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The development and rapid expansion of commercial fisheries in the South and Southeast Asian regions in the past four decades have threatened the survival of traditional small-scale fisherfolk to the great extent. In addressing the plight of these fishers at the Indo-Pacific Fishery Commission (IPFC) Symposium on the Development and Management of Small-scale Fisheries in 1980, many governments recognized the importance of coastal small-scale fisheries and many development projects were initiated to develop to develop these fisheries. However, it was also noted that small-scale fisherfolk need more than technological transfer. Improvements of fishing vessels and gear alone could not solve their problems which are multifaceted and thus require multi-disciplinary effort in managing these community fisheries.

A pilot programme as community-based fisheries management was initiated in Phang-nga Bay, southern Thailand, by the FAO Bay of Bengal Programme in 1995. The project aims to introduce the new approach of "partnership in management" with full participation of the public sector, private sector, fishers' communities and NGOs. This participatory approach enable the communities to develop and manage fishery resources and their traditional fisheries in the Bay with some success. However, to ensure its sustainability, more studies are required especially on geo-social and economics in the communities.

The present case study on socio-economics of fishing communities in the Phang-nga Bay was carried out by Dr. Heiko Seilert of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in collaboration with Mr. Suchat Sangchan of the Andaman Sea Fisheries Development Center of the Thai Department of Fisheries in Phuket. It recognized the complexity involved in managing small-scale fisheries, not only due to the declining coastal resources but more on their socio-economical environment. Lessons learned from these fishing villages would be useful in guiding future management plans for other areas.

As in most research, the outcome generates more questions than answers. The answer on WHY may be available at hand but that on HOW remains our task.

Veravat Hongskul
Senior Fishery Officer
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok, December 2001

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