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1.1 Background

The Fisheries, Information, Data and Statistics Unit (FIDI) of FAO started a project in 1999 to provide African fisheries institutions in Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDC's) with the ASFA (Aquatic Science and Fisheries Abstracts) database, initially on CD-ROM and ASFA Online where Internet access is available. ASFA on CD-ROM is published by two companies, by SilverPlatter as a single database and by NISC International, the version distributed being ASFA Part One as part of the ABAFR (Aquatic Biology, Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources) anthology of databases. This initiative is well received by most institutions, who have reported that the database is proving useful in their research and development activities and that the bibliographic data and abstracts enable them to identify essential publications.

However, many institutions also reported that they have difficulty in locating and then obtaining copies of the necessary documents. This appears to be a fairly widespread problem for fisheries and aquaculture institutions in Africa and has been identified as a major constraint to research in particular.

To try and alleviate this problem and find ways to improve access to fisheries and aquaculture information and documentation, FAO FIDI initiated a pilot project in collaboration with the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) (formerly the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology), which is affiliated with Rhodes University. The SAIAB Library has a comprehensive collection, historical as well as current, including over 600 current periodicals in the aquatic sciences. The main objective of the collaboration is to work with a core group of fisheries libraries, to collect more specific data on the information needed and to propose mechanisms for improving access to fisheries publications. In order to collect better data, the SAIAB Library provides documents (print or digital) to the participating institutions or the requests are re-directed to alternative sources, including online resources, obviously bearing in mind any copyright restrictions.

SAIAB's role in coordinating the flow of requests and queries, i.e. acting as the hub of the network, is based on the excellent resources of its Library and the willingness of SAIAB to explore ways of making these resources available for the benefit of fisheries institutions in other African countries. As part of the National Research Foundation, SAIAB is one of the partners in the Africa Interaction Programme which aims to expand scientific cooperation between scientists in South Africa and their counterparts in the rest of Africa.

Scope of the project

The scope of the collaboration was intentionally limited from the outset in order to test the feasibility of this kind of networking activity between fisheries libraries in Africa, to collect data and to provide a forum for discussion between a core group of pro-active librarians. The short-term goal included fulfilling information requests and evaluating the level of demand in order to assess the requirements for longer term implementation of a network.

The subject scope was restricted to fisheries and aquaculture, although the statistics on documents requested, as well as some of the papers presented at the Workshop, indicate just how broad a field this is. The document scope was restricted mainly to journal articles and grey literature. The provision of books was considered too complex for reasons of copyright, cost and postal difficulties. The collaboration was exclusively between libraries, rather than with individual end users, as the long-term strategy is to strengthen national institutions in their capacity to meet their own information needs at present and in the future. Care was taken to ensure that the activity did not in any way disrupt existing national, regional and international arrangements for the supply and exchange of information and documentation. Many of these arrangements exist, with varying levels of success in different countries, but there is an obvious gap where access to fisheries and aquaculture information is concerned. Many of the participating institutions are the sole or major fisheries institution in the country so the possibilities for access to better fisheries information at national level are limited. The project set out to promote, encourage and support inter-library cooperation as one of the mechanisms to try and fill the gap.

1.2 Summary of network activities 2002-2003

The project was divided into three separate but related areas of activity, mainly because of the different levels of complexity. Of the three areas, namely document delivery, information resources sharing and African fisheries publications, more emphasis was placed on the first, particularly during the first year. This was partly in order for the institutions to see the positive impact of participation and also to have feedback on the volume and type of demand. Countless reports and meetings, over many years, have stated that a major constraint to the development of fisheries and aquaculture in Africa is the lack of access to current and relevant information. As Professor Tom Hecht says in his presentation “Access to information is the Achilles heel of African fisheries science and technology". One of the primary objectives of our networking activities so far has been to collect more data, to document in more detail what the information needs are and to propose mechanisms to improve access and dissemination.

Much of the activity of the first year was spent in establishing contact between SAIAB and the institutions which had expressed interest in participating in a network. Several of the latter in fact did not participate at any level and efforts were concentrated on setting up procedures for document request and delivery with those libraries which actively sought and provided information. Most of the institutions had not previously had access to the ASFA or ABAFR databases so the demand from their researchers for a wide range of previously unavailable literature posed new challenges for the individual libraries.

SAIAB collected and synthesized information provided by the participants on areas relevant to network development. This included details of existing mechanisms for document acquisition and exchange, inter-library cooperation at national, regional and international level and data on the fisheries publications produced in Africa.

