Day 1 - Global Fishery Forum, St Petersburg, Russia

It's the first time this event has been held, a combined trade show and conference in the beautiful city of St Petersburg. Although fishery conferences have been held in Russia for many years, they have been in Vladivostok, closer to the main fishing grounds of the Bering Straits and the Sea of Okhotsk but a long way from the western markets Russian seafood suppliers are now courting.

The official opening was a line up of local and national politicians, joined by guest fishery ministers from other countries and with a welcome speech from the Deputy MInister of Agriculture. There had been a mention that the Deptuty Prime Minister might be attending but the "To Be Confirmed" on the program did not become "Confirmed", although there was no doubt about the political support available to the industry.

Russia is an country with major fisheries but where IFFO has few members and little profile so this event was a great opportunity to raise awareness of the demand for marine ingredients and the role of IFFO in promoting the global industry. I was originally invited to make a presentatation which was then split into two shorter pieces to fit into separate panel sessions, one on globalisation and market trends, the other on certification but before the panels came the opening plenary that I had been asked to moderate. This involved chairing a discussion between the invited politicians, and representatives of industry from China and Japan. The organisers had decided that each speaker would only have seven minutes - giving me the far from easy task to diplomatically and politely interrupt ministers in full flow and remind them when time was up. 

The best attended session of the afternoon was about the future of Aquaculture in Russia - all seats filled and many standing at the back. Surprising when nominally the conference was aimed at capture fisheries but demonstrating the huge interest in aquaculture. Although Russia is the 5th biggest fishing nation, it is only the 12th biggest in fish farming so a lot of potential to exploit - 500,000 tonnes a year according to one speaker. The Murmansk region, close to Norway, has already established itself as an aquaculture centre and has imported much of the knowledge from Norway, including considering some of the latest offshore and recirculation systems.

The last session of the day was the Globalisation Panel, including my overview of the opportunities in fishmeal and fish oil.  

At the end of Day 1, my first impression is an industry that wants to work with other countries, has plans for investment and government support - both in capture fisheries and aquaculture.