Underlining the importance of political commitment to improve fisheries and quicken aqua-culture development in the region, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa suggested the creation of a Common Global Fund for responsible aqua-culture.

“I think the way forward would be to establish a Common Regional Fund that will in the future become a Common Global Fund for responsible aqua-culture. If you think this is an idea worth looking at, I believe that in this gathering there is plenty of experience to develop the mechanism for such a fund,” said Mr. Rajapaksa, who once was the Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister. He was delivering the keynote address at the Asian Regional Ministerial Meeting on Aquaculture for Food Security, Nutrition and Economic Development on Thursday. The meet was organised by the FAO.

Pointing out that there were many issues of international politics and governance that affect aqua-culture and fisheries, such as compliance with various international trading standards, he said that the region “must address this situation politically” like it has done with other agriculture-related issues.

Mr. Rajapaksa said that the best results are obtained when farmers, especially, the small holders, are empowered technologically and politically. “It is when they have both the means and the voice. With greater awareness and empowerment, higher standards and good farming practice, they will not be driven out of business,” he said,

He said that an expanded regional initiative can only be sustained by having both political leadership and adequate resources. “That we are not lacking in political commitment will be seen when we adopt the ‘Colombo Declaration’ tomorrow [on Friday]. It is a political commitment to ‘Regional Cooperation in Aqua-culture Development for Food Security, Nutrition and Economic Development in Asia’,” he said.

More than 250 delegates from the region, including India are attending the deliberations.