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1. The Commission for Inland Fisheries of Latin America (COPESCAL) held its First Session from 19 to 23 March 1979 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, at the kind invitation of the Government of Argentina.

2. The Session was attended by 10 members of the Commission, by observers from three Member Nations of FAO, the UNDP and the Sistema Económico Latino Americano (SELA). A list of delegates and observers is given in Appendix A of this report.

3. Mr. L.I.J. Silva, Assistant to the Assistant Director-General of FAO for Fisheries, made an opening address on behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Dr. Edouard Saouma, in which he drew attention to the main problems facing inland fisheries in Latin America and the possible lines of work before the Commission (see Appendix B).

4. Captain Humberto E.F. Ghersa, Under-Secretary of State for Fisheries of Argentina, addressed the delegates and observers on behalf of Rear-Admiral Carlos Guevara, Secretary of State for Marine Affairs. He welcomed the participants and declared the meeting opened (see Appendix C).


5. The delegate of Colombia proposed the name of Dr. Juan Manuel Cordini, Director of Inland Fisheries, Argentina, for the post of Chairman. This was supported by the delegates of Ecuador, Panama and Guatemala and Dr. Cordini was unanimously elected Chairman for the Session. The delegate of Colombia, Mr. Eduardo del Real, and the delegate of Jamaica, Mr. Franklin E. Ross, were unanimously elected Vice-Chairmen for the Session.


6. The Commission adopted the agenda reproduced in Appendix D. The documents for the Session are listed in Appendix E.


7. The Commission adopted the Rules of Procedure appearing in document COPESCAL/I/79/3 with some amendments as reflected in the final version given in Appendix F.


8. Document COPESCAL/I/79/4 entitled “Problems of Inland Fisheries in Latin America” introduced by the Secretariat, served as the basis for discussion of the possible areas of work of the Commission and for the selection of work priorities. All delegations took the floor and an exhaustive review of the status, problems and opportunities facing inland fisheries in each country represented at the meeting was made.

9. Several delegations pointed out the need for COPESCAL's work to be specific and of practical value to member countries. It was stated that greater use should be made of national institutes and expertise in the implementation of such programmes and care should also be taken to avoid duplication of effort through better coordination of regional programmes. It was agreed that, while some problems were common to many countries, others related to groups of countries. It was also noted that there were considerable differences in areas of interest. The emphasis in some countries was on aquaculture, in others it was on sanitation and quality control.

10. The Secretary from SELA's Action Committee on Marine and Freshwater Fishery Products, Dr. Juan José Cardenas, explained the objectives and programme of work of the Committee which was created in 1977 and grouped 14 countries. He explained in more detail two of SELA's projects which concerned an evaluation of the resources of the lake Titicaca and floating cage culture of trout in the lake. These two projects are being carried out jointly by Peru and Bolivia. He also indicated that a network of national aquaculture centres beginning with a programme of exchange of experts and the publication of an aquaculture bulletin and the setting-up of a pilot project on tilapia culture would be established. He expressed the wish that close collaboration between COPESCAL and SELA be maintained to maximize benefits for Latin American countries. The Commission agreed that such collaboration would be useful and necessary and urged the Secretariat to take the necessary steps to ensure it.

11. All the countries without exception were interested in the opportunities offered by aquaculture. However, as many national fish culture projects already existed or were being developed and as both SELA and FAO/UNDP had regional projects in that sector the Commission gave priority to other problems listed in paragraph 13.

12. Nevertheless, in order to ensure coordination of aquaculture development at the regional level, and to avoid overlapping between the action of the various groups involved, the Commission recommended that a strong link be established between existing regional projects and COPESCAL. With respect to the FAO/UNDP regional centre for aquaculture located in Pirassununga, Brazil, with sub-centres at Canaeia and Campos de Jordão, (State of São Paulo) respectively, it specifically requested that the Commission be represented on the advisory board of that project and that a detailed report of project activities be made at forthcoming sessions of COPESCAL.

13. The Commission agreed on the following list of areas of work:

  1. Collection and marketing of fish including processing and transport;

  2. Consumption of fish including product development and quality control;

  3. Development of new catching methods adapted to special conditions;

  4. Integrated rural development to assure the inclusion of aquaculture and artisanal fisheries in general basin development;

  5. Socio-economic and juridical aspects;

  6. Methods for assessment of fish populations in rivers for estimation of potential and effects of environmental change;

  7. Environmental concerns involving assessment of the impact of river basin development projects on the fish stock and measures for the conservation of the stocks;

  8. Improvements in the collection and treatment of data and statistics;

  9. Development and management of fisheries in man-made lakes;

  10. Development, management and conservation of fish stocks and fisheries in coastal lagoons;

  11. Continent-wide list of species;

  12. Coordinated studies on the various species of the genus Prochilodus;

  13. Sports fisheries;

  14. Pollution;

  15. Extension of aquaculture;

  16. Investigation of methods for extensive aquaculture;

  17. Information dissemination;

  18. Infestation with aquatic plants;

  19. Training in aspects of the above topics;

  20. Fish diseases.

14. The Secretariat then introduced document COPESCAL/I/79/5 “Possible Mechanisms for the Implementation of the Programme of Work of COPESCAL”. In addition to the mechanisms described in this document, countries were also informed of the possibility of carrying out these activities among themselves, under the aegis of COPESCAL. The Secretariat would provide direct assistance to promote such collaboration between the countries.

15. On the basis of the list appearing in paragraph 13, it was recommended that two working parties be established:

  1. A Working Party on Fishery Resources;

  2. A Working Party on Fisheries Technology.

It was the consensus of the Commission that these working parties should group work in each of these sectors treating those subjects identified as of high priority in its meetings during intersessional periods.

16. Two ad hoc working groups were formed to formulate the terms of reference of the working parties and identify the programmes of work for the forthcoming biennium. The suggestions of the ad hoc working groups were approved by the Commission as follows:

(i) Working Party on Fishery Resources

Terms of Reference

17. The Working Party shall facilitate the development and management of the inland fishery resources of Latin America by:

  1. Advising Member Governments on methods for the assessment of their fish stocks including the collection and treatment of data;

  2. Evaluating the impact on fisheries of man-made changes in the environment, and of the fisheries themselves;

  3. Investigating methods where by inland fisheries and aquaculture can be integrated into rural development programmes;

  4. Initiating and following up cooperative research programmes by national institutions on specific resource-related topics;

  5. Promoting training in fields related to fishery resources.

Programme of Work

18. The following areas of work were recommended for the forthcoming interesessional period;

  1. That a workshop on methods for the evaluation of fishery resources in rivers be held under the auspices of the Working Party. A section of this workshop should deal specifically with the collection and treatment of statistical data; it was noted that the SELA Action Committee would be holding a workshop on evaluation of fish resources in June 1979 in Guayaquil. The Commission felt that it would be useful for it to participate in this workshop insofar as it related to inland fisheries;

  2. That the subject for the symposium to be held in conjunction with the Second Session of COPESCAL should be the development and management of artificial lakes. It was suggested that this symposium should consider the effects of dams on fisheries and should also devote its attention to the technology and planning aspects of reservoir fisheries development;

  3. Cooperative research programmes were proposed on the following topics:

(ii) Working Party on Fisheries Technology

Terms of Reference

19. The Working Party shall:

  1. Review present methods of fishing, handling, collecting, processing, storage, transport and distribution of inland fisheries of Latin America and the sanitary aspects and quality of fishery products;

  2. Study market outlets and consumption pattern for fish and fishery products from inland waters of Latin America;

  3. Develop concepts and programmes for improving methods of fish catching, handling, collecting, processing, storage, transport and distribution in inland fisheries of Latin America and for the effective transfer of appropriate technologies in order to achieve an appropriate quality of fishery products, taking into account the socio-economic aspects;

  4. Promote the technical cooperation of member countries in different disciplines of fisheries technology, i.e., catching (fishing) technology, boatbuilding, handling and processing, with particular reference to the requirements of the small-scale artisanal sector;

  5. Design appropriate training programmes in the above fields;

  6. Recommend action programmes in fisheries technology for implementation by COPESCAL or through other means.

Programme of Work

20. The meeting recommended the following activities for immediate implementation:

  1. That national reviews be prepared of present methods and systems used for handling and marketing of fish from inland waters, which would form the basis for a technical paper on this subject to be prepared by FAO. This material should include an analysis of fish consumption patterns with particular reference to freshwater fish;

  2. That FAO prepares a manual of fishing methods and gear used in inland fisheries of Latin America, similar to that issued for Africa;

  3. That FAO gathers and disseminates information on national legislation and international agreements appertaining to or affecting inland fisheries.

