19. The Secretariat presented a summary on the preparation and progress with regards to the finalization of the project proposal to strengthen the legal and policy framework of aquaculture in the region on the basis of document RECOFI:WGA/II/2005/4. The project proposal was formally presented at the Third session of the Commission in Doha, Qatar (9–11May 2005) at which time it was agreed that all RECOFI members would submit their comments and suggestions to the Secretariat and to explore possibilities of funding the project through alternative sources including a Unilateral Trust Fund (UTF) arrangement in view of the limited resources available by FAO.
20. Since the last session of the Commission only the Governments of Bahrain and Oman provided comments on the proposal. However, these were minor and the proposal essentially remained that was submitted to the members of the Commission in Doha. Some WGA Focal Points informed that the proposal was not provided to them following the last session of Commission and therefore the Secretariat provided again hard and electronic copies of the document. The final draft of the project proposal is attached as Appendix H to this report.
21. As no follow-up had been undertaken with regards to exploring alternative funding sources of the proposal, the Secretariat invited the WGA Focal Points to discuss the matter at the Meeting. The WGA Chairperson put forward the idea that all RECOFI members could contribute to an equal part of the estimated project proposal sum or alternatively to investigate the possibility of having the project financially supported by the private sector. The experts endorsed the suggestion made and agreed to explore such possibilities at the national level by contacting the relevant authorities and to report to the WGA Chairperson of the outcome.
22. Following the request from the WGA Focal Points it was further agreed that the RECOFI Secretary would send an official letter to the relevant ministries of all the RECOFI countries inviting them to consider the project cost-sharing proposal discussed by the WGA. This letter would be duly copied to all WGA Focal Points for their reference and follow-up.
23. Furthermore it was agreed that the Secretariat would approach the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as other donors in the region (e.g. Kuwait Fund for Arabic Economic Development, Islamic Development Bank, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, Saudi Fund for Development) in close consultation with the Chairperson of the WGA.
24. The experts fully recognized and acknowledged that timely follow-up actions would be required to move ahead with the activity and not to wait for the next WGA meeting to report on actions taken by each RECOFI member.
25. The WGA Focal Points agreed that a regional approach for the responsible use and control of alien species in aquaculture and fisheries is required recognizing, however, that the introduction of certain species in the region (e.g. tilapia and gilthead seabream) have contributed to the growth of the regional aquaculture industry.
26. The Technical Secretary reported on recent international actions involving FAO and other organizations such as the Network of Aquaculture in Asia and Pacific (NACA) and International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) with regards to the preparation of specific technical guidelines for the control and responsible use of alien species in fisheries and aquaculture. It was further indicated that the guidelines would have no formal status and that they are intended to be eventually used on a voluntary basis and support the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF).
27. The WGA reviewed and endorsed the structure of the technical guidelines included in document RECOFI:WGA/II/2005/5. The key elements to be included in such technical guidelines appear in Appendix I. The experts at the Meeting urged FAO to produce the guideline for use in the RECOFI region at the earliest and possibly before the next session of the Commission planned to take place in May 2007.
28. The WGA Chairperson invited all RECOFI countries to inform all members of the Commission on intentions to introduce alien species and to follow the precautionary approaches and guidelines referred by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the CCRF (see Articles 2f, 2g and 7.2.2d) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Code of Practice on the Introduction and Transfers of Marine Organisms.
29. With regards to the country Database on Introductions of Aquatic Species (DIAS) printout, circulated by the Secretariat at the meeting, it was noted that some of the information in such documents was inaccurate or missing. It was agreed that the Technical Secretary would check with the responsible officer in FAO Headquarters to ensure that the information provided in the DIAS Aquatic Species Introduction Reports submitted by the RECOFI WGA Focal Points was duly entered in the database. The countries furthermore requested for FAO to submit to the WGA Chairperson updated and corrected DIAS printouts for all RECOFI countries.
30. All WGA Focal Points were invited to eventually submit new or missing information related to the introduction of exotic species once they had received the updated DIAS printout for their respective country. The experts were provided with copies of the form to report on species introduction and informed that it can also be downloaded from the FAO Web site from the following address http://www.fao.org/fi/figis/introsp/Input_form.doc.