1. The rapid development of fisheries and aquaculture, especially during the past three decades, has had both a positive and negative impact. The positive impact is that fisheries and aquaculture development have contributed to the social and economic betterment and food security of the majority of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The negative impact is that the current pattern of resource exploitation and some aquaculture practices will not lead to fisheries and environmental sustainability. Thus the economies and food security of several of these countries may be adversely affected.
2. This negative impact has led the international community to adopt a number of instruments and initiatives aimed at establishing a global order for ocean governance in areas including fisheries management, resource conservation and environmental protection. All of these instruments and initiatives recognize the beneficial role of regional organizations or arrangements in assisting their member countries to achieve sustainability. They recommend that regional organizations and arrangements consider adjusting and/or strengthening their mandates, functions and activities in order to better assist their members in this endeavor.
3. The Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC), since its early years, has been instrumental in the transfer of science and technology in the development and improvement of the fishing industry and in the strengthening of the capability of personnel. More importantly, the Commission has given impetus, since its early years, in the application of science to the management of fisheries of its member countries. It is noteworthy that the Commission applied the concept of fisheries and environmental sustainability long before the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
4. To better assist the countries to move closer to self-reliance in the sustainable development and management of their fisheries, there are a number of major issues which should be resolved. This study lists some of the major issues of regional relevance that require further consideration in the future activities of APFIC.
5. There are several regional fishery bodies and arrangements in the region whose long-term objective is to assist their members to achieve fisheries and environmental sustainability. However, specific functions vary. As concerns specialized bodies such as ICLARM, INFOFISH, MRC, NACA and SEAPOL, the degree of overlapping with APFIC is less than other bodies with wide-ranging fisheries activities such as APEC, ASEAN and SEAFDEC.
6. Consequently, there is a need for regular consultations amongst the key organizations in the region in order to reduce and if possible avoid duplication of effort and rationalize the use of the limited funds available for the fisheries sector. It is recommended that APFIC assume the role of a forum.
7. Notwithstanding certain limitations of APFIC, in particular the lack of financial support for its work, it is recommended that the Commission continue to function until at least 2010.
8. Whilst the membership, area of competence and functions of the Commission remain as stipulated in the Agreement and as recommended by the APFIC Ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group, it is proposed that due to the financial constraints of the Commission, APFIC concentrate its activities on three subregions of the Asia-Pacific:
- the Yellow Sea and its adjacent waters;
- the South China Sea and its adjacent waters; and
- the Bay of Bengal.
The Yellow Sea is a marginal sea area in the northwestern Pacific. It is a semi-enclosed sea with an area of approximately 410,000 km2. It is bordered by the Korean peninsula to the east, Mainland China to the north and west, and the East China Sea to the south. The Sea is a unique marine ecosystem because of its hydrological features and its temperate and subtropical resources. Because of its geographical location, the Yellow Sea has become increasingly polluted and the intense fishing pressure during the past three decades by the countries bordering both the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea has depleted several fish stocks, especially demersal fish. The annual demersal production from these two seas was estimated as about three million tons in the early nineties. There is an urgent need to rehabilitate the environmental conditions and restore the state of the depleted fish stocks through an appropriate subregional mechanism.
The South China Sea proper is also a semienclosed sea with a total area of about 3.5 million km2. It is bordered by nine countries, viz., Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, for which fisheries is an important industry. The South China Sea is one of the most productive areas in the world as it contains large shelf areas, e.g. the Mainland Shelf in the north and northeast and the Sunda Shelf in the south and southwest. The total fishery production of this subregion, comprised mainly of small and medium-sized tropical species, was estimated at 11.5 million tons in 1996. Various studies indicate that several marine fish stocks, especially those in the inshore and coastal waters have been heavily exploited during the past three decades. It is agreed that there is a need to strengthen fisheries and environmental management plans at both the national and subregional levels with a view to effecting fisheries and environmental sustainability in this subregion.
The Bay of Bengal has a total area of approximately 2.2 million km2 and is bordered by Sri Lanka and India to the west, Bangladesh to the north and Myanmar and the northern part of the Malay peninsula to the east. The Andaman and Nicobar groups of islands separate the Bay of Bengal proper from the Andaman Sea. The Bay of Bengal also has a unique marine ecosystem with a profusion of wetlands, marshes and mangrove forests, which enhance the productivity of tropical inshore and coastal species. This is due to a large amount of drainage from several major river systems, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawady and Salween. Small-scale fisheries exploit the Bay fishery resources, with fish production in 1995 of approximately 3.6 million tons. Whilst the annual fish production continues to rise, there are various indications to suggest that several fish stocks were close to full exploitation and several are under stress. Concerted action at both the national and regional levels to develop practical and more effective fisheries management information systems to support fisheries management was recommended by the former IOFC Bay of Bengal Committee.
It is hoped that this subregional approach will facilitate more effective cooperation amongst the countries therein in their effort to attain fisheries and environmental sustainability in their respective subregions in the future.
9. The Study recommends that, because of the prevailing constraints mentioned above, future activities of APFIC be scaled down to the following priority areas:
- Fisheries information and data management;
- Marine fisheries management;
- Fisheries policy and planning; and
- A regional consultative forum.
As regards fisheries information and data management, it is evident that the member countries of the Commission still need assistance in the development and management of their fisheries information and statistical systems as well as in capacity building. The study therefore recommends that the Commission endeavor to implement the APFIC information network project, which was approved by the Commission at its Twenty-sixth Session in 1998.
Whist it is understood that fisheries management is the prerogative of governments, the study points out that there are a number of marine fisheries management issues that require concerted action and/or subregional cooperative efforts. A regional fishery body such as APFIC could serve as a useful instrument in the provision of relevant data and information, and transfer of technology and techniques in the acceleration of capacity building required in national or subregional fisheries management work.
Fisheries policy and planning constitute another issue under the prerogative of governments. However, regional fishery bodies can assist their member countries through promotion, coordination and/or harmonization of those policy issues that require concerted action of the parties concerned, e.g. those issues concerning the management of shared or transboundary fish stocks. The study recommends specifically that FAO and APFIC collaborate with regional bodies or programmes in the region in organizing a regional workshop aimed at harmonizing fisheries policy and legislation of the countries in the region so that they can effectively manage shared or transboundary fish stocks.
The study indicates that the creation of a regional consultative forum is widely supported by several subregional bodies, especially those that have the secretariats in Southeast Asia. It recommends that the APFIC Secretariat should approach a potential donor(s) as soon as possible to ascertain interest in hosting a meeting of such a consultative forum. To facilitate input to the work of the Commission, it is also recommended that the Secretariat request the member countries to appoint an official to act as a national focal point for communicating with the Secretariat.