During its 33rd Regional Conference for the Near East FAO Sets 5-10-year Timeframe to Apply Blue Growth Initiative

By Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) announced that the fish food loss and waste in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) Region includes physical and economic losses estimated at 20—30percent of the fish catches at various points along the chain — an important challenge in the region.

At its 33rd Regional Conference for the Near East, held in Rome, the FAO stressed that addressing this issue is recognised as key in optimising the post-harvest sector. The local production of value-added products offers the opportunity to provide fish products for the local market while at the same time increasing business revenues and generating employment. Fish is an extremely perishable food commodity, and a significant percentage of fishery catch is lost to poor handling during processing, storage and distribution.

The FAO emphasised that upgrading processing facilities, reducing loss and waste, increasing utilisation of fish by-products, and enhancing the capacity of small-scale value chain actors all provide important opportunities to increase fish consumption and contribute to economic growth in the region, both of which have been identified as priorities.

Mr. Lahsen Ababouch, Director of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization said: “The FAO launched the Blue Growth Initiative (BGI) to ensure that the people involved directly and indirectly in fisheries, aquaculture and fishing-related activities can enjoy the long-term and sustainable benefits derived from the oceans, seas, coastal areas and inland water bodies. Based on the concepts of the green economy and blue economy, the BGI supports a number of FAO's strategic programmes and is a major area of work under FAO's Strategic Programme 2 (SP2): 'Make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable'.”

The BGI aims to create an enabling environment for those involved in fisheries and aquaculture to act not only as resource users but to play an active role in protecting and safeguarding these natural resources for the benefit of future generations. It addresses four major streams of work: capture fisheries; aquaculture; livelihoods and food systems (trade, markets, post-harvest and social support); and ecosystem services.

A number of developments in the region not only encompass the spirit of blue growth, but also have created foundations from which further blue growth opportunities can be developed. Among the most notable developments are the formulation of fisheries strategies and legislation, including the establishment of statistical and socio-economic institutions; progress towards establishing a new regional fisheries management and aquaculture organisation; efforts undertaken to appraise fisheries resources; advancements in the development of marine cage culture and hatcheries; and spatial mapping of the Red Sea coastline to identify and allocate potential aquaculture development sites.

In addition to these developments, the FAO has undertaken a number of initiatives and activities in order to build a knowledge base on the needs of (NENA) countries across various areas. The activities from regional fisheries projects have played an important role in promoting regional cooperation and knowledge sharing. In addition, a number of national- and subregional-level initiatives and activities consistent with blue growth have been implemented.

Mr. Ababouch added: “The application of FAO's BGI in NENA would help to value and restore the potential of the oceans, seas and inland waters through renewed sustainable and responsible approaches that reconcile economic growth and food security needs with the conservation of the region's aquatic resources. This would involve enhancing the utilization of aquatic ecosystem services by applying an ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture, and taking into consideration innovative technologies and financing; decent employment; energy efficiencies; and sustainable production and consumption.”

The preparatory phase for the formulation of the framework for the application of the BGI in the NENA (April-November 2015) served as a diagnostic stage, during which background information was consolidated to initiate the building of a knowledge base. The priority areas identified have been grouped and formulated into four approaches that comprise the main themes of the BGI. These would be applied over a 5-10-year timeframe.

Fisheries and aquaculture are extremely relevant in the NENA region. Marine capture fisheries in the NENA coastal countries range from the large annual production of countries with long coastlines and large fleets that access highly productive upwelling systems, to the countries with smaller production and smaller fleets. Fisheries in the region are overwhelmingly small scale and have an important roles for employment. They carry traditional and cultural values, and require specific means of engagement.

A central tenet of the application of the BGI in NENA is to work in full complementarity with and integration into the three Regional Initiatives implemented by the FAO in NENA: The Water Scarcity Initiative (WSI); the Initiative on sustainable small-scale agriculture for inclusive development (SSA); and the Initiative on Building Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition (FSN).