1. Y. Bhg. Dato' Junaidi bin Che Ayub, Director-General, Department of Fisheries Malaysia delivered the opening remarks. He welcomed the participants and noted that this was the first RCFM organized by APFIC, having replaced the previous APFIC symposia. The Director-General stated that the purpose of the forum was to strengthen the role of APFIC by extending consultations and knowledge of fisheries issues in the region to bring the issues into the policy arena and to assist member countries in reshaping their fisheries for future generations. He outlined the new role of APFIC as a coordinating mechanism for dialogue on fisheries and aquaculture issues. He thanked the sponsors of the RCFM for their generous contributions as well as the organizers, and thanked APFIC and FAO for convening the event and providing this opportunity for regional discussions. The full text of the welcome remarks is in Annex II.
2. On behalf of the Director-General, FAO, Mr Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director-General, FAO Fisheries Department welcomed the participants to the RCFM. He gave an account of the process of review and reform of APFIC's role and function and of its emergence as a regional consultative forum. He stated that the forum was designed to act as a neutral platform to assist its members in discussing the emerging issues in fisheries and aquaculture that affect Asia and the Pacific region. As part of its reform he noted the inclusion of regional fisheries institutions and organizations and NGOs as part of the wider forum. Mr Nomura briefly reviewed the recent activities of APFIC that had acted as foundations for the current RCFM and would form the basis of discussions. He noted the unprecedented changes that had occurred in both fisheries and aquaculture in Asia and the Pacific region in recent times. The rapid rate of growth of both has not been without impact and there was now an urgent need to reform and improve fisheries and aquaculture to ensure sustainability and maintain the role of fisheries and aquaculture in contributing to the livelihoods and economies of the countries in the region. He noted that the two new possible themes for the coming biennium of the APFIC consultative forum could be food safety and quality in the context of trade, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. He also noted that the forum was intended to be an active process with participants engaged in discussion and debate. The recommendations of the forum would be submitted to the twenty-ninth session of APFIC for further debate and for the development of strategies for action. In conclusion, he thanked the Government of Malaysia for hosting the event and acting as the chair of APFIC. He also thanked all the sponsors of the event and made special reference to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) for their financial support to the forum; as well as to the Department of Fisheries, Malaysia and the Intergovernmental Organization for Marketing Information and Technical Advisory Services for Fishery Products in the Asia and Pacific Region (INFOFISH) for their assistance in organizing and arranging the forum. The full text of Mr Nomura's address can be found in Annex III.
3. The RCFM was officially opened by the Honourable Dato' Seri Hj. Mohammed Shariff bin Hj. Omar, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Malaysia. He expressed his thanks to the FAO and DOF Malaysia for jointly organizing the RCFM and welcomed the participants to Malaysia. He noted that fish has always been a key part of the healthy diet of the rich and the poor alike in the region and has also contributed significantly to the economies of the Asian region. He noted the stagnation of fisheries production and the potential impacts on the livelihoods of coastal fishers and how the rate of growth of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in the region has challenged the countries' abilities to control and manage them. There was now an urgent need for action to improve the management of the sector, which should be carried out on the basis of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF). Action was needed if the countries of the region were to meet the goals laid out in the World Summit for Sustainable Development, and particularly, with respect to those communities and people most dependent on this sector. He particularly noted the strengthening of norms and standards for safety and quality and increasing requirements of global and regional trade that had resulted from increasing globalization. These challenges highlight the importance of regional fisheries bodies assisting their members to address the issues that now confronted the fisheries and aquaculture sectors of the region. Malaysia welcomed the new role of APFIC as a consultative forum and was confident that it would contribute to the reshaping of fisheries and aquaculture in the region. The full text of the opening speech can be found in Annex IV.
4. Mr Derek Staples, the Secretary of APFIC, welcomed the participants and explained the arrangements for the RCFM and the overall objectives and expected outcomes of the meeting. He emphasized that the RCFM was convened as a platform for discussion and that its success depended on the active participation of the participants and their contributions. The RCFM would be marked by the development of a series of recommendations, which would be taken to the twenty-ninth session of APFIC for consideration by the member countries.