Over the years, the World Aquaculture Society (WAS) has expanded efforts to reach its mandate to be a truly global professional society and exchange knowledge with the global aquaculture community. Very good efforts have been made in Asia and Latin America through our Asia Pacific (APC), Korea, and Latin America and Caribbean (LACC) chapters and we are seeing the benefits through our annual meetings. At the July APA conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2834 participants represented 46 countries giving 325 oral and 119 poster presentations. I look forward to seeing how many countries are represented in the LACQUA 17 conference to be held in beautiful Mazatlán, Mexico, November 8-10, 2017, and I encourage all our members and supporters to attend.

This year, WAS held its first conference on the African continent in Cape Town, South Africa, from 26-30 June, to demonstrate its support of African aquaculture and to highlight its potential to contribute to food security and the commercial sector. These efforts began several years ago but officially with the first steering committee meeting held in Cape Town in October 2014. I was honored to be on that steering committee and to see one of my personal dreams come true. The conference was co-organized by WAS with the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa (AASA) and the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

The conference theme, Sustainable Aquaculture – New Frontiers for Economic Growth – Spotlight on Africa, highlighted the potential of aquaculture production to support economic development and investment opportunities in Africa - the world’s second fastest growing regional economy. Although not the biggest WAS conference, 87 countries were represented by 1981 participants, of which 1297 were Africans.

The success of the conference would not have been possible without the financial support of many sponsors and the support from African governments, development institutions and the commercial sector. These included the South African DAFF, the African Union’s Inter-African Union for Animal Resources and NEPAD, and the WorldFish Centre. The industry Gold Sponsor was the Aller-Aqua group from Denmark, which has been making investments in feed manufacturing and distribution in Egypt, Nigeria and Zambia. WA17 had even had the honor of having AU Chairman H.E. Mr. Alpha Condé - President of the Republic of Guinea, who is the African fisheries/aquaculture champion, agree to speak at the opening ceremony. Unfortunately, he had to cancel at the last minute but sent the Guinea Ambassador to South Africa to speak on his behalf.

Clearly the message was received that Africa is important to WAS and WAS is committed to seeing the development of an African chapter in the very near future. This was emphasized during a private meeting with Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), where we discussed the formation of an African chapter and how WAS could work with NEPAD to address aquaculture development and information sharing. NEPAD and DAFF have both committed to the development of the African chapter.

During WA17, a special ‘launch of the formation of an African Chapter’ event was held with over 300 participants all in agreement that a WAS African Chapter was needed and the time was now. Two additional hearing sessions were held during the conference and were well attended. A clear desire to move the chapter formation forward was stated. To facilitate the development of an African chapter, I have formed an WAS ad-hoc committee led by Dr. Kevan Main, WAS Past-President, to work with the African Chapter formation committee, which has continental representation, to lay out the goals and objectives of an African chapter as well as its structure, representation and bylaws. These will be then be presented to the WAS Board for review and consideration to join the WAS family as an African Chapter. It is time to build on the momentum gained at WA17 and move forward with the formation of an African Chapter of WAS.

While formation of an African chapter is one of my goals for this year of my presidency, the overarching goals of the current and past boards are to improve services to its members and to expand members around the globe. I want to see greater engagement by members through service on committee, involvement in conference organization and development of sessions, and VOTING. Every member of WAS has the right to vote. That includes students! Students just get a discounted membership price but the same rights and privileges.

Soon, you will receive a call for nominations for WAS officers and the director positions. Please contribute to WAS with your nominations and then with your votes. I also encourage you to get involved at the chapter level and to consider running for office or volunteering to help with conferences. Together, we can grow WAS and enhance its services! I also encourage you to recruit two new members to WAS. If you have any ideas or comments on how to make WAS better, please send them directly to me at daniewh@auburn.edu or share with another WAS or Chapter Board member.

I hope to meet you at an upcoming WAS conference soon, if not in Mexico, then in Las Vegas at the Aquaculture America conference, February 19-22, 2018. And don’t forget to plan ahead to attend our joint WAS-EAS conference to be held in Montpellier, France, August 25-29, 2018. In New Orleans during Aquaculture 2019, WAS will begin its 50th Anniversary – so young but still growing! — Bill Daniels, President