Q&A with incoming WorldFish Director General

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The incoming Director General of WorldFish, Dr Nigel Preston answered some questions prior to starting his role in December 2015.

Why is fish so important?

By 2050, animal protein consumption will rise by nearly 73% globally. Land resources are already under severe pressure and terrestrial animal protein production simply cannot meet demand. Fish, including sustainably farmed fish, offer the best potential to meet this demand.

Farmed fish have the best feed-conversion rate of any animal. Furthermore, fish is one of the few animal source foods with demonstrated human health benefits. Many of the world’s poorest communities have traditionally depended on fisheries as their principal source of protein and income.

The dual impacts of overfishing and rising population have generated an urgent need to find alternative sources of food and income to prevent the escalation of poverty in these fish- reliant communities. Aquaculture provides an alternative source of food and income will relieve pressure on wild capture fisheries and increase the chances of achieving more effective fisheries management.

Where will WorldFish make unique contributions to increasing fish production?

WorldFish has a major role to play in contributing to and demonstrating advances in both fisheries management and aquaculture production practices. Multiple research advances in the aquaculture sector over the past two decades, including domestication and selective breeding, detecting and preventing disease, and developing sustainable feeds, have enabled enterprises to achieve an effective balance between the economic and social benefits of production while conserving the health of adjacent ecosystems.

Of equal importance, is the role that WorldFish provides in advising policy makers on ways to improve governance at multiple scales to increase the equitable and sustainable flow of benefits from aquaculture enterprises. Clear demonstration of the economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainable aquaculture is a powerful incentive for the development of appropriate policies.

In the fisheries sector I am most encouraged by recent advances that have been achieved in community-based coastal resource management, including those supported by WorldFish. The integration of advances in sustainable aquaculture, improving the management of fisheries and advances in strategies and policies that enhance equitable resource distribution have enormous potential to meet the challenge of sustainably enhancing global production of aquatic food.

What are the main challenges facing WorldFish?

The key challenge for WorldFish is to continue to reduce poverty and hunger through improved fisheries and aquaculture for the millions of poor people who depend on fish for food and nutrition security and income. WorldFish must increase its resources and capabilities to help meet the rapidly expanding demand for sustainably produced, nutritious fish. A crucial question is how, where and when WorldFish can best achieve its mission. This will demand increased understanding of key constraints that hinder sustainably increasing fisheries and aquaculture production and innovation to resolve them.

Funding bodies, governments, and communities, are demanding to see tangible, measurable impact from research. WorldFish will need to continue to develop and implement innovations that demonstrably enhance the economic and social benefits of fisheries and aquaculture while conserving adjacent marine ecosystems.

What are the most important partnerships that WorldFish needs to leverage to achieve impact? 

Partnerships are essential in order to bring technologies to scale. All partnerships whether with governmental institutions, universities, the private sector or NGOs bring great value and help us to achieve our goals. Ultimately though, the most important partnerships are with the communities that benefit from the knowledge, technology and policies co-developed in partnership with WorldFish.

Developing long-term direct engagement with, and understanding of, these communities is vital to ensuring that realised impacts are achieved. These partnerships provide the means to understand the highest priority research issues and associated capabilities that are required to address both global and community-specific challenges.

In turn, these end-user partnerships provide key insights to the WorldFish donors and extensive network of partners. Collectively, these partnerships are absolutely vital in enabling WorldFish to achieve its goals.

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