APFIC, formerly the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council (IPFC), is the first fishery body of the Asia-Pacific region. It was established in 1948 by FAO under Article XIV of its Constitution; the initial objective was to increase the food supply for the steadily expanding populations after the Second World War. During its lifetime, the Commission was instrumental in helping its Members to meet the challenges of the fisheries sector in the rational development and management of fishery resources. The long-term objective of increasing production in the early years was changed to one of creating sustainable fisheries development and management as well as environmental management in recent years in response to the global instruments and initiatives referred to earlier. To meet these challenges, the Commission has adjusted its role and responsibilities as well as work programmes from time to time.
In the early period of APFIC (1949-1962), fish abounded in both inland and marine waters; however, the contribution of fisheries to the economies of the majority of the Members was not significant because the fisheries industry was relatively small. Furthermore, there was a general lack of qualified personnel at all levels of the fisheries industry in almost all of the developing member countries of the Commission. Consequently the Commission focused its attention on the needs of the Member Governments in the course of developing their fisheries. It introduced science and technology with the help of its developed Members and promoted fisheries education and training, technical assistance, and the improvement of collection and dissemination of fishery information and statistics.
The following years (1962-1980) could be called the action-oriented period of the Commission. This period coincided with a number of major events in world fisheries. The international community recognized the importance of fisheries to the world food supply and economy. FAO upgraded its Fisheries Division to Departmental status in 1967. The Twenty-first Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 adopted UNGA Resolution 2171 on Resources of the Sea, which led to the strengthening of cooperation amongst the UN agencies concerned with the study of the sea and cooperation between FAO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
This period also witnessed widespread support for international and regional fisheries development and management programmes from multilateral organizations, financing institutions and interested donors. The support enabled two important regional programmes, which APFIC helped to conceive, to begin operation, viz., the Inter-regional Indian Ocean Fishery Survey and Development Programme (IOP, 1970-1978) and the FAO/UNDP South China Sea Fisheries Development and Coordinating Programme (SCSP, 1973-1984). These two programmes contributed significantly towards fisheries development and management in the Indian Ocean countries and those bordering the South China Sea.
The Commission, itself, reoriented its activities with specific priority issues considered by a number of working parties supported by the Regular Programme budget of FAO. Cooperative programmes for tackling specific issues such as fish processing, post-harvest technology development and aquaculture development were established by APFIC during this period. Furthermore in 1970, the IPFC/IOFC Joint Working Party of Experts on Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Fishery Statistics established standards for statistical reporting, including the classification of species caught, fishing boats and fishing area boundaries. This served as a sound basis for fishery statistics collection in the region. Increased attention was given by the Commission to fisheries development planning during this second period because of rising sectoral and intra-sectoral conflicts over land and water use and intense exploitation of fishery resources both in inland and marine waters. The latter necessitated the setting up of appropriate schemes for fisheries management. To enhance the awareness of the problems, the Commission organized seminars and symposia as well as technical discussions during its regular sessions. These benefited the Members in the planning, management and development of their fisheries.
The third period in the history of APFIC is called the EEZ Programme period, 1980-1999. At the beginning of this period, the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea had almost completed negotiations on the draft UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, in which the concept of exclusive economic zones was prominent. On the recommendation of the Committee on Fisheries, FAO launched in 1979 a comprehensive Programme of Assistance for the Development and Management of Fisheries in Exclusive Economic Zones (the EEZ Programme of FAO). APFIC gave strong support to this Programme, with priority to the monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries (MCS), the development of an information network and fishery training. Anticipating increased responsibilities for the development and management of the fisheries in the individual EEZs, APFIC established a Committee for the Development and Management of Fisheries in the South China Sea (CDMSCS). Two other technical committees were also established to provide technical support to the Commissions activities, viz., the Special Committee on Management of Indo-Pacific Tuna and the Standing Committee on Resources Research and Development (SCORRAD). Through its subsidiary bodies, the Commission made significant contributions in terms of technical input and increased competency of personnel in the member countries. Considerable knowledge was gained on the status of the fishery resources exploited. APFIC was instrumental in providing assistance and technical advice to the countries in the development of policies and strategies for the rational exploitation and management of their fishery resources, with special reference to coastal resources.
