FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI) opened its 9-13 June session to address a range of issues related to the long-term well-being of marine and inland fisheries and aquaculture and to discuss potential action by governments, regional fishery bodies, NGOs, fish workers and other actors in the international community.
Saying that fisheries and aquaculture make a "central contribution to food security and nutrition," Graziano da Silva added that sustainable development in the world's island and coastal states was especially dependent on the "vitality of oceans and fish stocks."
"Overfishing, pollution and climate change are putting this vitality at risk. The impacts are already evident. And the world's poor, in rural and coastal areas, are among the most affected," said Graziano da Silva.
"I want to stress the urgency of individual and collective action to address climate change, one of the most pressing challenges the world faces today," he said, adding that FAO was making it a priority in its work to improve sustainable development through its Blue Growth Initiative.
The Director-General pointed out that fisheries and aquaculture were the sources of 17 per cent of the animal protein consumed in the world and up to 50 per cent in some Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Asian countries. They were also central to the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable families in the world.
"The livelihoods of 12 percent of the world's population depend on this sector. In particular, small-scale fisheries are the source of employment for more than 90 per cent of the world's capture fishers and fish workers, about half of whom are women," he said.
"At the same time that small-scale fishers supply most of the fish consumed in the developing world, many of their families are food-insecure themselves. This is a paradox that we are working together to overcome," he said, stressing that small-scale fishers were an integral part of efforts to improve sustainability and food security.
The Director-General joined Johan Williams, Chairperson of COFI's 31st Session, in welcoming ministers in charge of fisheries or agriculture and rural development from Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, the Republic of Guinea, Indonesia, Mali and Sri Lanka. Participants also included vice-ministers, deputy ministers and state ministers from Azerbaijan, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Maldives, Namibia, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Among other issues, participants were to consider endorsement of two key sets of voluntary guidelines designed to improve sustainability and responsible fisheries conduct, respectively: the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries and the Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance.