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The Birth of the Global Aquaculture Association (1997)

 

On Friday, February 21, 1997, at the World Aquaculture Society Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA, fifty-six people from twelve countries got together and laid the groundwork the Global Aquaculture Alliance.  The Alliance will represent aquaculture in the international arena—on issues of trade, public relations and the environment.  It will promote aquaculture products and encourage sustainable, environmentally friendly fish and shellfish farming.

 

Most of the participants at the first meeting were from the shrimp industry—farmers, processors, marketers and retailers.  They represented the largest and oldest shrimp farms in Latin America and the biggest shrimp marketing companies in the United States, like Long John Silver's Restaurants, Rich-SeaPak and Red Lobster.  Representatives from the trout and salmon industries attended the meeting and a few international aquaculture associations sent representatives.  Attendees from Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, India and Thailand expressed a strong commitment to the Alliance.  Everyone agreed that all species groups and all aquaculturists should be represented by the new association.

 

The Alliance will accommodate a wide range of individuals and businesses.  It will make a special effort to include service providers, equipment suppliers, feed companies, marketers, processors and retailers.  Its mission will be to foster the production of high quality aquaculture products in environmentally sustainable systems and to represent the aquaculture industries in the international arena.  The Alliance will network with all segments of the industry (scientific, environmental, political and regulatory), it will keep its members informed on the latest news, and it will work to educate the public on the benefits of aquaculture.

 

Background

 

The idea for the new association can be traced to George Lockwood, who, in 1981, as president of then World “Mariculture” Society, instituted changes that moved the Society in the direction of a trade association.  The Society’s next administration, however, reversed the changes and the idea lay dormant until 1991, when Andy Davlin, publisher of The Davlin Report, a newsletter on the financial aspects of aquaculture, urged the Society to transform itself into an industry-oriented association.  There was a brief round of debate on the idea, but nothing happened.  Five years later, in January 1996, at the Society’s 1996 meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, Meryl Broussard, aquaculture specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture and immediate past-president of the Society, suggested an independent trade association.  George Chamberlain, director of aquaculture at Ralston Purina International and also a past-president of the Society, liked the idea and decided to do something about it.

 

The First Meeting

 

Chamberlain organized the first meeting and later was nominated acting chairman of the Alliance.

 

In literature distributed at the meeting, Chamberlain said: “Let me cite two examples that require urgent attention.  First, the salmon industry faces challenges due to genetic contamination of wild stocks, pollution and the use of chemicals.  Many other sustainability issues are likely to follow, including effluents, excessive use of groundwater and genetic manipulation.  We can expect the pressure for regulations and legislation to continue.”

 

“Second, viruses have caused widespread mortality on shrimp farms in Asia.  The same viruses have recently been discovered in the United States.  They represent a very serious threat to shrimp farming in the Western Hemisphere.  Only a coordinated response by the entire industry can hope to limit the spread of these viruses throughout the main production areas in Latin America.”

 

“In many cases, national aquaculture associations are attempting to solve these problems alone.  There is a need for an international association to support the work of the national associations....  The proposed international association could also represent other major aquaculture stakeholders like importers, processors, retailers and restaurants.”

 

After Chamberlain’s opening remarks, the four other people who helped organize the meeting made brief comments:

 

Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi, then Director General of Fisheries for Thailand, emphasized the importance of acting now.  He said aquaculture was in its infancy and needed time to adjust to its new found successes and failures.  Dr. Plodprasop has faced the environmental community on shrimp fishery issues and strongly supports the Alliance as a way of countering its attacks.

 

Bill Herzig, Director of Shrimp Purchasing, Darden Restaurants (“Red Lobster”), forecast a declining wild catch and expanding markets for aquaculture products.  But, he warned, if aquaculture wants to become the primary provider of fishery products, it must do it in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way.

 

Lee Weddig, then Executive Vice President of the National Fisheries Institute, outlined some of the responsibilities of an international association.  First, he said the association would have to carefully define its mission.  Then, it must be prepared to work with foundations, financial institutions and international agencies like the United Nations, the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

 

Finally, Andy Davlin, publisher of The Davlin Report, a newsletter on the financial aspects of aquaculture inspired the attendees with his vision of the Alliance.  He stressed the point of raising enough money to get the job done right (setting that figure at three to five million dollars).  He also presented some good ideas on fund-raising, like hiring a big name spokesperson for getting financial support from major food companies.  Davlin left early and never knew what a big impact he had on the attendees—who, earlier, heaved a collective sigh of relief when he hinted at funding from outside sources.

 

Next, the 56 attendees introduced themselves.  Overall, they agreed that it was time to form an association to represent aquaculture in the international arena and that one of the first items on the agenda of the new association should be an answer to the attack from the environmental community.  Here are some of their comments:

 

•  The aquaculture industries must establish a positive image of aquaculture
products in the minds of the consumers.

•  The National Fisheries Institute and The Shrimp Council provide good models

for the new Alliance.

•  The board of directors of the World Aquaculture Society unanimously
endorsed the concept of the Alliance.

•  The Alliance will need to work closely with the Society’s working group
on sustainable aquaculture.

•  It will be difficult to raise money from farmers, so the original funding will
mostly come from farmer associations, suppliers, processors, importers,
distributors, retailers and outside sources.

•  Information dissemination will be a major goal of the Alliance.

•  The Alliance should plan for the long haul.

 

Next, a committee of ten people (list below) was selected to do the preliminary organizational work, and representatives from twelve countries were named to coordinate the development of the Alliance in their home countries.

 

In the days following the meeting, a tentative plan began to emerge for a code of environmentally friendly practices and an industry-based seal of approval on aquaculture products.  Fees from this plan could be used to conduct environmental research and to run the association.

 

Organizing Committee

 

Blake, Dixie, Chairman, The Shrimp Council (a working group within the National Fisheries Institute that does public relations work for the shrimp industries), 3585 Corporate Court, San Diego, CA 92123 USA (phone 619-571-5002, fax 619-277-6228).

 

Chamberlain, George (acting chairman of the Alliance), Director of Aquaculture, Ralston Purina International (aquaculture feeds), Checkerboard Square, 11 Tower Building, St. Louis, MO 63164 USA (phone 314-982-2402, fax 314-982-1613, gchamberlain@ralston.com).

 

Davlin, Jr., Andrew (working on funding for the new association), President, The Davlin Corporation (The Davlin Report), P.O. Box 2250, Valley Center, CA 92082 USA (phone 619-749-7600, fax 619-749-7674).

 

Heerin, Jr., James, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Shrimp Culture, Inc. (big shrimp hatchery in the United States and farms and hatcheries in Honduras), 420 South York Road, Hatboro, PA 19040 USA (phone 215-443-3605, fax 215-441-8618).

 

Herzig, Bill (developed the mission statement), Director, Shrimp Purchasing, Darden Restaurants (major shrimp buyer), P.O. Box 593330, Orlando, FL 32859 USA (phone 407-245-5653, fax 407-245-5124).

 

Jacobson, Peder, President, The Deli Group (importer, shrimp farms in Honduras and Ecuador), 1390 South Dixie Highway, Suite 2206, Coral Gables, FL 33146 USA (phone 305-669-0108, fax 305-663-0312).

 

Monroe, Dick, Vice President, Public Relations, Darden Restaurants (major shrimp buyer), 5900 Lake Ellenor Drive, Orlando, FL 32809 USA (phone 407-245-5272, fax 407-245-5135).

 

Rosenblum, Mark, General Manager, Maritech, S.A. de C.V. (shrimp hatcheries and farm in Mexico), Domicilio Conocido, El Golfo de Santa Clara, Sonora, México (phone 520-726-9232, fax 520-317-2877, phone and fax in USA).

 

Suraswadi, Plodprasop, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Bangkok, Thailand.

 

Weddig, Lee, acting secretary/executive director, Global Aquaculture Alliance, 1901 North Ft. Myer Drive, Suite 700, Arlington, VA 22209 USA (phone 703-524-8880, fax 703-524-4619).

 

The Second Meeting

 

The organizing committee met in late March 1997 and laid the groundwork for a second meeting to be held in conjunction with the Fourth Symposium on Aquaculture in Central America (Tegucigalpa, Honduras, April 1997).  In Honduras, the organizing committee presented the bylaws, a preliminary budget and a request for Founding Members.  Twenty people, all of them from the shrimp industry, stepped forward and donated $10,000 to get the Alliance rolling.

 

Wedded to Weddig

 

After the Honduras meeting, Chamberlain forged an agreement with Lee Weddig and the National Fisheries Institute (NFI).  Weddig agreed to serve as Alliance’s acting secretary/executive director until full-time management and permanent offices were brought on board; and, for the remainder of 1997, NFI will provide office space for the Alliance.

 

In an Alliance news release dated May 30, 1997, Weddig said: “NFI is pleased to assist in the formation of the Alliance.  With most ocean fisheries producing at close to their sustainable limits, aquaculture is our only hope for meeting the growing demand for seafood.  Currently, aquaculture provides about 25 percent of the world's seafood, a figure that could easily jump to 50 percent in two decades.  Doubling production will require sophisticated technology—technology that must reduce aquaculture’s impact on the environment.  The Global Aquaculture Alliance will be a powerful force in achieving this goal.”

 

Information Packet

 

In June 1997, The Alliance released an attractive information packet which contained a special invitation for Founding Members.  It also contained:

 

• The mission statement and bylaws

• A background article on the history and purpose of GAA

• A list of companies that pledged to become Founding Members

• A description of NGO activities that threaten the future of aquaculture

• A budget for the first year

 

Preliminary Budget for the First Year

 

A budget of $500,000 has been set for the first year:

 

• Founding Activities (incorporation, seal, trademark) $40,000

• Code of Practices (consultants, legal fees) $50,000

• Communications and Education (news and information) $130,000

• Fund-raising (travel, brochures, communications) $30,000

• Management (staff, office, travel) $250,000

 

Founding Members

 

The Alliance is raising funds for its first year of operations through a one-time category of membership called Founding Member.  The fee is $10,000.  Benefits include:

 

• Lifetime use of the title Founding Member of the Global Aquaculture Alliance

• Setting policy during first year

• Listed on the GAA letterhead for the first year

• Names listed on all GAA publications for the first year

• A plaque

 

George Chamberlain

 

On October 1, 1997, Chamberlain reported:

 

“Our biggest challenge?  Spreading the word about the Alliance!  We encourage support from aquaculturists worldwide.  The aquaculture press has been informed and we have given presentations at the Venezuelan Aquaculture Conference (July 1997), the San Francisco Seafood Show (September 1997) and the NFI Shrimp Council Meeting (September 1997).  We plan to participate in the Ecuadorian Aquaculture Conference (October 1997), the NFI annual conference (October 1997) and the Beijing Aquaculture meeting (November 1997).  Virtually all of the developmental activities of the Alliance have been accomplished at no expense due to the generosity of the Organizing Committee and other industry volunteers.”

 

“Now, substantial funding will be needed to fulfill the mission of the Alliance.  To meet the proposed first year budget of $500,000, the Alliance hopes to recruit at least 50 Founding Members for a contribution of $10,000 each.  As of October 1, we have received contributions from 20 companies and associations.  We would like to express our sincere gratitude to them for their strong support of the Alliance and their commitment to sustainable development of the global aquaculture industry:”

 

Bluepoints Co., Inc., USA

Continental Grain, USA

Darden Restaurants, USA

Deli Group, Ecuador

Deli Shrimp Group, Honduras

Diamasa, Ecuador

El Rosario, S.A., Ecuador

Grupo Granjas Marinas, Honduras

King and Prince Seafood, USA

Maritech, S.A. de C.V., Mexico

Ocean Garden Products, Mexico

National Food Institute, Thailand

Promarisco, S.A., Ecuador

Productora Semillal, S.A., Nicaragua

Ralston Purina International, USA

Rich Sea Pak Corporation, USA

Sahlman Seafoods, Nicaragua

Shrimp News International, USA

Sociedad Nacional de Galapagos, S.A., Ecuador

Zeigler Brothers, Inc., USA

 

“The first annual meeting of the Alliance is planned for Monday, February 16, 1998, from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m., in conjunction with the World Aquaculture Conference [see page ??] in Las Vegas.  All interested aquaculturists are invited to attend the first portion of the meeting.  Afterwards, the Founding Members will elect from among themselves the first Board of Directors and Officers of the Alliance.  The new Board will then take over responsibility for several initiatives which are already underway.”

 

“In July, Drs. Michael Phillips of the Network of Aquaculture Centers of Asia and Claude Boyd of Auburn University were commissioned by the Alliance to develop a Code of Practice for Mangrove Protection.  They identified a group of worldwide mangrove experts and convened a week long meeting in Bangkok in mid-September to draft a report.”

 

“Dick Monroe has undertaken an effort sponsored by Darden Restaurants, the Shrimp Council and the Alliance to collect video footage on environmental and social aspects of shrimp farming.  During the last two months, Dick and a talented video crew have visited farms in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador.  They learned that mangrove protection and reforestation are an integral aspect of many farms and that workers and local citizens have benefited greatly from the often overlooked positive aspects of shrimp aquaculture.  Dick’s plan is to complete his video excursion with a tour of farms in Asia and then prepare a series of video programs about the benefits of shrimp aquaculture.”

 

“The Global Aquaculture Alliance has been in communication with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations to request their input on formulation of our Code of Practices.  As a result, representatives of the Alliance will be invited to participate in an important FAO meeting in Bangkok in mid-December to develop recommendations for regulations concerning shrimp aquaculture.  The Alliance will provide facts to counter the charges of environmental groups who also will be invited.”

 

“The Alliance has scarcely been in existence for 6 months, yet it already is fulfilling the critical role of guiding the industry toward sustainable development and protecting it from misinformation.  This effort is being carried out by a few dozen volunteers who have contributed their time and funds to help the infant organization grow.  To build on this strong start will require the broad support of the aquaculture and seafood industries.  Please help ensure the sustainable development of the industry by actively supporting the Global Aquaculture Alliance.”

 

Source: Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, November 3, 1997.

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