It has been a few weeks since the 7th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW) concluded in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Where does the time go!
Now that we have had some time to reflect on the Workshop and our time together in Halifax, the IMCS Network first wanted to thank all our participants, speakers, and sponsors. We are grateful to those involved and it was great to finally meet face-to-face after four years. We have had some really positive feedback and we are thrilled that the Workshop was of value to so many that attended.
The Workshop was opened with a traditional blessing by Elder Charlotte Bernard of the Mi'kmaw First Nation. For many of us, her words still resonate and give us pause on how we can all, as a community, drive change to protect our world’s oceans.
"Water is life. I was taught to think seven generations ahead. That is why the work you are doing here is so important".
Elder Charlotte Bernard, Mi'kmaw First Nation
In the opening session, we were welcomed to Canada by Heather McCready, Director General of Conservation and Protection at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Heather provided us all with a timely reminder to remain present during the Workshop and some much-needed pointers on how to network with each other, noting that for many of us, time spent in virtual meetings in our pajamas may have made us a bit rusty!
“After several years of being apart, it was a joy to be with so many people from all over the world, with the shared commitment of protecting the world’s oceans from IUU fishing. It was wonderful to see so many women at the Workshop, at a higher percentage than I’ve ever seen at an international fisheries compliance and enforcement event. While there is still more to do, I applaud the IMCS Network for their efforts to support diverse participation and female leaders and I’m excited to see what’s next".
Heather McCready, Canada
Over the five days, we welcomed 150 participants from 49 countries to the Workshop. We were thrilled to have such broad representation of our community from all over the world. Thanks to funding from Australia, Canada, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Global Fishing Watch, Skylight-AI2, TM-Tracking and the United States, the Network was able to secure support for 25 individuals from more than 10 of our developing country members. This type of support is essential if we are to ensure that events like the Workshop are accessible to those that work at the forefront of fisheries MCS, compliance and enforcement.
“It was great to see such strong representation from developing country members of the Network and to hear about the work in other regions of the world. I particularly appreciated the knowledge sharing and training focus of the Workshop and the opportunity to meet with so many counterparts from around the world. I am grateful for the support to attend the Workshop which otherwise would not have been possible. It was such a valuable experience for my work and professional growth and the support is very much appreciated".
Justino Helgen, the Federated States of Micronesia
"Alongside the academic benefits of the Workshop, I found the networking platform within the GFETW itself to hold the greatest value. As an early career professional, I had never experienced what it was like to be engaged in such a community of like-minded, experienced, impactful, and dedicated MCS practitioners. Beyond the exchange of business cards, the unparalleled knowledge, insights, and lasting connections I gained from my time in Canada are immeasurable. I'll carry all these things with me on my professional journey to grow in this exciting space."
Claire Van Werven, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
The theme of the Workshop was Moving from Words to Action – Innovative Collaborative Partnerships to Combat IUU Fishing. We developed this theme in recognition of the urgent need for the global community to take meaningful, robust and sustainable action to protect the world’s oceans. The Network developed an agenda around several sub-themes including international and regional cooperation and partnerships, risk assessment and data analysis, MCS for coastal and community fisheries, technology, transparency and transshipment. We heard from many of our members, observers and partners as they shared their experiences and challenges and provided insights on how their experiences may be relevant to others. The presentations provided valuable insights into emerging issues and innovative responses from across the globe. Each sub-theme was followed by a panel discussion that provided the opportunity for participants to directly engage with presenters and each other. The technology panels were of particular interest and highlighted the need for collective efforts to ensure that technology can be easily accessed, and effectively understood and applied by those working at the forefront of MCS.
"One of the key takeaways from the technology session was the increased need for greater collaboration and cooperation across borders, meaning that technology, in isolation is not enough if the information it collects is siloed within institutions and not shared, sometimes even across agencies within the same government! It is time to start thinking about how we can break down some of those legal and procedural walls to ensure that technology is better able to provide effective solutions to address transboundary problems like IUU fishing. There is also a clear need for capacity building and literacy around emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, so that practitioners approach technologies with a clear understanding of what those technologies can and can't do."
Bubba Cook, World Wildlife Fund
We are about our people, those that work at the forefront of fisheries MCS, compliance and enforcement and those that contribute to this work at the national, regional and international level. The 7th GFETW showcased the diversity of our community and we are committed to ensuring that the principles of diversity and inclusion are demonstrated in our work. In this, we all need to work together to support each other and raise each other up. In his concluding remarks, the Chair of the Network, Gary Orr, reiterated the unwritten and maybe the real theme of the Workshop, that we are about our people and that we are stronger together. Gary recalled Elder Charlotte’s comments that a single blade of sweet grass is weak and easily broken but when many blades are braided together, they become unbreakable.
The Network wants to thank all that attended the 7th GFETW and our broader community. We are thrilled to hear that as an organization we are having an impact, adding value and delivering results. The Workshop provided an opportunity for us to better understand the needs and priorities of our members and the ways and which we can support them. We also expect further growth of the Network following the Workshop and will welcome several new members in the coming months. We look forward to the 8th GFETW in 2026 and again bringing together those that work at the forefront of fisheries MCS, compliance and enforcement to discuss the key challenges we face and the opportunities and approaches available to address these challenges.
“It was an amazing experience to attend the Workshop on the fight against IUU fishing and I managed to meet several other key agencies and experts across the globe! I enjoyed my stay in Halifax and learning about the culture and people! It was an unforgettable experience and I am already looking forward to the next Workshop in 2026!”
Felix Toa Ngwango, the Republic of Vanuatu
In the coming weeks, the Network will develop a 7th GFETW resources page on our website. Keep an eye on the IMCS Network website for this and other developments.