Guest post by Dr Geraldine Matolla, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Eldoret, Kenya
When I found out that the World Aquaculture conference was going to be held in Africa for the first time, I promised myself I would do everything I possibly could to attend this historic event. I had attended the 2012 World Aquaculture conference in Prague, and I did not want to miss the opportunity to attend the 2017 conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
I was awarded a travel grant from AuthorAID to attend this conference, for which I am incredibly grateful. It was held on 26-30 July 2017, and it attracted over 3,000 participants from over 100 countries.
The theme of World Aquaculture conference 2017 was ‘Sustainable Aquaculture – New Frontiers for Economic Growth – Spotlight on Africa’, and over the course of the four days, there were many fascinating presentations that addressed this vast continent’s aquaculture sector. For me, the most poignant issues discussed were the financing of aquaculture, fish diseases, aquatic animal health management and the African chapter session.
Randall Brummett of the World Bank led the session on the financing of aquaculture in Africa, in which he raised concerns about the financial constraints hampering the African aquaculture sector. It was useful and interesting to discuss possible interventions to the problem, including the use of aquaculture cluster models, increased cash flow management, investment on aquaculture value chains and the development of infrastructure.
The sessions on fish diseases and fish health management were rich and insightful. Aquaculture biosecurity issues have received a lot of attention from the African aquaculture regional networks of the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), and the talks strongly emphasized the need for better biosecurity policy in aquaculture. I particularly enjoyed the AU-IBAR’s special presentations on strategies for promoting sustainable aquaculture development in Africa and environmental issues in African aquaculture.
One of the key highlights of the conference for me was the launch of the World Aquaculture Society African chapter. With a working committee now in place, it is expected that Africa will soon develop its own chapter board structure and secretariat. These mechanisms will lead to the recruitment of new members and activities – and I am keen to attend the 2018 African chapter meeting.
I also benefited profoundly from a post-conference training workshop on aquaculture biosecurity, organized by World Aquatic Animal Veterinary medicine association at the same venue as the conference. This two-day training workshop enhanced my understanding of the identification of health hazards in aquaculture through biosecurity assessments.
I am very grateful to INASP for awarding me an AuthorAID travel grant to attend the World Aquaculture 2017 conference. The conference has opened up a whole new world of opportunities to me, in the form of new knowledge, new contacts and new networks in my field. The knowledge I have gained will enrich my teaching and provide a foundation for innovative research ideas – and the contacts I have developed could lead to exciting possibilities for research partnerships and collaborations.