Ten points to ponder from AQUA2012
Third time lucky for this joint WAS-EAS meeting which initially planned for Russia then Egypt and finally, through no fault of the organizers, settled in Prague, Czech Republic.
And what a well-structured and well-attended event it was in a lovely city where everyone appeared to be enjoying the networking and business opportunities that were on offer.
For those that got there early there was a chance to engage in a FAO Workshop about the OECD Food Index. Despite seafood being the most traded global food commodity by a long, long way it currently does not figure in the Index. FAO believes that fish should be included so they have been working for a few years to get all the correct statistics together in a fashion that enables the fish price index to be created.
The AQUA2012 Key Plenary presentations were from the Breeding Director of Marine Harvest ASA, Dr. Peter Arnesen and Dr. Geoff Allan, Executive Director, Fisheries NSW, Australia. Both gave the conference a solid opening focusing on “Securing our Future” from both industry and research perspectives.
As with all such conferences it is impossible to get to every presentation but here are the ten overall concepts that I took away from the event:
1. The aquaculture industry needs to work better globally as our main requirement is space, or long-term access to space, in the oceans and waterways. We have to compete with other groups and we are losing our way.
2. Fish meal and fish oil are only going to get harder to obtain and clearly there will be much competition to purchase what is available so the more research we can do on feeds the better our outcomes will be.
3. It is imperative that we sell the aquaculture story. This needs to be started from classrooms getting to the children at an early age. There are at least 16.5 million people globally involved in aquaculture and everyone has an important role. Engaging all Governments in understanding the importance of sustainable aquaculture in food security and trade is essential — there are excellent stories to tell.
4. In the media every bad report disrupts trade/progress. We need to take heed of the basics in all aspects from production through the whole supply chain. An example of this is in food safety where there is a strong trend to eating more seafood in the raw state — whilst this is fine we need to understand that the risks increase accordingly and the need for understanding and training is essential. In all cases “prevention with verification” needs to be adhered.
5. People, profit, planet need to be locked into all our strategies.
6. We are in a place in the world at the moment where we have never been as far as nutrition is concerned. We have obesity at levels never seen and we have 30 percent of the world suffering from malnutrition. It was highlighted that one child dies every 5 seconds from malnutrition. Aquaculture does have an important role to play in both sides of the equation.
7. We have to ensure that with certification that we do not create a situation that impedes the smaller operator. We must find a way that is inclusive and does not weaken the system but creates opportunity. This will need the collaboration of governments and organizations. This issue could be crucial for many countries.
8. There is a need for the entire industry to become a learning organization and to create a global aquaculture learning platform. Aquaculture, being a relatively new player in farming, should look outside the parameters currently established in order to create unique workforce development arrangements. How important are degrees when, say, considering ability to problem solve, working in teams, turning up on time, having the right attitude, etc. Following traditional lines in education may stifle the innovation that is required for aquaculture to make major steps forward.
9. There is so much waste in the world that if we constantly improve waste issues in aquaculture we will clearly be the most responsible sustainable industry on the planet. Wastage starts with survival rates through our hatcheries and grow out areas, eliminating diseases, improving FIFO ratios, increasing yields in processing, utilizing all waste into innovative products and eliminating needless packaging and dumping product.
10. Promotion of seafood through strong connections with health and well-being are essential. We now have a global group (GILLS: www.gillseafood.com) who are establishing a platform on this linking it to seafood consumption data and engaging Universities to collaborate.