By: Antonio Garza de Yta, Ph.D.* Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) President
I arrived in Rome to participate in the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) for the fifth time, with great expectations of what might happen in this 35th edition of COFI. The hybrid event allows progress in an agenda dominated by the celebrating of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture and very important issues. But, from my perspective, not as a representative of any organization, it is not enough.
I arrived in Rome to attend the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) for the fifth time with great expectations of what could happen in this 35th edition of COFI, although I have a lump in my throat because I do not want my son to grow up without me for a week.
“No matter how you get to Rome, the city does not disappoint and makes visitors fall in love with it all over again every time they travel.”
COFI’s history is different, however, because for reasons of COVID, you will not arrive at a vibrant and lively FAO headquarters. However, you will be welcomed into a building that still lives with COVID protocols and feels soulless and sad.
Currently, due to health protocols, very few employees go to work every day, they do so from home, and this is used to renovate large sections of the building. The protocols also mean that not all the participants are in the same areas.
“Delegates (2 per country) are invited into the entire room, while delegates who exceed the allowed number must sit in the red room and observers all stay in the green room.”
For whatever reason, people feel isolated and opportunities to interact with colleagues from around the world are severely limited.
The hybrid event allows progress to be made on an agenda dominated by the celebrations of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, where, as usual, praise is heaped on all participants.
Despite all this, the few FAO staff who are allowed to attend are dynamic and enthusiastic about the event, while the rest have to follow the proceedings virtually from home or the office. No matter how hard I try, I do not think I’ll ever get used to this modality that is here to stay.
Fundamental issues for the sector are discussed, such as the reducing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
“Necessary measures to combat climate change and the importance of maintaining biodiversity in fishery and aquaculture, as well as the recommendations of the Aquaculture Committee.”
They are all very important, but from my point of view, not as a representative of any organization, it is not enough. It is a sad fact that what we had experienced is no longer lived with the same emotion and intensity. As the years go by, one gradually loses the capacity for wonder.
Maybe that’s what happened to me with COFI, or maybe things have just changed a bit, but underneath all the glamor that these committees represent or used to represent, a little vision and passion is necessary. It’s essential that we have a clear vision for aquaculture that we all see 20 or 30 years from now.
Maybe that vision will not be the same depending on the region or country, but we need to know that too.
By putting the Shanghai Declaration in the freezer in the last subcommittee on aquaculture, for whatever reasons that were not technical, we deprived ourselves of the opportunity to envision a world where aquaculture is a priority and where its goal is to lift families out of poverty through well-paying jobs and not be the last option for many.
“I believe that deactivation of the Shanghai Declaration significantly delays the Blue Transformation and the consolidation of aquaculture on a global scale.”
I know I am probably a voice in the wilderness, but I would like to call today on all my scientific friends, policy makers, and aquaculture professionals to join forces and implement many of the points in the Shanghai Declaration as soon as possible.
“I believe that FAO has done its job and a years-long effort has not materialized for reasons beyond its control.”
It is we who must hold the reins and no one else. Regardless of nationalities, creeds, or ideologies, our commitment to humanity must be to get aquaculture on the agenda and in the budgets of our countries. Let us continue together on the road to blue transformation!
WAS President 2021 – 2022.
Antonio Garza de Yta, President, Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF), a renowned international aquaculture professional, who holds a Masters degree and a Ph.D. in Aquaculture from the University of Auburn, USA.
He is an aquaculture expert, FAO frequent consultant, as well as a specialist in strategic planning.
Ex-director of Extension and International Training for the University of Auburn and creator of the Certification for Aquaculture Professionals in that academic institution.