Ladies and gentlemen
I should like to welcome all of you to the technical meeting of the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Programme. The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is particularly pleased to have the privilege of hosting your august meeting and contributing to the deliberations which will be taking place over the next three days to elaborate a vision and action plan for the responsible and sustainable management of the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem.
I should like to recall FAO’s continued and close association since 1979 with the landmark Bay of Bengal Programme which reached out to millions of small-scale fisherfolk in seven countries - Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The regional programme addressed common problem areas in the Bay of Bengal – such as fishing technology, post-harvest fisheries and coastal fishery resource management – and evolved from a technology-driven programme to one with a socio-economic orientation. Managed by FAO in close collaboration with and financial support from the seven countries, external financing for the amount of US$20 million was provided by Denmark, Japan, Sweden and the UK. In addition to the main umbrella programme, supplementary projects were financed by UNDP, the Arab Gulf Programme for the UN Development Organization, the International Maritime Organization and several others.
Following the completion of the BOBP and its many documented successes as well as remaining outstanding issues, and in view of the importance of fisheries resources for the livelihood of fishers, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) agreed to finance the formulation of a much larger and expanded project to cover the entire large marine ecosystem in the bay. Recognizing the need for integrated and coordinated management of their coastal and near-shore living marine resources, and the environmental threats to those resources, the seven BOPB countries and Myanmar supported the development and submission of a relevant proposal which resulted in a GEF project preparation grant which may lead to the development of the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Programme. The present grant is implemented by the World Bank with FAO as executing agency. Besides in-kind contributions of the eight participating countries and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, substantial financial resources were provided by the Swedish International Development Agency for the programme development phase which is now operational.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The BOBLME programme intends to provide the participating countries with a comprehensive framework for and dentification of the specific actions required to address the priority transboundary problems of the Bay of Bengal; the potential for national and inter-country investments, technical and capacity-building interventions with the ultimate aim to improve the management of the living marine resources and the health of the Bay of Bengal large marine environment as a whole.
The objectives of the future programme will, among other things, reinforce the work carried out by FAO for the promotion of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in support of national efforts for the long-term sustainable development of fisheries. This indeed requires due attention to the maintenance of the productivity of ecosystems – with a focus on those particularly at risk, and the rehabilitation of those already damaged – and the promotion of environmentally sound and sustainable technologies. One dimension of these efforts is the development and application of an eco-system approach to fisheries, including raising awareness of the concept with policy makers, lead administrators and industry. It is at this junction that the work you will be undertaking here in Bangkok takes on critical importance.
Only a little over a year ago, FAO had the pleasure of welcoming you to the First Regional Workshop, kindly hosted by the Government of Thailand in Pattaya, which formally launched the preparatory phase of the BOBLME. You produced a most challenging work plan and agenda of outputs, and even more importantly, fostered national and regional team-building, essential components for carrying out the programme’s activities and designing a full-scale project to sustainably manage the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem.
I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the excellent results achieved to date in such a short period of time. In particular, I welcome the preparation of eight national reports which form an invaluable contribution to defining the national and regional baseline of information on the environmental health of the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem.
This could not have been achieved without the excellent inputs from the wide range of stakeholders at the national level, including the National Coordinator, the Programme Steering Committee Member, the National Task Force, the National Review Group, the National Workshop and the National Consultant. I believe that this broad consultation process at the national level has strengthened the capacity of a core group of stakeholders in the eight participating countries to understand and address the complex national and regional issues surrounding the sustainable management of the Bay of Bengal.
You will now be preparing a Logical Framework which will guide future project preparation and development of the Project Brief to improve the environmental health of the Bay and meet the needs of the people whose livelihoods depend on the resources of the Bay of Bengal. The Project Brief also will be the ultimate output of the development phase of the programme whose preparation you have so successfully undertaken during this past year.
By the end of this workshop, it is expected that you will reach consensus on the overall approach to incorporating ecological considerations into the BOBLME framework; the development of a logical framework to guide future preparation activities; a “shortlist” of candidate sub-regional activities from which initial pilot projects will be selected and prepared during the formulation of the Project Brief; and the next steps and follow-up actions and responsibilities needed to support continued programme formulation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
FAO is privileged to cooperate with the BOBLME countries in this important task. Once again, you have a challenging task to accomplish in the upcoming three days. I am confident that the output from this meeting will be as excellent as the other outputs produced by you in the context of the BOBLME Programme so that its objectives can be fully achieved in the near future.
I wish you all the very best for a most productive meeting and a pleasant stay at FAO and in Bangkok.