Più di 400 partecipanti provenienti da tutto il mondo hanno vissuto un tempo favoloso in occasione della conferenza superbamente organizzata dell'Istituto Internazionale di Economia della pesca e del commercio ad Aberdeen, in Scozia, dall'11 al 15 luglio 2016

Ann Shriver, founding member and long-time Executive Director of IIFET welcomed participants together with outgoing President Dan Holland of the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the two key organisers, Jimmy Young of the University of Stirling and Hazel Curtis of Seafish UK and their local event team.

Mundus maris Vice-President, Stella Williams, was a member of the Scientific Committee.

The organisers were particularly successful in obtaining sponsorships for different types of awards and travel grants to allow scientists from developing countries to partake actively in the events and its many sessions.

The winners of the awards and their sponsors were recognised one by one in the opening plenary.

Gordon Munro and Colin Clark, two pillars of fisheries economics, titled their opening keynote "Capital theory and the economics of fishseries. Implications for policy". Gordon delivered the talk reflecting on whether it was worth the trouble developing fisheries economics over the last 40 years. Yes! he said, but also pointed out that earlier assumption about the perfect malleability of labour underlying the theory needed a remake when identifying the optimal management target.

The theme of this 18th international conference was "Challenging new frontiers in the global seafood sector - a Northern Enlightenment". To this end, in addition to a special policy day on Wednesday, six streams offered parallel sessions throughout the week about the following topics:

  • aquaculture economics
  • economics of commercial and recreational fisheries
  • seafood markets, marketing, trade and consumption
  • seafood processing and logistics
  • managing marine ecosystems and competing uses
  • the Bigger Picture.

Within these broad topics quite a few special sessions addressed specific items, regional issues or particular challenges. There were, among others, three sessions with focus on gender, an encouraging development compared to some other economics and other fisheries conferences. Meryl Williams, who - together with others - has been promoting the gender theme also in conjunction with the Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum and was a driving force for the boost at this conference as well.

The paper by Aliou Sall and Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris about obstacles to fisheries policy reform in Senegal as seen through interviews and focus groups with fisherfolk, fish mongers and women fish processors and marketers was already on the programme for day one. It was part of the well-attended special session titled "Transdisciplinary research in fishery science - are we making progress in influencing policy making?" chaired by Ralf Döring of the Thünen Institute in Hamburg, Germany.

The presenters and discussants addressed this challenge through case studies from the US, the European Union, Norway and Senegal. The participants recognised the need for more transdisciplinary approaches. They were more demanding than conventional ones, but necessary. The example of using fine-grained information from different sources to localise reliably the most vulnerable Klamath salmon stock has potential for avoiding much more extensive shut down of the US Westcoast fisheries.

In 2008/09 such a shut down had cost approximately US$ 230 million paid to compensate fishers for not fishing in order to achieve the conservation objective.

Thanks to using the research results from the analysis the closures could be much more limited in time and space.

Regulators should not set all rules, but primarily a target. In all cases it was argued that involvement of fishers and scientists would help improve management and make regulations more robust and doable.

A number of papers presented by Beatrice Crona of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and colleagues from Sweden and East Africa addressed vexing questions of who benefits and how in seasonal fisheries in Kenya and Mozambique.

The research teams were trying out different methodologies and perspectives in order to better understand whether pro-poor policies work and how to overcome barriers to social and wealth improvements. A fascinating glimpse at works in progress.

The key element of the plenary session on Thursday was the bestowing of the Distinguished Service Award by IIFET to Prof. Stella Williams for her outstanding professional achievements in research adn teaching of fisheries economics and the promotion of women and youths, particularly in Africa. Ann Shriver as IIFET Executive Director introduced the point having worked herself with Stella for many years. She regretted that Stella was unable to attend in person due to health issues, but pointed out the overwhelming endorsement by members of the decision of the selection committee.

Meryl Williams spoke on behalf of Rashid Sumaila, herself and others who had proposed Stella for the Award. She outlined key steps in her long distinguished career and underscored also her personal respect and appreciation after working with Stella for many years in different functions, be it in the board of WorldFish Centre or in organising gender sessions at fisheries and aquaculture conferences.

Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris was honoured to have been asked by Stella to deliver her acceptance speech. It focuses on two central concerns throughout her professional life: recognising the talent and role of women in fisheries and aquaculture in Africa and around the globe and promoting women and youth by creating opportunities for their personal and professional advancement, most recently through her work as Vice President of Mundus maris. Click here to read her acceptance speech.

Among the large number of exciting presentations in other sessions, only one is mentioned here with a few key data. Rashid Sumaila of the Fisheries Economics Unit at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, updated the audience about the latest results concerning fisheries subsidies in the context of global fisheries. He started out reminding the audience that humans took out some 120 million tons of seafood per year equivalent to 120 million cows on land. The revenues of about US$ 120 billion at first point of sale induced US$ 360 billion in productivity and accounted for 260 million jobs according to the FAO. The ten foremost countries were all in the developing world: India, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Philippines, Pakistan, Myanmar, Nigeria and Thailand.

The current estimate of global subsidies is US$ 35 billion/year, of which 57% are definitely bad as they enhance catching capacity. 65% of these subsidies are paid out in industrialised countries, where 1 ton of fish produced receives five times more subsidies than one ton produced in a developing country.

Thus, subsidies enhance inequality between industrialised and developing countries. They also increase the divide between industrial and small-scale fisheries: 84% go to the former and only 16% to the latter. It is therefore safe to say that these subsidies are harmful and contrary to ending the fisheries crises. Some ongoing trade negotiations address the phasing out of subsidies and though controversial for other reasons could help, if concluded with anti-subsidy clauses, reduce the distortions in fisheries.

The final plenary saw a spirited presentation of the team volunteering to organise the next IIFET conference in 2018 in Seattle, USA. They have a challenge to meet the fantastic academic, human, cultural and culinary qualities of the conference masterfully organised by Hazel Curtis of Seafish and Jimmy Young of the University of Stirling and their teams. It were Hazel and Jimmy bidding everybody farewell and a safe trip home earning a much deserved round of applause for the professionalism and care with which they had offered a great venue to all participants.

Click here for more information about IIFET 2016 conference.