Fish trade within the Near East and North Africa region continues to be negligible due to numerous factors including commercial and administrative constraints. There are, however, several facts that could promote expansion in the regional seafood market: the population growth in the region, higher per capita income and living standards supporting demand for quality fish products, and increased awareness of fish as a healthy food. In addition, the tourist industry is a significant component of the fish market in some of the countries of the region (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and UAE).

Unlike the relative stagnation of regional trade, international trading particularly with the lucrative markets in the EC shows a positive trend. Furthermore, globalization and interregional trade are at the origin of the recent expansion of some relatively new fisheries in the region that are not relevant for the domestic market and are almost exclusively export-orientated.

The practice of illegal fishing undermines food supply chains, deprives fishing communities of sustainable livelihoods, and steals a vital source of income from developing nations. FAO’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI) at its last Session (Rome, 2-6 March 2009) reaffirmed that Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing remained one of the principal threats to sustainable fisheries and emphasized the value of cooperative efforts in addressing it. IUU fishing was also debated during the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) at its 3rd Meeting (Doha, 20-22 October 2009).

In addition, the European Community Council Regulation No 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 established a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The regulation took effect on January 1, 2010 and will be a main tool to establish a certification scheme covering all imports of fishery products into the EC. The regulation’s aim is to halt the import of IUU fishery products. Some RNE Members have expressed concern about the introduction of regulation No 1005/2008 noting that, like the HACCP controls introduced by the EC in 1990s, exports of fish from their countries could be interrupted.

The proposed seminar would be a key-element to address the aforementioned concerns and issues, and create the opportunity to discuss topics related to the economic consequences of certification, how different standards and methods of certification may influence the market for fish and fish products, and how different actors/stakeholders in this field interact. Furthermore, the seminar will discuss how the national fishing sectors (industrial and small-scale fisheries) can adapt to the increasing pressures for applying an increasing number of standards, to understand stakeholder expectations with respect to the role of the public authorities in the field of standards and the role and place of standards in the market for fish and fish products.