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by Stella Williams


The 9th Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum of the Asian Fisheries Society (AFS) was hosted at the Shanghai Ocean University (SHOU) in Shanghai, China, from 21 to 25 April 2011 (9AFAF). This international forum brought together leading aquaculture and fisheries scientists and key commercial stakeholders from all over the world to discuss sustainable aquatic resource production and utilisation and management with emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. The Forum theme is “Better Science, Better Fish, Better Life”. 9AFAF intended to be a meeting place for stakeholders from science, policy, business and civil society to seek jointly solutions to overfishing, pollution and other threats through better forms of stakeholder cooperation and also seize opportunities arising from ecosystem management approaches.

The Forum hosted two major symposia on tilapia aquaculture and on stock enhancement and sea ranching respectively.


It also provided the platform for a special FAO-sponsored symposium, the 3rd Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture & Fisheries (GAF3). This attracted a diverse group of stakeholders, mostly from the Asia-Pacific region as well, but also some from Africa.

The FAO Special Workshop had the purpose of generating strategic ideas and actions that could develop into a 'road map' for future directions on gender in aquaculture and fisheries. It is expected that the output will be a report containing the outcomes highlighting issues, conclusions, recommendations and future actions for gender in aquaculture and fisheries. I represented Mundus maris to make an invited contribution to GAF3.


As part of the narrative of Mundus maris' participation we underline that the fisheries sector (capture fisheries / aquaculture) continues to be an important source of income and livelihoods for millions of people around the world.

FAO estimates in its last report on the global state of fisheries and aquaculture (SOFIA 2010) that 44.9 million people were directly engaged, full time or, more frequently, part time, in capture fisheries or in aquaculture.

This is an increase of around 180% compared to 1980.

So, we wanted to put people rather than technology at the centre of our approach.

Hence the titles of Mundus maris' three posters at the forum. The posters pointed to the participants that “People are critical in the ongoing discourse in line with the theme:

Better Science, Better Fish, Better Life.” Visitors viewed the posters with much interest.

The messages on the posters were challenging in a context, where much emphasis is placed on technologies.

But at the same time, the rapid aquaculture expansion of the last years affects more and more diverse people.

So it is critical that we take more interest in the continued changes and how people drive them and are affected by them.

Lastly, there is the need to making rules that will work for the people in fisheries/aquaculture and so we contributed to the critical thinking and discussions that took place at Shanghai.


The oral presentation focused on "unsustainable fisheries from a different angle: science, arts, local knowledge and youth" was made in the context of the symposium of the 4th International Stock Enhancement and Sea Ranching.

My key message was the importance of international cooperation for sustainable fisheries, where novel interfaces between research, arts, local knowledge and innovative approaches to critical education create new opportunities for action.

Taking young people seriously and mentoring them to be able to access knowledge and expertise from experienced teachers from a wide range of epistomologies seems a critical investment to cope with the global crisis in aquatic ecosystems and social justice.

It also can bring fresh energy to old problems that have seemingly become intractable, but which international cooperation and solidarity can tackle.

Some 40 participants from four continents - Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa - followed the presentation.

So for them it was an information that created an opportunity for a new type of awareness.

There were also a number of young people at this session with some of whom the conversation continued well beyond the formal session.

I am heartened that this presentation stimulated interest and good responses.

I had already given a similar talk at the CTA Advisory Board Meeting held in South Africa, where reactions were similarly constructive.

One point intrigued many listeners.

Why stop at showing the diagnosis of the scientific studies on e.g. the results of overfishing on marine ecosystems?

How does it change the quality of the message when we connect this analysis to social effects, to economic dynamics?

Why do we need to look at a wide range of drivers for the current crisis, including unconventional ones?


Why is it important to make the link to public subsidies in many countries and continents that sustain unprofitable fisheries or sometimes aquaculture and by the same token create perverse incentives for cheating and disrespect for the rules?

What is the reaction of people when these same messages incorporating results from different research fields inspire works of visual and other art forms?

Does it help them to relate to the problems in new ways and feel more motivated to do something about them?

The conversations we had at the forum certainly suggest so. While nobody has any magic 'solution', the wider range of ways to think about these issues, including what they mean for the generation of our children and grandchildren, made us examine options and opportunities for cooperation we might otherwise not have considered.

In brief, the exchanges on and around this and the other papers was an enriching experience.

I can only hope and work towards concrete follow-up so that we try out more alternatives in practice.

The slides of the talk are available here.






The picture gallery lets you partake in the friendly and productive atmosphere of the meeting. We offered the posters at the end of the symposium as teaching aids for Prof. Mudnakudu C. Nandeesha, Dean at the Fisheries College and Research Institute under the Tamilnadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Thoothukudi, Tamilnadu. He plans, among others, to establish a course on gender to broaden the social skills and knowledge of the students in addition to maintaining high academic standards in the more traditional technical disciplines.


Group photo of the 3rd Gender in Fisheries and Aquaculture SymposiumWith Friends from the 9th Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum and China: Prof. Ida Siason, Immediate Past President of AFS; Dr. Veikila Vuki from Marine Laboratory, University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam, SPC women in Fisheries Information Bulletin and our hostess for dinner, Dr. Stella WilliamsDr. Liao (Taiwan), Dr. Meryl Williams (Australa) and Stella Williams (Nigeria)Dr. Liao (Taiwan), Dr. Meryl Williams (Australa) and Dr. Stella Williams (Nigeria)Namibian participant viewing posters by Mundus maris Philippino participants viewing posters by Mundus marisEuropean and Indian participants looking at Mundus maris postersStella Williams showing Mundus maris postersStella Williams giving her talk on youthStella Williams during her talk at GAF3Dr. Shanthi & Stella Williams at the 9AFAFDr. Robert Pomeroy with Dr. Stella Williams and Philippino participant at 9AFAFDr. Veikila Vuki, Marine Laboratory Guam, young crab farmer from Thailand, Dr. Stella Williams, NigeriaStella Williams with Philippino participants at the 9AFAFStella Williams with young people from Shanghai Oceans UniversityAsian Fisheries Society: Social Science Group