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Capacity development for improving the knowledge base for fisheries management in Southeast Asia – a regional initiative, implemented locall

Category Development & policy advice

 

Ebbers, T. & Gregory, R. (2008). Capacity development for improving the knowledge base for fisheries management in Southeast Asia – a regional initiative, implemented locally. Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. APFIC ad hoc publication. 68 pp. 

Small-scale fisheries are typically considered to be a significant component of the marine capture fisheries sector in Southeast Asia because of their importance in terms of income generation, contribution to food production and to coastal livelihoods. This importance, however, is not well reflected in the decision-making and policy formulation processes affecting the fisheries sector. Fishing operations, particularly in small-scale fisheries, remain largely unregulated and usually the sector as a whole and the role it plays in the livelihoods of coastal dwellers remain poorly understood. General knowledge about the extent to which fisheries and coastal resources are used by people living in coastal areas to strengthen their livelihoods is poor, and often decisions affecting the fisheries are made without consideration of the potential impacts on the livelihoods of small-scale fishers and other resource users.

 

Institutions with a mandate to oversee the management of capture fisheries and the marine environment are establishing policies and making decisions largely in the absence of reliable information on key indicators such as the numbers of fishers involved and the number of boats and gears being used, and without an understanding of the perspectives or priorities of fisher communities. As a result, public sector interventions are often misguided and in some cases can exacerbate the very problems that they are intended to solve.

The very nature of small-scale coastal fisheries in the region renders conventional approaches to fisheries management and their respective information needs ineffective. National fisheries information systems usually comprise some form of aggregated catch and effort data that, even if they were more accurate than they are now, would still not be very useful for addressing the local management needs of small-scale coastal fisheries.

An increasing trend in decentralization and the active participation of fishers and other stakeholders in the management of coastal fisheries resources are widely seen as effective ways to address these management and decision-making gaps and thus considered a precondition for effective and successful management of the resources in question. With the transfer of resource user rights to local stakeholders and fishing communities and the devolution of management authority to the local level and stakeholder organizations, the involvement of fishers and other resource users in the generation of information and knowledge becomes an integral part of the management process. Such engagement of fishers in data collection and information generation for fisheries management is an important initial step in increasing stakeholder participation in decision-making and management.

 

“Strengthening the capacity in fisheries information gathering for management” is the title of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) project GCP/RAS/199/SWE, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), that provided the framework and the necessary financial inputs for the implementation of this initiative. The project was designed to contribute to FAO’s long-term strategic goal of changing national and regional perceptions of how fishers can be effectively incorporated into fisheries management mechanisms. FAO believes that changes in these perceptions will lead to more effective institutional decision-making based on quality information and improved stakeholder dialogue. This in turn will lead to more satisfactory conflict resolution and increased sustainable management of fisheries resources. The project’s development objective encapsulated this strategic goal and was stated as, “Enhanced management of fisheries resources through effective decision-making and policy development, based upon appropriate information and facilitation of stakeholder dialogue”. 

This is the story of this project, or in other words the story of a regional initiative that sought to build capacity for translating the principles of stakeholder involvement, dialogue and co-management into actually improving the knowledge base for the management of coastal and marine capture fisheries in four Southeast Asian countries: the Kingdom of Cambodia (Cambodia), the Kingdom of Thailand (Thailand), the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (Timor-Leste) and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (Viet Nam). This narrative will describe various approaches to building communicative processes among fisheries stakeholders, look at the individual outcomes of national activities and seek to highlight such lessons, which may have some value beyond the immediate local or national level.