Highlighted outcomes from the World Seafood Congress in Reykjavík Iceland 2017

Highlighted outcomes from the World Seafood Congress in Reykjavík Iceland 2017

-Based on inputs from Matis experts and chairs of sessions at the World Seafood Congress

Increased international cooperation within the Blue Bioeconomy is key to sustainable use of the world’s aquatic resources for food production and other value creation as well as an improved image of the sector.  Cooperation spanning from worldwide lessons learned in fishery management, monitoring and maintaining ocean health, further opening of international research programs as well as technology and knowledge transfer across borders and sectors was a common theme throughout the Reykjavík World Seafood Congress (WSC).  A new paradigm to support open sharing of ideas and to achieve change particularly, for developing economies is needed to effectively include everyone and to work across: borders, cultures and languages. As sustainable worldwide blue bioeconomy is a common goal and the foundation for positive social, environmental and economic impact from aquatic resources.

The importance of Blue Bioeconomy for increased food production is obvious, given that less than 5% of the world food production originates from aquatic resources and that 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with oceans and freshwater.  These facts underline the potential of marine resources as a key to sustainably feeding our growing population, and offering additional products and services. A Strategy setting and implementation is needed to enhance the Blue bioeconomy, on regional, national and international level. A good example of such a platform is the Nordic Council of Ministers which facilitates a politically relevant, results oriented macro-regional cooperation, building on trust and common values demonstrating significant regional impact.

Sustainable utilisation is key in fishery management and the importance of communication of reliable and holistic facts and figures is high, for instance supported by increasing transparency of reporting by the world’s largest companies.  Seafood sustainability is part of a strategic global food plan that involves a whole of business market driven approval. Further, the importance of transparency in certification systems is important. As certification systems are evolving and increasingly include additional factors such as social issues, it is challenging for consumers to understand the differences across the various systems. Better utilization, post-harvesting is in this context of utmost importance. It is evident form the conference that there are efforts all over the world to reduce waste and improve quality of products.

The potential of Blue Bioeconomy must be made better known to the public by new advanced ways of communication, in the format of understandable, comprehensive narratives explaining the Blue Bioeconomy. We need to consistently contribute to a better understanding of the importance of Blue Growth and of the status and role of the aquatic resources in dealing with global challenges. Panicking news on dying oceans worldwide, irreversible overfishing globally or on dramatic global decrease of aquatic biomass are simply not true and not based on science – not evidence based.

To ensure credibility of the seafood industry it is important to combat food fraud by investment in development and deployment of analytical measures as well as non-analytical methods. Detection of fraud requires an integrated approach involving analytics, controls enforcement and legislation. New challenges in food safety require technological solutions that call for the simultaneous mobilization of research, analytical, risk assessment and risk management resources in a coordinated and information sharing environment. Further collaboration and harmonization across national regional and international organizations is key to make best use of limited risk assessment resources.

Market competitiveness of fisheries and aquaculture sector in coming years will take note of strong needs to adapt and predict to emerging consumers’ trends. New disruptions and challenges are on the horizon that need to be dealt with in close collaboration with stakeholders as vertical cooperation is important for increasing competitiveness of the seafood and marine ingredient industries. E-commerce and social media, open up for important opportunities in selling and promoting seafood with less cost and more impact than before. Consumer behaviour is becoming more sophisticated online and they expect content which is tailored to their unique interests and lifestyles. Reaching the audience on the right platform, at the right time and in the right format is extremely important.  The top three topics of interest online are recipes, healthiness, and quality.

Moving forward a closer cooperation and coordination with other sectors such as agriculture, forestry’s, horticulture etc. is important to face the potential advantages of new technologies like nano, digitalization and upcoming technologies in the circular economy. This will be accompanied by the need not only to use but also to integrate new techniques and technologies for the process of fishing, seafood production and packaging and last but not least for managing their respective side streams on land and sea. This might also offer interesting new feedstock for aquatic bio-refining, even in conjunction with off shore aquacultures. Rules and regulation need to support positive development.

New products and services based on marine resources are being introduced. They include for instance new design of fish containers for better fish quality and less transport cost, Surimi products that recover proteins in the processing stream, fish feed grown on side streams from the wood industry and better handling of catch to minimize discoloration and increasing quality and value.

Technological and social disruptions will change everything in the seafood sector, just as they have in other sectors, such as accommodation, printing, audio sales and more.  Even though traditional fisheries may not be dead, seafood companies will have to adapt, even radically, to ensure success in their future business.

A dedicated session for the important work done by women in the seafood industry was held at the Congress and more women were engaged in the WSC than ever before. The organizing committee for the congress made a commitment to gender equality in terms of attendance as well as in the speaker line-up. Of the 139 speakers, 50 were women – a much higher percentage than in prior seafood related events.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs, discussed the importance of SDG14 from an Icelandic perspective in a breakout session, The Sustainable Development Goal 14 to: „Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,“ is, along with its targets, an integral part of the most comprehensive effort that the global community has launched in order to safeguard the future of humankind, the Agenda 2030. The oceans have a fundamental function for the food security of millions of people, not least in the developing world. Without clean, healthy and productive oceans, Agenda 2030 will be impossible to attain.