Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Interview – Michael New, OBE

Michael New entered the aquaculture industry in 1969 after extensive experience in the animal feedstuff industry. After research on freshwater prawn culture he worked as an aquaculture consultant (1973-1979 and 1981-1986). Mr New managed an UNDP/FAO project in Thailand (1979-1981) designed to expand freshwater prawn farming.

He was Senior Aquaculturist (1986-1988) in the FAO global Aquaculture Development and Coordination Programme and an FAO Senior Fishery Resources Officer (Aquaculture) in 1991-1992. He was Programme Coordinator of the ASEAN-EEC Aquaculture Development and Coordination Programme, a regional twinning programme based in Bangkok (1988-1991 and 1992-1995). After 1995 I returned to free-lance consultancy.

He has worked in 43 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Mr New has authored nearly 150 technical manuals, scientific papers, book chapters and popular articles on aquaculture and have chaired or been a keynote/plenary speaker at numerous international conferences. He was Steering Committee Chair for World Aquaculture ’99 (Sydney) and AQUA 2000 (Nice) and Programme Chair for World Aquaculture ’05 (Bali).

He was also a member of the Steering and Programme Committees for World Aquaculture ’08 (Busan) and World Aquaculture ’11 (Natal, Brazil). He organised Giant Prawn 1980 (Bangkok) and Giant Prawn 2011 (Kochi) and is currently co-organising Giant Prawn 2017 (Bangkok). He chaired the EAS-WAS conference AQUA 2012 (Prague) and is a member of the Steering Committee for the WAS-EAS conference AQUA 2018 (Montpellier).

In 1999 Queen Elizabeth appointed Mr New as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his services to aquaculture in developing countries. He is a Past-President of WAS and of EAS and an Honorary Life Member of both societies. He is a holder of the WAS Exemplary Service Gold Medal and the Gold Medal Award of the Asian Fisheries Society, and an Honorary Life Member of the China Society of Fisheries. 


Would you tell us a little about your background that led you to found Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) and why, back in 2003?
Having worked for much of my professional life in developing countries I was aware of the gross levels of poverty that existed in many areas of the world. While preparing a keynote address for a WAS conference in Brazil in 2003 I had the idea of creating a voluntary organisation so that those of us who had personally benefitted from careers in aquaculture could transfer some of their knowledge for the benefit of those less fortunate than ourselves. This idea gained approval and at the WAS meeting in Hawaii in 2004 the NGO Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) was formally launched with the purpose of helping to alleviate poverty in developing countries through small scale responsible aquaculture.

How well do you think aquaculture will respond to the challenges of feeding an estimated 9.5 billion people by 2050? Is aquaculture a realistic protein source over more traditional foodstuffs from terrestrial sources?
I have every confidence that global aquaculture will rise to all its challenges. Aquaculture is more efficient than other forms of livestock production and its products are incomparable in terms of human nutrition and health.

Having worked in over 40 countries as an aquaculture consultant, where and why have you witnessed (and/or been part of) the most progressive advances in aquaculture production in recent years?

Asia has a long history of successful aquaculture, driven by an entrepreneurial spirit at every level, from big business to the operators of the smallest farms. I expect this to continue but there are now most encouraging signs of a significant take-up of aquaculture in South Saharan Africa. The upcoming WAS meeting in Cape Town, its first in Africa, is both a recognition of this fact and a great opportunity to showcase our industry. The potential for aquaculture in Africa generally, and in South America, is enormous and the healthy sustainable food that it can produce is much needed. Aquaculture is significant in other areas of the world too but regulatory issues remain a problem in Europe and North America.

With the New Year already underway, please can you tell us more about the publications you are currently working on and/or events and activities you are planning to attend in 2017?

Following two publications in 2016 I have a book chapter currently being published:

• Valenti, W.C. & New, M.B. 2017. Tilapia-freshwater prawn polyculture. pp. 156-185. In: P.W. Perschbacher & R.R. Stickney (eds), Tilapia in intensive co-culture. [Wiley; in press]

• Marques, H.L.A., New, M.B., Boock, M.V., Barros, H.P., Mallasen, M. & Valenti, W.C. 2016. Integrated Freshwater Prawn Farming: State-of-the-Art and Future Potential. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, 24: 264-293.

• Forthomme, C. 2016. Farming in water: the challenges of aquaculture. [A conversation with Michael New] IMPAKTER 13 April 2016. I am intermittently working as a consultant to the European Commission.

I am co-organizing a conference in Bangkok (20-24 March 2017) called GIANT PRAWN 2017 []. I shall be attending the WAS conference in Cape Town in June and the EAS conference in Dubrovnik in October. I am on several WAS committees, including the steering committee for its joint conference with EAS for 2018 (Montpellier).

As founder and patron of AwF between 2003-2015, can you elaborate briefly upon some of its most significant achievements in some of the world’s developing countries?
By the end of 2010, AwF had raised over US$ 180,000 directly from friends, family, colleagues, the aquaculture industry and the public. In addition, AwF had obtained access to nearly US$ 264,000 of other funds, which were used for tsunami relief work in Aceh, Indonesia and in USAID Farmer to Farmer Programmes in conjunction with the University of Arizona. By 2012 AwF had established poverty relief projects in Bangladesh, India, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal and Thailand and conducted minor activities in many other Asian, African and Latin American countries. Two of our most successful projects, while AwF was being led by myself and Nandeesha, were in India and Nepal. Please read my guest column in next month’s edition to hear in more detail about these projects.

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