Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
for the First Regional Inception Workshop

FAO-SIDA Strengthening the capacity in fisheries information gathering for management

28 to 30 September 2004
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished participants,
FAO colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed a great pleasure to address this important meeting of the first regional inception workshop of the FAO-SIDA programme for Strengthening the capacity in fisheries information gathering for management. I would like to welcome all of you, on behalf of FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and on my own behalf, to this meeting at the regional office in Bangkok.

In the context of the globalization of issues related to governance and trade in natural resources, there is a deficit of reliable information, in general, and in particular related to the fishery sector. Comprehensive, objective and timely information and the resulting increased awareness would facilitate and stimulate more effective policy making, sectoral planning, management and, consequently, fishing practices. In this connection, the direct involvement of, and improved coordination between stakeholders and information owners in the development and maintenance of integrated information systems is a guarantee of better quality information.

Throughout Asia there is a lack of effective decision-making regarding coastal small-scale fisheries. This is partly due to weak governance mechanisms, but often also to poor understanding of the issues and lack of dialogue with fishers and other stakeholders. Although small-fishers have well developed informal structures for decision making, they are generally poorly organized and are barely consulted concerning policy development. Decisions that affect this group are often made without consultation or with considerable misconceptions regarding the reality of these people’s livelihoods. Fisheries management is not only about fish and fishing gears. Fishing communities make decisions based on issues and problems that often lie outside of fishery. Although we may not be able to change these, we must be aware of their effect in order to make realistic policy and management decisions.

The livelihood context of small-scale fishers – such as poverty, borrowing, gender dimensions and health (including HIV and drug use) – as well as the role of fish for nutrition and food security, are part of daily life in fishing communities and influence decision making related to fishery. There is often a limited ability to relate local level fisheries management and livelihood issues to higher levels of management and policy making. This results in little action being taken to do something about the situation., Fisheries policy may fail to reflect actual needs or turn out to be unrelated to how fishery activities are impacted by externalities relating to environment, livelihoods and health.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The immediate objective of this joint FAO-SIDA programme is to support the generation, communication and use of quality information that enables the development of appropriate policies and management interventions relevant to the needs of both small-scale artisanal fisheries and larger commercial-based fisheries in four countries: Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Thailand and Viet Nam. The project will look at information requirements for coastal fisheries management, especially for small-scale fisheries, putting emphasis on conflict resolution and sustainable management of fishery resources through effective decision making. In order to achieve this goal, it is important to use appropriate information and facilitate dialogue with stakeholders.

The project contains a number of components that will investigate the existing management approaches and available information, and identify gaps in information coverage. It will also investigate existing linkages (or lack of linkages) between different parts of the government or between different levels of government, and assess the approaches linking local fisher’s knowledge with planning and decision making for management interventions at provincial and national levels.

The project was developed by FAO in collaboration with the governments of the participating countries and supported by the government of Sweden. It will effectively run for three years, from 2004 to 2006 with most of the national activities to be executed in 2005. In view of the limited budget ($600 000), the project will focus on organizing meetings at regional and national levels, hire national short-term consultants for undertaking background studies in support of workshops and one international consultant to facilitate and organize project activities.

Field activities will be organized in close collaboration with existing projects in the respective target countries. They will focus on consultations and facilitation techniques in participatory meetings with local communities for planning and information gathering. To some extend, the field activities aim to educate provincial and national level (fisheries) staff on the value of community consultations. The project will be evaluated at a Regional Transfer Workshop (RTWS) towards the end of the project, and follow-up activities will then be discussed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Fish constitutes an important ingredient in the traditional diet of most Asian people. Fish provides nutritious food, employment and income for millions of people. The fishery sector thus plays a valuable role for food security. The central issue remains that of management and sustainability of the marine resources. Generally, coastal resources are overfished severely by an overcrowded small-scale fishery sector. In these domains, catch rates, fish size and quality ands, in some cases, fisherfolk incomes, are declining. Conflicts between small-scale fisheries and trawlers in the coastal zones are frequent and fishery management is complicated. Increasingly, partnerships between local communities and the central government are evolving to develop community-based fishery management systems for local resources. The prime concern is need to increase the supply of fish and the economic benefits from fishing by the introduction and enforcement of better management.

The long-term outcome of this project will be a contribution to reduced conflicts in the fishery sector, and contribute to sustainable management of fisheries resources through effective decision making. Such decision making must be based upon appropriate information and facilitation of stakeholder dialogue. The activities of this project are intended to provide a mechanism though which capacity and experience can be built in participating countries to achieve these outcomes.

Finally, I wish you all a successful consultation, and hope that you will be able, over the next few days, to develop an action-oriented work plan and a bold participatory approach for the implementation of this important regional project.

I wish you a pleasant and enjoyable stay in Bangkok.

Thank you