Vale Professor Sena De Silva

Prof. Sena De Silva presenting at the Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010.
Prof. Sena De Silva presenting at the Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010.

It was with great sadness that we learned that our dear friend Professor Sena De Silva passed away on 6 May, 2020. On behalf of the Governing Council, the Chair Dr Yingjie Liu, and the NACA Secretariat, would like to express our sincere condolences to his family. The aquaculture community, and the region, has lost one of its true champions.

Prof. De Silva was a brilliant scientist working across multiple disciplines including nutrition, limnology, inland fisheries, fish breeding, biodiversity and environmental issues. He was a renowned teacher and mentor; he loved teaching and had a genuine interest in capacity building. His students may be found in nearly every country throughout the region. Many now occupy high-level roles in government, industry, academia, and international organisations. Many may also be found in rural villages, working their farms.

Prof. De Silva’s association with NACA dates back to the beginnings of the organisation itself. He represented the International Development Research Centre at a meeting in 1989, where the Provisional Governing Council adopted the NACA Agreement and decided to make it an inter-governmental organisation. From that time on, Prof. De Silva frequently worked in conjunction with NACA, developing and deploying projects in collaboration with scientists across the region. These included regional initiatives on aquaculture education, managing conflicts between capture fisheries and aquaculture in reservoirs, limnology and fisheries studies, broodstock management of mahseer, tsunami relief work and many others. He also worked with NACA staff in the development of projects on biodiversity and conservation, the use of GIS as a tool in inland fisheries management, the fisheries and conservation of Philippine lakes, provided input into NACA’s Governing Council and later served as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee.

He was a member of the Advisory Committee of the FAO/NACA Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, held in Bangkok in 2000, where he prepared the Global Synthesis, which was one of the main working papers. He was later appointed a member of the NACA Task Force 2000, whose recommendations were instrumental in the development of the 3rd Five Year Work Programme; he would again serve as a NACA Task Force member in 2015.

In 2006 Prof. De Silva was elected as Director General of NACA and served for five highly successful years, playing a key role in project development in areas including culture-based fisheries, the development of better management practices for Vietnamese catfish, management of reservoir fisheries, the use of remote sensing for inland fisheries management, reducing the dependence on trash fish in feeds for marine fish, and climate change. His term culminated in the highly successful FAO/NACA Global Conference in Aquaculture 2010, held in Phuket, Thailand, where he presented the regional synthesis paper on Aquaculture Development in the Asia-Pacific.

During his term NACA was selected to win the 2010-2011 Margarita Lizárraga Medal, conferred by FAO, with recognition of its significant contribution to sustainable aquaculture development in the Asia and Pacific Region, serving as a cohesive intergovernmental forum for the formulation of regional policies as well as cooperation and coordination in aquaculture research, development and training.

Prof. De Silva took a personal interest in improving the lot of the region’s small-scale farmers and was at his happiest working on field projects, seeing the positive changes in the communities. He was also a powerful advocate for the interests of small-scale farmers at international meetings and fora; if he felt that the interests of small-scale farmers were being trampled, look out! He was never afraid to be the lone voice of dissent or to criticise injustices in the status quo.

After completing his term as Director General, Prof. De Silva returned to Deakin University, Australia, where he continued his research and collaboration on aquaculture development projects with NACA until this day. His most recent project with the network was to write the Asia-Pacific regional synthesis paper for the now postponed FAO/NACA Global Conference on Aquaculture 2020, which he was to present in Shanghai, China.

We, the staff of the NACA Secretariat, will miss Sena. He was not just a colleague, teacher and mentor, he was also our friend.