By: Salvador Meza
In practically all countries in the Americas, as well as in many other countries of the world, the ministries in charge of the fishery and aquaculture pipelines have taken up the tendency to promote the consumption of fish and seafood as a permanent campaign standard. They continuously give out declarations in favor of the benefits of consuming these products, and invite the population in general to consume them, both at inaugurations and public acts, as well as in regular and accountability reports for legislative congresses and parliaments.
Pursuant to this tendency, on November 15, 2016 the “Sub-Regional Forum on the Inclusion of Fish in the School Meal: Generating a Multisector Strategy for the Countries of Central America” was carried out in Panama City, Panama. This event was organized by the FAO, by the Panama Ministry of Education and by the Panama Ministry of Health.
The Forum, which addressed the authorities responsible for School Meal Programs in Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, had the goal: “to learn about successful experiences regarding the incorporation of fish products in school meal programs in Latin American countries and The Caribbean”.
Without underestimating this effort, by no means whatsoever, it seems to me that we would also have to concomitantly organize Forums to inter-institutionally analyze how to produce more fish and seafood within the region and the Americas. Because in the long run, the increase in the consumption of fish and seafood will result in an increase in the import of aquaculture commodities from around the world -in other words: tilapia, basa (Pangasius), shrimp and salmon - which will end up increasing the alimentary deficit of each country because the imported products, in many cases (such as with tilapia, shrimp and catfish), could very well be produced locally.
The Fishery and Aquaculture ministries of the countries in the American continents should pay more attention to their technical cadres, especially regarding aquafarming production. The fact that the discussion of the orders of business of these ministries is charged towards the promotion of fish and seafood, instead of being oriented towards the production and industrialization of these products -especially in these countries that have a well-known backlog regarding aquafarming production- is nothing more than a symptom of the lack of professionals in aquaculture within the directive cadres of these ministries.
There are many factors that explain this absence of aquaculture professionals within the operational structures of these governmental institutions. One could be the fact that aquafarming technicians and producers are not given to politics, and are absorbed in their field work, so they do not pay attention to the social connections with politicians that can invite them to occupy an important decision-making position within the bureaucracy.
On the other hand, the politician that gets to occupy directive positions within the fishing and aquaculture ministry has no knowledge nor the necessary experience to be able to distinguish among his collaborators, or even outside the institution, those persons that can technically develop a department to accelerate the aquafarming production of the country on call. They easily fall into the hands of resourceful and coherent charlatans that, far from promoting production, become obstacles when they end up as victims of their own tall tales and lies, thinking they know everything and driving away the people that definitely understand the topic.
A possibility for breaking up this vicious circle is having third parties, on behalf of the public institutions, compete for these technical positions for the development and industrialization of aquaculture. Through an open call, carried out by one or several companies specializing in personnel recruitment, one could select the professionals that can set the basis for aquafarming development and industrialization of the production pertaining to each country of the region. And then, it will be “yes… now on to promote consumption!”
Salvador Meza is Editor & Publisher of Aquaculture Magazine, and of the Spanish language industry magazine