21. The meeting furthermore gave high priority to work on sanitary aspects and quality of fishery products, but did not include any specific activity in the immediate programme in view of the current survey of national regulations and systems obtaining in countries importing Latin American fishery products being undertaken by the SELA Action Committee. It, however, requested FAO to ensure a wide dissemination within COPESCAL membership of technical advisory material available in FAO on fish handling, processing and quality control.

22. It was pointed out that improvements of statistics on inland fisheries must be the concern of both Working Parties. As to training in statistics the meeting was informed that WECAFC (Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission) intended to organize a training course for its member countries.

23. The meeting emphasized the role of COPESCAL in promoting technical assistance projects in inland fisheries. The Commission should approach potential donors with suitable projects having a regional implication.

24. Other topics on the list of areas of work were judged to be of less urgency and therefore could be treated in the present or subsequent biennia by regular programme activities in Headquarters by consultants. They could eventually be considered by subsequent meetings of the Working Party.


25. Sport fisheries, although important for some countries, did not warrant inclusion in the programme of work of COPESCAL at this time. The delegates were informed that an international symposium on the allocation of resources between sport and commercial fisheries was being organized by the European Inland Fishery Advisory Commission (EIFAC) in Vichy, France, in April 1980.


26. The meeting felt that adequate exchange of data through the medium of publications in Spanish was crucial to the development and success of fishery research and development programmes in Latin America because, at the present time, no vehicle exists for the publication of research results in that language. The meeting recommended that the FAO increase its output of publications on inland fisheries relevant to the problems of Latin America. However, it, at the same time, recognized that the funds available within FAO would not be adequate to meet the needs of the continent and that alternative ways for financing suitable journals should be sought. The coordination of efforts of national agencies or such organizations as SELA would be useful in this connexion.


27. The Commission felt that the lack of trained personnel and, in some cases, institutes, limited the ability of countries to develop, manage and conserve their inland fishery resources.

28. It recognized that one way of providing such training could be by specific courses on certain topics, but felt that this would not fully meet the needs of the countries for training of such personnel. It was therefore recommended that COPESCAL should investigate the possibilities for the setting-up of an International Training Institute in Fishery Resources Research and Management. The delegate of Colombia stated that the Government of Colombia would be interested in hosting such an institute. It was further proposed that COPESCAL should encourage governments to establish institutions for inland fisheries research and development where such facilities were lacking.


Proposal by Argentina on the Secretariat of COPESCAL

29. The delegation of Argentina proposed that the Secretariat of COPESCAL be located in a member country in the region in order to have a more direct and continuous action on the solution of the problems of inland fisheries.

30. The marine Secretariat of State of Argentina through INIDEP (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero) further offered to host the Secretariat and to contribute to the cost of its operation - physical facilities, local personnel and running expenses - should the proposal be accepted by the Commission.

31. While the meeting agreed to the proposal of locating the Secretariat of COPESCAL in the Region, one delegate indicated that a more central point might be desirable.

32. The representative of the Director-General of FAO thanked Argentina for its generous offer. While explaining the procedures observed by FAO in such situation, he stated that the full financial, policy and administrative implications of this proposal would have to be examined by FAO before any action could be taken. The offer of Argentina would be transmitted to the Director-General of FAO and the member countries kept informed of developments.

33. The Commission requested FAO to bring to the attention of other organizations involved in power generation, irrigation and agriculture, the need to consider fishery aspects in the planning and implementation of fishery projects.


34. Cuba proposed Venezuela as Chairman. This proposal was seconded by Colombia. Guatemala proposed Colombia as Chairman. This proposal was seconded by Ecuador. Colombia was elected as Chairman.

35. Dominican Republic proposed by Guatemala, Argentina proposed by Ecuador and Venezuela proposed by Ecuador were elected as Vice-Chairmen.


36. Offers to host the Second Session of COPESCAL in 1981 were made by Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. It was agreed that the Director-General of FAO, in consultation with the proposing Governments and the Chairman of COPESCAL would decide on the date and venue of the Second Session of COPESCAL.

37. The meeting expressed appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Argentina, the Chairman, INIDEP and the people of Mar del Plata for all their efforts in making the First Session of COPESCAL a success.

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