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Opening address by Peter Greim
Chairman of the Federal Association of the German Fish Industry

On behalf of the Federal Germany Fish Industry Association, I want to welcome you to the Seventh Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade here in Bremen. We feel honoured that you have chosen Bremen again following a tradition of good and productive meetings this committee has had here. Indeed I regard this conference of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade a very important conference for the world fish trade and the world fish community.

The international world fish trade stands for a volume of more than 50 million tons of fish or 45 percent of total world catches.

In 1996 the fish trade amounted to considerable US$ 50 thousand million, delivering a net trade surplus of US$ 17 thousand million for developing countries. Obviously the international fish trade plays an important role in many economies. In Germany for instance our self-sufficiency rate is only 16 percent and imports are the back-bone of our sizeable industry. Our fish import bill is about US$ 2 thousand million which means about 4 percent of the world fish trade.

Before the fish trade there comes the catch of our fish. From the 1998 FAO figures for the world fisheries I can identify two trends: aquaculture is up to a record high of 30 million tons - representing more than 25 percent of total world catches. Aquaculture has thus been growing much faster than ever forecasted. This was the good news. The fast growth of aquaculture however has hardly been able to compensate for lower wild catches. And the development of the marine fish catches are the bad news. In 1998 the marine catches were down by 10 percent bringing us back to the level of the early 1990s after peaking results from 1994 to 1997. The ten major groundfish species which are of specific importance to the international fish trade continued their downward trend to 8.6 million tons. Even taking into account the short-term El Niño effect, the trend in world fish production does not look too bright.

Yet I feel that there is room for some optimism for the future of our industry. And I build my optimism on the fact that initiatives towards sustainable fishing are gaining momentum. Indeed we experience increased international awareness in the FAO, industry, politics and non-governmental organizations. And there are signs of changes and improvements in many national and international management systems.

In this context of working towards sustainability I see a growing importance of private international initiatives and I therefore welcome that ecolabelling is on the agenda of this conference. I am convinced that sustainability labels can play an increasingly supporting role. I am glad to say that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) initiative has made considerable progress. The MSC mission is to work for sustainable marine fisheries by promoting responsible, environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable fisheries practices. All this is in support of the various FAO initiatives such as the code of conduct for sustainable fisheries.

Now the idea has become real through the certification of the first two fisheries: The Thames Herring Fishery in the UK and the Australian Rock Lobster Fishery. And I envisage other important fisheries to follow soon. Some of you may remember that the 1996 session of this Sub-Committee on Fish Trade here in Bremen had been the first public international forum where the MSC idea has been presented and discussed.

This conference has a number of important issues on its agenda, covering many of the "hot" issues in the international fish trade, solutions for today's and tomorrow's problems will be discussed.

I think this Sub-Committee is providing the right platform for addressing all these issues. For the benefit of the world fish community and the benefit of our marine fish resources I wish this conference every success.

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