I write this column after visiting the historic Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, where we just finished Aquaculture America 2017. This meeting was organized by the United States Aquaculture Society (the US Chapter of WAS) in association with the National Aquaculture Association (NAA) and the Aquaculture Suppliers Association (ASA). Although for various reasons these are difficult times for foreigners to travel to the US, I was satisfied with the turnout (almost 2,000 attendees) and the great diversity of individuals from more than 50 countries and many different cultures that gathered in San Antonio. I was pleased to see that our meeting highlights the world-wide benefits of integrating a diverse group of people working toward common and worthy global goals: the security of food production and the sustainability of protein supply from aquatic resources.

As you may be aware, as aquaculture producers we face a daunting challenge during the next couple of decades. With the current rate of population increase, changes in consumer preferences toward healthier foods, and increasing purchasing power, we will need at least 70 percent more protein for human consumption by 2050. Currently human protein production is highly dependent on marine fisheries, but only 10 percent of natural fish populations are not overfished. This is not sustainable in any form or manner if we are to meet the increasing demand for fish protein.

As the most efficient means of producing protein for human consumption, aquaculture has to make sure that we meet future demands in a sustainable manner. This will largely depend on continued development of best practices guidelines and regulations to improve environmental and economic sustainability through increased efficiency and productivity. I believe WAS plays an important role in making sure we attain this goal. For an excellent review and collective view of our Society’s perspectives, please see the Editor’s Contribution in the February 2017 issue of the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society (JWAS).

During the USAS Board meeting at Aquaculture America 2017, some interesting ideas were put forth to increase member benefits. We are holding discussions with the regional aquaculture centers, USDA and the NOAA Office of Aquaculture to jointly improve member benefits. Currently, WAS is working with the Aquaculture Training Online Learning group and their Aquaculture Hub to expand exposure worldwide. If successful, there is a strong potential to expand the use of webinars as a means of communication and we could develop a large cache of webinars and instructional videos that could be helpful in teaching the culture of various species and at various levels of the production system. WAS could become a leader in aquaculture education through the use of this highly instructive means of communication with low production costs and the ability to reach very remote areas and developing countries that would greatly benefit those communities.

We are also working hard to revamp our scientific journal. Your membership in WAS comes with the benefit of online access to all journal content, including special virtual issues (published online only), and those articles published as Early View (prior to appearing in hard copy issues). For access, login to the WAS web site, go to Publications and select JWAS.

A new initiative by our journal is the development of Special Virtual Issues that highlight research by authors from specific regions and that are timed to coincide with the annual conferences held by each WAS Chapter. The first such Special Virtual Issue (“Focus on Latin America”) was launched during the LACQUA16 meeting in Lima, Peru, last November, and the second was launched in conjunction with Aquaculture America 2017 (“Highlighting U.S. Aquaculture Research”). Each virtual issue makes selected papers available as open access for a limited period of time. Additional Special Virtual Issues are planned to accompany the Asian-Pacific Aquaculture Conference 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and LACQUA 2017 in Mazatlan, Mexico. Share these Special Virtual Issues with your friends and colleagues (onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1749-7345) and encourage them to join WAS for year-round access.

Lastly, I encourage you to attend the World Aquaculture 2017 Conference, which will be held for the first time in Africa — in Cape Town, South Africa — with the participation of individuals from many countries throughout Africa and around the world. Aquaculture is rapidly growing in Africa and it is increasingly being integrated into the continent’s food systems. Therefore, this year is the perfect time for the global aquaculture community to focus on Africa. A major international trade show at WA 2017 will promote the latest aquaculture technologies presented by exhibitors from around the world. Start preparing for your trip, book your flights and hotels in advance and consider bringing your family and participating in a safari after the meeting. I hope to see you there to share in recent advances in aquaculture and learn more about the developments within our field on this fascinating continent.

— Juan Pablo Lazo, President