAO is the most appropriate forum for addressing vital global fisheries issues and accordingly call on the Organization to assign higher priority and increased share of FAO's regular programme resources to its fisheries programme activities". The Consultation considered that FAO provides the best mechanism for meeting these needs in that FAO (i) provides a global forum for comprehensive, open and transparent treatment of technical, trade, and policy topics, (ii) provides an official interface between governments and links to other relevant organizations, and (iii) is a repository of data from Members and a source of information on aquaculture and fisheries.

The subsidiary and statutory bodies of FAO are valuable fora to aid Members in implementation of the FAO Medium-term Strategy. However, the creation of new bodies within FAO must be undertaken carefully to ensure efficacy and efficiency. The Consultation concluded that the establishment of a Sub-committee would be in line with Conference Resolution 13/97"Review of FAO Statutory Bodies". The Consultation agreed that the aquaculture sector is sufficiently important to justify the expenditure of funds on the Sub-committee and Members of FAO would be better served by such a Sub-committee.

In light of the above considerations the Consultation concluded that the formation of a Sub-committee was

justified. The Consultation discussed a wide range of relevant issues to be addressed by the Sub-committee, and drafted a set of terms of reference as well as possible elements for a future programme of activities for the Sub-committee for consideration by the next meeting of COFI.

Future programme of action

The Consultation discussed possible contributions of the Sub-committee to sustainable aquaculture development. In selecting and prioritizing the major issues and key areas of international concern, the Consultation emphasized the critical importance of addressing issues of food security and poverty alleviation at local, national, regional and global levels. The role of aquaculture for enhancing food security, alleviating poverty and fostering economic development was therefore considered a primary priority. The Consultation identified six key areas to be addressed by the Sub-committee, as follows:

  • The role of aquaculture in food security, economic development and poverty alleviation;

  • Consumer issues (food safety, quality and certification);

  • Human resource development (training and education), research and extension;

  • Environmental aspects of aquaculture development;

  • Institutional capacity building and policy development; and

  • Statistics, data and information management.

Three specific areas were identified as warranting high priority and immediate attention because of their potential impact and their links with ongoing activities of FAO:

  • Improving the collection and analysis of statistics leading to the documentation and quantification of the unfulfilled and fulfilled potential of aquaculture to increase food security and poverty alleviation;

  • Support of the implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries through the development and refinement of best management practices in aquaculture;

  • Enhancement of institutional capacity building through networking and strengthened regional and interregional collaboration in all areas and in particular in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Consultation felt that these three areas and the identification of appropriate follow-up activities could be considered as elements of the provisional agenda for the first meeting of the Sub-committee. The participant from the P.R. China indicated that there is an offer from his government to host the first meeting of the Sub-committee on Aquaculture and cover local costs.