Last week in Rome 150 nuns from the Catholic Benedictine order met for their four-yearly congress.

They assembled at the Sant' Anselmo Monastery on the Aventine hill above the ancient ruins of the Colosseum and the Forum.

Also meeting in the monastery were leaders from some of the world's major fishing nations, members of the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations (ICFA).

The Benedictines pride themselves on their fellowship and thus it came to pass that the less than saintly fisheries representatives were guests at an ample lunch in a sea of black and white habits.

The ICFA annual meeting, always held in this monastery before a second day with fisheries officials at the nearby United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, was attended by the US, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, France, UK, Spain, Denmark and New Zealand.

Fisheries are complex, confronted by many issues.

Topics covered included fisheries management on the high seas, curbing illegal and unreported fishing, the status of world fisheries stocks, seafood marketing and consumption, individual country reports, protection of endangered species, plastics pollution, science and research, development of the blue economy, growth of aquaculture and improved communications.

There is increased emphasis on the need to defend fisheries' interests in the face of determined opponents and better communicate the many success stories and importance of the sector in food production and economic contribution.

"Scientists think in stocks, communicators think in people," the US National Fisheries Institute head John Connelly said.

In that vein New Zealand produces about two billion seafood meals a year, which resonates much more than statistics on tonnages and species and stocks.

Global fish production peaked at about 171 million tonnes in 2016, with aquaculture providing 47 percent of the total.

The fast growing Alaska pollock is the top caught species.

The seafood sector employs 60 million people worldwide.

Consumption of fish has grown from an average of 9kg per person in 1961 to about 20.5 kg today.

"In general, fisheries are managed well but that is not the public perception," Connelly said.

Governments are often not effective advocates.

The growth of third party certification of fisheries, driven by consumer demand, is in part an indictment of governments' governance.

FAO fisheries and aquaculture division director Prof Manuel Barange said the aim of all the world's fishing stocks being sustainably caught by 2020 would not be achieved.

But Marine Protected Areas were "a very poor method to sustain fish stocks - you need to consider the social and economic impacts as well".

He believes the public is very confused when talking about fishing and aims to change that.

Fifty eight percent of the world's fisheries are sustainably managed, according to the FAO's just released two-yearly voluminous report on the state of world fisheries and aquaculture.

New Zealand sits squarely within that category.

The international outlook is for stable wild fish capture, reduced waste, continued innovation and growth in aquaculture.

As for fishing leaders breaking bread with the Benedictines, St Peter, the most revered of Jesus Christ's apostles, memorialised in the world's largest church, St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, was a simple fisherman.

And while we now may pay more homage to the God of Quota, fish continue to feed the multitude as they did in biblical lore.