Distinguished delegates from tsunami-affected countries
Representatives from partners, donors and NGOs
Staff from co-organizing agencies
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome all participants to this regional workshop on The rehabilitation of fisheries and aquaculture of coastal communities in Asia.
The world is still trying to grasp the enormity of the 26 December 2004 earthquake in Indonesia and consequent coastal floods which affected Asian countries around the Indian Ocean. The impact of this natural disaster on local populations was extremely severe in terms of death and injury, livelihood disruption, unemployment, asset loss and out-migration.
FAO expresses its deepest condolences to those affected and re-iterates its commitment to assisting the countries involved in rebuilding and rehabilitation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You will have noticed that a large number of logos are on display on this room, reflecting the truly collaborative nature of this initiative of the Consortium to Restore Shattered Livelihoods in Tsunami-Devastated Nations (CONSRN). The consortium was formed shortly after the tsunami struck as a way of combining specialized networks and sharing information among the international and regional organizations that carry responsibilities for providing fishery and aquaculture assistance to the countries impacted by the disaster. These include the Bay of Bengal Programme – Intergovernmental Organization (BOBP-IGO); the Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia-Pacific (NACA); the South East Asia Fisheries Development Centers (SEAFDEC); the WorldFish Centre (WorldFish); and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN through its Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
You may have also noticed that within 24 hours after the disaster, FAO had mobilized teams of national and international experts already present in the area to assess the damage to the agriculture and fisheries sectors an identify the assistance needed. The evaluations confirmed that fisheries was the worst-hit sector, especially in Sri Lanka, although severe localized crop losses were also reported, particularly in the Maldives and parts of Indonesia. However, even in cases in which damage to the national economy is limited, local communities will experience severe food security impacts in the short- and long-term as parents and relatives have been lost, livelihood assets including houses, farm, fisheries and aquaculture implements, crops, food stores and forestry resources, as well as domestic farm animals, have been destroyed and previous sources of income no longer exist.
We now know that among some 300 000 deaths and missing, there have been over 60 000 deaths in the fishing sector alone, with the livelihoods of over 1.5 million people in the fishing and aquaculture communities under threat.
In terms of economic loss, FAO latest estimates from India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand combined put the cost at $520 million. This relates to 111 073 fishing vessels destroyed or damaged; 36 235 engines lost or damaged beyond repair; 1.7 million units of fishing gear destroyed; and $200 million of damage to Infrastructure (such as aquaculture operations, fishing infrastructure, and harbours).
FAO has participated fully in the coordination efforts and in the United Nations Flash Appeal launched on 6 January. The Organization has appealed for US$26.5 million to provide emergency aid to the farming and fishery communities hit by the tsunami. In addition to this, FAO has appealed for rehabilitation activities in Thailand, in partnership with UNDP and UNEP.
While such short-term assistance is indispensable, FAO also intends to implement medium- and long-term rehabilitation programmes to restore fish production, processing and export capabilities. This requires that due emphasis be given in this process to enhancing livelihoods and food security, as well as to ensuring that capacities are rebuilt in accordance with the requirements of sustainable resource use and improved environmental protection. Other areas of concern include linkages of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors to the early warning systems for natural disasters and response, rehabilitation of salt-affected soils, repair of large-scale irrigation infrastructure and restoration of biodiversity.
The task ahead of us is complex and challenging, and no single organization can deal with it effectively alone. We are ready and willing to work with partners to undertake assessment of longer term impacts and introduce a stepwise rehabilitation approach to ensure sustainable development in the region. This will lead amongst other things to:
- the provision of physical assets where needed (such as the provision of nets, boats and fishing gear, landing and processing facilities, aquaculture facilities),
- the provision of financial support (including appropriate microfinance/credit),
- training and capacity building (for affected people and agencies),
- rehabilitation of natural resources (through coastal zone management strategies), and
- helping the recovery of communities through strengthening of community organizations and networking.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we move into the long term rehabilitation and reconstruction process, FAO stresses the need for a shared vision of a sustainable approach to reconstruction, and the need to agree on a “blueprint” for what we are attempting to build and how we are going to realize this vision.
This vision must be based on restoring the livelihoods of those affected and include sustainable management of the natural resource base, such as coral reefs and mangrove forests and associated fisheries on which a sustainable recovery will depend.
The primary output of the workshop will be a regional strategy together with a programme framework for long-term rehabilitation and sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture in all affected countries. Our medium to long-term programming exercise will be based on a regional perspective with strong country dimensions. It will also need to emphasize and recognize the benefits of international cooperation, crucial to address the enormous challenges of people and livelihoods in the coastal zones of the affected countries.
I am confident that our collective wisdom, expertise and joint mission provide a firm footing to build this strategy for rehabilitation as well as for sound project formulation and targeting of interested donors
I wish you well in your endeavors and look forward to seeing the output of this workshop.
I hereby declare the workshop open.