Fishers in tsunami-zone need specific kinds of gear
21 February 2005, Rome - Donations of fishing equipment intended to help tsunami-affected countries rebuild their fisheries sectors could cause problems, rather than alleviate them, if they are not carefully matched to local conditions and need, says FAO.
"Our past experience in emergency situations is that duplicated assistance and inappropriate gifts, no matter how well-intended, can actually impede relief and rehabilitation efforts," notes the Organization's Fisheries Department on its website.
How donated gear can be a burden
Fishers in the region affected by the tsunami, like those elsewhere, use gear that is specialised to match local fish stocks, sea conditions and customs -- and equipment donated from overseas may not match their requirements.
Donated nets could easily be the wrong size, too heavy, or of the wrong mesh gauge. At the same time, repairs to gear not common to a region will be virtually impossible due to unfamiliarity with the equipment and a lack of replacement parts.
Similar considerations should be kept in mind regarding donations related to ice plants, refrigeration and fish processing. Here the appropriateness of the technology to local conditions and the availability of repair expertise and spare parts are crucial.
"Unfortunately it's not a worst case scenario that donated gear is of no use -- it's a common scenario," Ross Shotton, a Senior Fishery Resource Officer at FAO, explains.
The burden that such inadvertently inappropriate donations can place on governments, line agencies and relief organizations can be overwhelming.
Equipment has to be sorted upon arrival. Its exact use may not be known and it would need to be evaluated for safety and functionality and to see if it matches local standards. Repairs may be required. But authorities in many of the communities hit by the tsunami do not have the capacity to take on such work, and so donated gear would end up warehoused -- or simply thrown away.
Not just any boat will do
Similarly, only fishing boats that match local fishing customs, techniques and conditions will be of use.
For example, FAO recently received an offer of wooden-hulled craft made of soft pine -- but while suitable to cold waters in the north, in the warm tropics pine hulls would quickly decay. Boats there tend to be constructed of fibreglass or hardwood.
At the same time, FAO says that to the maximum extent possible local suppliers and craftsmen should be relied upon to reconstruct fishing fleets, while inappropriate boat and gear types could harm the environment, doing further damage to underwater habitats.
According to Mr Shotton, those interested in helping should consider sending money --- and targeting that money to a known requirement.
He cited one case in which a fisherman's association in Europe offered to fund the building of two boats by local craftsmen in a tsunami-affected country as an example of appropriate aid.
"They'll be doing it in the area, so: no shipping costs, local materials would be purchased, local employment is generated, and the fisherman will be used to the sort of boat that comes along," he explained.
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