On behalf of Mr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I welcome you all to the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) "Regional Consultative Forum Meeting", to be held here over the next three days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Following an extensive review of the function of APFIC over the past few years, the Commission decided at its 28th Session held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2004, that it could best serve its members by becoming a regional consultative forum. The purpose of this forum is to provide its Members a neutral platform to examine issues affecting the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture across Member States. One of the major changes in the modus operandi of APFIC, was to involve its regional partner organizations and relevant non-governmental organizations much more in its technical working activities as well as the consultative forum. It is therefore extremely encouraging to see many of our partners participating here today.
The 28th Session also agreed that APFIC would hold a major Consultative Forum Meeting every two years. This forum meeting would be based on number of inter-sessional workshops on selected issues that the Commission considered to be of major regional importance. For this forum meeting, the Commission decided to focus its attention on important issues in small-scale fisheries and rural aquaculture. APFIC has now organised two Regional Workshops - one on "Low value and trash fish in the Asia-Pacific region" convened in Hanoi, Viet Nam 7-9 June 2005 and another on "Mainstreaming Fisheries Co-management" convened in Siem Reap, Cambodia 9-12 August 2005. The Commission intended that the recommendations coming from these two workshops would be further considered at this APFIC biennial Consultative Forum Meeting and the subsequent Commission Session, so that decisions for concerted action could be developed and implemented.
This function of APFIC was further endorsed by the APFIC Executive Committee in its 70th Session in Kuala Lumpur in 2005, where it was agreed that the overall theme for this first Consultative Forum Meeting would be "Reforming fisheries and aquaculture in Asia-Pacific". In choosing this theme, the Committee considered the outcomes of the two workshops and noted the need for reforms in fisheries management and aquaculture development. The Asian region has seen unprecedented development in its fisheries and aquaculture sectors over the past three decades. Growth in capture fisheries, especially those of marine waters, has slowed considerably over the past decade as the harvesting of fisheries has met its natural and economic limits. In many cases this has, unfortunately, also resulted in depleted fish stocks and fisheries which are performing below their fullest potential. In the case of Asian aquaculture, the growth of this sector has been staggering, especially from the People's Republic of China, but this sector is also now also facing resource constraints.
APFIC has recognised the need for improved management of the region's natural resources and a move towards more sustainable development. In guiding these reforms the Executive Committee stressed the need for a more participatory, community-based co-management approach that forges a stronger partnership between governments and stakeholders in addressing issues such as those associated with low value/trash fish. During this Consultative Forum Meeting, you will be able to reflect on the recommendations and actions suggested by the two APFIC workshops and hopefully, formulate these into action plans that can be endorsed by the full Commission Session and implemented in your countries.
The Executive Committee also considered a number of new thematic areas which could form the focus for APFIC's work in the coming biennium 2007/08. These are grouped under 3 headings (i) advice and policy, (ii) costs and implications of management interventions and (iii) tsunami rehabilitation. From these, the APFIC Secretariat thought that it would be useful to carry out a snap-shot of what is happening in terms of policy development for fisheries and aquaculture across the region. The Commission Secretariat has also highlighted two major emerging issues in the region which require special attention. These are (i) food quality and safety in the context of trade, and (ii) illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Both these issues will have a major impact on the future supply and demand for seafood in the region.
I would like to stress that this is a forum which is aimed at informing APFIC Members about current issues in fisheries and aquaculture and to provide a platform for debate. This will assist members in understanding the issues better and to enable to make informed decisions on the direction for future significant reforms in fisheries and aquaculture. Members will also be encouraged to share their experiences in throughout the forum meeting. This forum meeting is not intended to be a seminar where participants take a passive role and simply listen to a number of speakers. Members have been asked to prepare presentations and posters on a number of the forum themes to facilitate the exchange of information and opportunity for discussion and comment is provided for in the programme. Members will also be asked to develop a set of recommendations that will be considered by the Commission Session. This is an opportunity to address many of the issues that have plagued fisheries and aquaculture development in the past.
Before I conclude my remarks, I would like to take this opportunity thank everyone who has enthusiastically contributed this Consultative Forum Meeting. Firstly our major sponsors who have enabled us to make these arrangements, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Malaysia; the FAO FISHCODE project; INFOFISH; the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Republic of Korea; the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and, of course my colleagues from FAO and APFIC.
I would also like to thank Malaysia and the Chair of APFIC for kindly hosting this meeting and making everyone feel welcome at the forum. Thanks are also due to INFOFISH who have been responsible for much of the meeting organization. Lastly, but not least, I thank you, the participants, and urge you to focus your energy over the next three days in setting a new course for fisheries and aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region.