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Brazil Creates Ministry of Fisheries

BRAZIL - Brazil's President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva has signed a bill to create a Ministry of Fisheries and the government has announced it will invest $1 billion in the sector up to 2011.

The signing took place during the launch of the National Fishery and Aquaculture Development Plan, converting the Special Secretariat of Aquaculture and Fishery (Seap) into a ministry.

President Lula said the new ministry is going to have a larger structure, more employees and may even have superintendences in different states in order to "properly define fishery".

The president described as "shameful" the fact that Brazil produces only one million tonnes of fish per year, whereas countries with smaller coastlines have larger outputs. One example is Peru, which produces nine million tonnes.

According to the Seap, the ministry is going to have a higher budget and its own personnel.

The new ministry will have at least 400 employees. Currently, the organisation has 200 employees, mostly borrowed or outsourced and a further 200 temporary technicians are to be hired.

The ministry is going to be in charge of managing the entire fishery production chain, which entails dividing, for example, the task of administering fishery (setting the amount per species and the time period during which fishing will be allowed) with the Ministry of Environment.

The minister of Aquaculture and Fisheries, Altemir Gregolin, said the government is going to allocate 1,750 billion reals (US$ 1 billion) for the national plan until 2011, a figure five times higher than the amount invested four years ago.

With the national plan, the aim is to expand fish production by 40 per cent until 2011, from one million tonnes a year to 1.4 million tonnes a year, 25% of which should come from fishing and 75 per cent from fish farms, according to Gregolin.

In order to attain those goals, the government intends to build 20 public fishing terminals, 120 integrated small-scale fishing centres, with structures for ice factories turned to storage to be installed, fish farming at 40 water reservoirs of the Federal government, and lines of credit totalling 1.5 billion reals (US$ 953 million) for modernising fishing vessels.

The plan also forecasts measures to foster fish consumption among Brazilians, such as providing training for school cooks to encourage children to eat more fishery products. The government wants to increase annual consumption from the current seven kilograms per person to nine kilograms.

"We want to turn fish into the chicken of the waters of our Brazil, in terms of profitability," said the minister.