1. The Working Group on Aquaculture (WGA) of the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) held its second meeting in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, from 29 to 30November 2005.
2. The Meeting was attended by thirteen experts representing the eight RECOFI Member countries and one observer from the Republic of Yemen. The Meeting was attended for the first time by a representative of the Republic of Iraq. The list of experts and observer is given in Appendix B to this report.
3. The Meeting was called to order by Mr Abdul Redha Shams, Chairperson of the Commission WGA, who welcomed the country experts, Mr Mohammad Saif, RECOFI Secretary, and Mr Alessandro Lovatelli, RECOFI WGA Technical Secretary. He expressed, on behalf of the Commission, appreciation for their presence at this Meeting.
4. A welcoming speech was delivered by Dr Ahmed Hareb Al-Hosni, Assistant Director-General of Fisheries Research and Extension, Directorate General of Fisheries, on behalf of H.E. Salim bin Hilal Al-Khalili, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Sultanate of Oman. In his opening remarks the Minister underlined the growing importance of the aquaculture sector in the region and emphasised the need of collaboration and information exchange among the countries of the Commission. He finally recalled that the RECOFI WGA was established for this purpose. The opening statement of Dr Al-Hosni is attached as Appendix D.
5. The Chairperson presented the Provisional Agenda and announced a series of logistical arrangements including an optional visit to the Marine Sciences and Fisheries (MSFC) and Fish Quality (FQC) centres on the morning of the second day of the Meeting. The WGA experts agreed that all decisions and recommendations be summarised and endorsed at the end of the 2-day session whilst the Meeting report be officially adopted as soon as it is circulated by the Secretariat.
6. The Agenda attached as Appendix A to this report was adopted. The documents which were submitted to the WGA are listed in Appendix C.
7. Prior to entering into the technical discussions of the Agenda items, the WGA Technical Secretary briefly summarized all the decisions and recommendations related to the work of the WGA which were adopted at the Third session of the Commission held in Doha, Qatar, from 9 to 11 May 2005. This was done in order to refresh the actions ahead of the Meeting. A copy of the Commission's Third session report was made available at the meeting (RECOFI:WGA/II/2005/Inf.4). The decisions and recommendations mentioned are available in Appendix E of this report.
8. Mr Mohammad Saif and Mr Alessandro Lovatelli, RECOFI Secretary, were designated as rapporteurs.
9. The Secretariat presented the progress in regards to the establishment of the RECOFI Regional Aquaculture Information System (RAIS) based on the working document RECOFI:WGA/II/2005/3. A short summary of the events in relation to the creation of the information system that had taken place since the Second session of the Commission (Muscat, Oman, 18–21 May 2003) was provided. The experts were reminded that the Commission strongly recommended going ahead with the development of the system at its third session (Doha, Qatar, 9–11 May 2005). At this session the Government of Kuwait officially confirmed its offer to host and finance the system.
10. A prototype of the RAIS home page developed by the Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service (FIRI), Fisheries Department, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was presented in order to provide an idea on the coverage as well as the work and inputs still required in setting up the system. The Secretariat reminded the experts that the initial contents of the system had been discussed and agreed upon following the last session of the Commission and proposed different suggestions in terms of information and statistics presentation. The home page of the Information System for the Promotion of Aquaculture in the Mediterranean (SIPAM) under the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) was shown as an example of a functional system.
11. In the discussions that followed, the experts agreed that the system should also incorporate a forum area for discussion on subjects of interest where people can exchange ideas and suggestions, also realizing that all forums require active moderators for them to function properly. Suggestions were made from the experts to add an area for links to relevant research and higher educational institutions in and outside the region as well as a page dedicated to regional training opportunities in the RECOFI countries. Other suggestions included a “Search Engine” to facilitate the browsing of the home page and an area for relevant regional and international events such as trade fairs and aquaculture conferences and workshops.
12. With reference to the language of the RAIS Web site, the experts were informed that the site would be developed in English. However, the options for having the same site in Arabic would be built in by the system developers. Placing this latter version online would then be a matter of obtaining the same text in the English pages and translating it to Arabic. This could be coordinated by the RAIS Regional Centre with inputs from all WGA Focal Points.
13. The Secretariat informed the experts of the WGA that it has identified competent and currently available developers in Rome (Italy) for the elaboration of the information system as requested by the Commission. The Meeting urged the Government of Kuwait to deposit the agreed funds of US$30000 to the account of the Commission so as to initiate the development of the system without further delay. In this regard the expert from Kuwait reconfirmed the commitment and willingness of its Government to host and finance the system and informed that the delay in the funds transfer was due to internal procedures involving a number of national authorities. He further informed that Kuwait had requested the Secretariat for certain technical and payment procedural clarification which had contributed to such delay. However, he reported that all formalities are being finalized and that the funds would likely be deposited before the end of the calendar year. The Secretariat informed that the breakdown of the cost and timeframe to develop the RAIS was forwarded to the Government of Kuwait in July 2005 (see Appendix F).
14. The WGA Focal Points unanimously agreed that if by the end of December 2005 the hosting government had yet to fulfil its commitment, the Secretariat would, by the second week of January 2006, send an official letter to the governments of Kuwait and the Islamic Republic of Iran informing that the latter RECOFI Member country would now be eligible to host and finance the RAIS as agreed during the last session of the Commission (see AppendixE - Decision and Recommendations of the third session of the Regional Commission for Fisheries, Doha, Qatar, 9–11 May 2005). In the event that Iran (Islamic Republic of) reconfirms its interest and position, the transfer of the required funds should be made within and not later than three months after confirmation of their position to host the system.
15. All correspondence related to this issue should be copied to WGA chairperson and to the RECOFI Secretary and RECOFI WGA Technical Secretary.
16. With regards to the establishment of the RAIS the Secretariat clarified that the budgeted cost of US$30000 is a one time payment. However, future running and maintenance costs of the system, after its setting-up, would be borne by the host country including manpower resources and the cost for retaining the domain name. Furthermore, the WGA Focal Points clearly acknowledged that each participating member country would have to ensure that updated data and information is regularly collected and fed into the system through the regional centre. The collection of national inputs would be the sole responsibility of each Member country.
17. The domain name of the system was raised and the Secretariat recommended that the hosting country proceed with its registration (e.g. www.rais.org) and to provide the technical characteristics of the server that would host the RAIS. With regards to the domain name it was agreed that it should include the acronym of the Commission and the following addresses were suggested “www.recofirais.org”, “www.recofi-rais.org” or “www.recofi_rais.org”. It was nevertheless agreed that the internet site address should be simple enough for existing search engines to locate the site and for potential users to memorize the name or to identify it through simple intuition. The Secretariat was finally requested to provide an input in this regard and to communicate at the earliest to the WGA Chairperson possible alternatives and procedures to register the domain name. This information would then be forwarded to the hosting country to proceed with the registration.
18. Finally all those countries that had yet to submit to the Secretariat the agreed initial information to feed into the system were kindly reminded to do so as it would be used by the system developers when designing the system. So far only Oman and Qatar had collected and submitted the information. The document requesting the type of information to be collected by the WGA Focal Points is attached for reference to this report in Appendix G.