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President's Column September 2020

In our last column we announced the postponement of the Latin American and Caribbean Aquaculture 2020 conference (LACQUA20) to the end of March 2021, organized and held jointly with the Ecuadorian Aquaculture Conference (CEA2020). We had hoped that by this time, it would be safe for all speakers, exhibitors and delegates to gather in Guayaquil, albeit with implementations of strict measures to avoid any health issues. However, it is still very difficult to predict what the situation will be in the coming months regarding COVID-19 and if restrictions for travelling and attending conferences will still be in place. Most organizers of international conferences, like the World Aquaculture Society itself, have been forced to reschedule their events for the second half of 2021. Others have decided to go virtual.

Virtual conferences have been a technical possibility for several years now, and while they are sometimes deemed a second-rate alternative to in-person events, the increasing options of conference management software offer the possibility to host academic events fully online. Being able to harness the technology for videoconferencing and online meetings will offer the possibility to maintain services for our members. These options undoubtedly offer benefits, such as reaching researchers, students and experts who do not normally attend our events for lack of funds or previous engagements; improving the sustainability and reducing the environmental footprint of our conferences; offering cost benefits for the delegates as well as the opportunity to access recorded sessions and reviewing the material at your leisure. During the past months, I personally enjoyed going on YouTube and listening to conference recordings on shrimp culture in RAS systems, attending an intensive course on aquatic nutrition, and meeting online with clients to offer personalized solutions. Training and self-education from our desk, being at home or in the office, is already a reality.

The Latin American Chapter is evaluating the possibility of hosting an online meeting next March, in place of the in-person conference we normally organize. By offering a virtual event to our members, we hope to maintain our presence in the region as a reference high-quality exchange platform that will not interfere with other WAS conferences planned for later in 2021.

At the same time, we are planning our elections and analyzing how and when we will be able to hold our annual membershipmeeting. This year the Chapter will hold elections for the positions of Director and Secretary. They were scheduled to take place between May and August 2020, with new officers starting their terms at our Board Meeting during LACQUA20. With the postponement of the event to March 2021, it being virtual or not, the Board decided to respect that date and request nominations from the membership of the Chapter soon. The new Secretary and Director will both serve a two-year term and nominees need to be current members of the LACC in good standing.

Through our Secretariat (carolina@was.org), and various social media accounts, we will keep you informed on the progress and scheduling of the elections and the next conference. Please consult our webpage if you need more information or are interested in engaging more actively with the Chapter (https://was.org/LACC). I wish you all well and hope to see you online soon. — Laurence Massaut, President