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Major issues concerning fishery resources and environmental sustainability in the Asia-Pacific region

6. Fisheries play an important role in the food security and economies of the majority of countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The high per capita consumption of fish (more than 20 kg/year) in Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania compared to the world average of 15.2 kg/year during 1994-1996, reflects the importance of fish in food security and the general preference for fish as food in these subregions. The contributions of fisheries to the economies can be seen from the rising trend in export value of US$ 7,953 million in 1986 to more than US$ 18,000 million in 1996; the 1996 value constituted more than 85 percent of the total world export value. At the same time, import value rose from US$ 8,700 million in 1986 to US$ 23,579 million in 1996.

7. The increasing demand for fish from the steadily expanding populations of the region and from the markets of developed countries have led to the rapid development of fisheries, especially since the sixties. Fishery production rose from 14.4 million tons or 39.4 percent of the total world production in 1960 to 76.5 million tons or 58.6 percent of the total world production in 1997. The study conducted by FAO in 1998 indicated that the projected demand for fish by the year 2010 might be 24 million tons more than the average regional production of 58 million tons during the period 1993-1995.

8. This projected demand is unlikely to be met by a substantial increase in marine fishery production. Recent technical and conference reports have indicated that a number of fish stocks in the Yellow Sea, the South China Sea and the Bay of Bengal and their adjacent waters have been subjected during the past three decades to intense exploitation or have been fully exploited. Environmental degradation has been increasing in many inland and coastal waters, thus affecting the habitats of the living organisms. The current pattern of resource use and environmental degradation will not lead to sustainability of fisheries nor to the environment. There is, therefore, an urgent need to rehabilitate coastal fish stocks through effective fisheries management schemes. Likewise, there is a need to develop effective management systems for inland capture fisheries with particular attention to both fishery resources and environmental protection. The prospects for increasing fish production from aquaculture appear to be bright, but it will also be essential that effective aquaculture management programmes be implemented.

9. The rapid change in the state of fisheries and aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region and the new order of ocean governance as adopted by the world community (summarized in Annex 1) will post major challenges for the countries in the region in their efforts to attain fisheries and environmental sustainability. To achieve this long-term objective, there will have to be a structural change in the fisheries sector in the States concerned. This will require that individual governments have the political will and determination to accept and implement the instruments and initiatives, by adjusting their policies and laws in the implementation thereof3. Similarly, regional bodies concerned with fisheries and marine affairs will have to improve service to their members. This will not be an easy task in the face of increasing pressure from both inside and outside the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors.

10. There are several major issues which must be resolved by a mutual effort of the countries in the region to achieve the sustainability goal. The issues of regional relevance include:

1. population growth which give rise to the increasing demand for fish, thus implicating the sustainability of fishery resources;

2. the abatement and control of pollution and environmental degradation;

3. a change in the concept of fish as a common property resource;

4. the development of integrated coastal area management as a framework for coastal fisheries management;

5. the management of shared or transboundary and straddling fish stocks;

6. Technology transfer and capacity building in information and data management as well as in fishery research;

7. Inland fisheries management;

8. Aquaculture development and management;

9. Post-harvest technology development with special reference to the reduction of wastage and discards at sea and the improvement in the quality of fish and fishery products;

10. Implementation of global instruments and initiatives related to fisheries, with special reference to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

11. A synthesis of the contributions of fisheries to the food security and economies of the countries in the region as well as the state of the fisheries and aquaculture is given in Annex 1. A summary account of the major issues affecting fisheries and resource sustainability appears as Annex 2.

3 FAO 1999. Into the next millennium: fishery perspective. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, RAP Working Paper Series 1/3, RAP Publication No. 1999/26, 43 pp.

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