Special mention should be made of the two regional programmes originated by the Commission, viz., the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific (NACA) and the Marketing Information and Technical Advisory Services for Fishery Products in the Asia and the Pacific Region (INFOFISH). With the support of their respective Members, those regional programmes were transformed into inter-governmental bodies during this third period. These bodies have since expanded their work and made outstanding contributions for the benefit of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
During the most recent period of APFIC, 1990-present, the Commission has been aware of the concern of the world community about the general pattern of the use of global resources; its conclusion was that this pattern cannot lead to sustainability of the worlds valuable resources. Furthermore, the implementation of UNCLOS has not yet achieved the long-term objective of rational management and sustainable utilization of the fishery resources of the world oceans. The Commission witnessed the transformation of these concerns into global instruments and initiatives aimed at the sustainable utilization and management of fishery resources and environmental protection. At its Twenty-third Session in 1990 the Commission reviewed the status and prospects of the fisheries sector in the region and concluded that the pattern of its development would not lead to sustainability. It agreed that urgent attention was needed to promote responsible fisheries in both inland and marine waters as well as to accelerate the development of sustainable aquaculture. This period is therefore called the sustainable development period of APFIC.
APFIC has continued to adjust its role in order to respond effectively to the challenges created by the rapidly changing situation in the fisheries sector. It undertook an in-depth review of its functions and structure with a view to revitalizing them and strengthening its activities in the technical and policy fields in response to the recommendation of the Eighteenth Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries. This review led to the amendments to the Agreement of APFIC and its Rules of Procedure at the Twenty-fourth Session of the Commission in 1993, paving the way for the Commission to play a more action-oriented role in fisheries management and sustainable development. Further amendments to the Agreement and the Rules of Procedure in 1996 by the Commission facilitated its work in the area of sustainable aquaculture development.
The work of the Commission during this latest period has focused more on management-oriented resources research to back up management decisions and the promotion of responsible fisheries, taking into account social, economic and environmental aspects of fisheries development. At its Twenty-fifth Session in 1996, APFIC also endorsed a regional cooperative research programme similar to that of the Bay of Bengal, based on 14 priority areas in coastal capture fisheries, offshore fisheries and coastal aquaculture. Unfortunately this research programme has not yet materialized due to the shortage of funds.
The development of the Commission may be summarized as follows. In its formative years (1948-1962) the Commission took stock of the fisheries situation of the region and promoted the growth and development of fishery research and administration in its member countries. In the action-oriented period (1962-1980), the Commission gave more attention to the practical features of the rapidly changing fishing industries of the region as well as to fishery planning issues. During the EEZ Programme period (1980-1990), the Commissions major efforts were directed to developing regional and inter-regional programmes aimed at assisting its member countries to achieve self-reliance in the development and management of fisheries in their exclusive economic zones in compliance with UNCLOS. Finally in the last decade, efforts have been directed toward assisting the Members in achieving sustainable fisheries development by promoting responsible fisheries and aquaculture practices. Despite the limited funding support for its programme of activities experienced since the early seventies, APFIC has considerable success in the implementation of its responsibilities and made positive contributions toward the long-term goal of sustainable fisheries development. It has been the general opinion of the Commissions Member States that its resolutions and recommendations have indeed contributed substantially towards their governments decisions on fishery policy and strategies in the course of attaining self-reliance in fisheries management and development2.
1 The achievements of APFIC since its inception in 1948 are condensed from pp. 8-36 of Menasveta, D., 1998. APFIC: Its evolution, achievements and future direction. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand, RAP Publication 1998/15, 114 pp.
2 See para. 57 of the Report of the Twenty-fifth Session of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 15-24 October 1996. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. RAPA Publication 1996/40, 45 pp.; para.34 of the Report of the Twenty-sixth Session of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China, 24-30 September 1998. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. RAP Publication 1998/23, 41 pp.; and para. 30 of the Twenty-fourth FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, Yangon, Myanmar, 20-24 April 1998. FAO of the United Nations, Rome. Document APRC/98/REP, 42pp.