Part of the learning curve has also been for SAIAB to evaluate the resources which it requires as coordinator and to assess the feasibility of longer term network development. A small core group of libraries provided the impetus to continue and in 2003 a second phase of the project was initiated with the following aims:

Demand for fisheries and aquaculture information

Although the project has been in operation for only two years and we have been working with a very small sample of data, the analysis of document requests has provided some interesting results and allowed us to arrive at some conclusions and decisions. For example, the diversity of the participating institutions did not make a significant difference in terms of the information resources required. Whether the institution is freshwater or marine, research or academic, in southern, western or eastern Africa, the information resources requested are more or less the same and this is the most important element in the collaboration. In general, the francophone institutions requested far fewer documents than the Anglophone and this was partly attributed to the fact that ASFA provides abstracts almost exclusively in English and the need for French language literature is better served by contact with providers such as the HORIZON database produced by Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD). In general, the inland fisheries and aquaculture institutions were more actively requesting documents than their marine counterparts and there was a very high demand for aquaculture journals. The most frequently requested titles were commercially published journals, often expensive and probably not held by any libraries, particularly fisheries libraries, in most African countries. There were few requests for journals published in Africa, although in 2003 some titles started to show up in the statistics, for example Global Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences, published in Nigeria. A possible explanation is that these journals are often interdisciplinary and, although they include fisheries articles, are not adequately monitored by ASFA or ABAFR. The extremely wide range of journal titles requested and the large number of articles published before 1990 indicate that even when we achieve full Internet connectivity and electronic access to full-text documents, many of the requests will still have to be satisfied from print collections.


SAIAB and FAO collected statistics on all requests, including requesting institution, journal/publication title, year of publication, supplying institution and unsatisfied requests. The data was analysed at the end of each year to provide details of the most frequently requested titles, the year of publication ranges and the broad subject areas requested.

From the 2002 statistics we saw that a total of 248 different periodical titles were requested, of which only 107 fell into the aquatic sciences category i.e. regarded as core journals. The dates of publications requested showed a definite need for more than simply current literature i.e. of the total 504 requests sent during 2002, almost 25 percent were for pre 1980 articles, 35 percent were published in the 1980s, 32 percent in the 1990s and less than 8 percent from 2000 onwards. The 2003 statistics show requests for 195 different journal titles and publication years dating back to the 1940s, although compared with 2002 a much greater proportion were for more recent material. This might indicate that the libraries had a backlog of requests for older articles which they had previously been unable to obtain and also that the impact of using ASFA for the identification of more recent material was beginning to show.

Most frequently requested titles by number of requests







Journal of Fish Biology






Journal of Fish Biology




Environmental Biology of Fishes


Transactions of the American Fish. Soc.


Global Journal of Pure and Applied Science


Canadian J. of Fisheries & Aquatic Sci.




Indian Journal of Fisheries




Zeit. Mikros. Anatom. Fors.


Canadian J. of Fisheries & Aquatic Sci.


Journal of Aquatic Animal Health




Marine Policy


North American Journal of Aquaculture


Archiv fur Hydrobiologie


Aquaculture Research


Fish and Shellfish Immunology


Bangladesh Journal of Training & Dev.


Journal of Applied Ichthyology


Economic Affairs (Calcutta)




Fisheries Research


Acta Anatomica


Journal of Aquatic Plant Management


Bulletin of Marine Science


Journal of the Helminth.Soc.Washington


Diseases of Aquatic Organisms


Journal of Zoology


Folia Parasitologica


Netherlands Journal of Sea Research


Indian Journal of Helminthology


North American J. of Fisheries Management


Journal of Food Technology


Onderstepoort J. of Veterinary Research


Total requests by year of publication







No date


No date








































In both years there was a fairly high percentage of requests which could not be met i.e. 40 percent in 2002 and 31 percent in 2003, largely for the following reasons:

Libraries were encouraged to reduce their requests to SAIAB for peripheral subjects and requests for journals published in Africa were directed to an institution in the country of publication wherever possible. The subject areas of the journals requested could be broadly classified into five main groups, namely:

These requirements for a broad range of diverse information resources by fisheries institutions in Africa strengthens the case for participation in library networks at national level in order to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure effective coordination with the regional network specifically for fisheries information.

Constraints to document delivery

A major constraint to document delivery is the lack of adequate e-mail and Internet connectivity. The postal systems in many countries continue to prove unreliable with widespread delays, deliveries in some cases taking four to eight weeks. Courier services have been used, particularly for larger consignments but this route is too costly to adopt wholesale. SAIAB Library obtained a scanner during 2003 and some of the requested documents could be supplied as Adobe PDF files, although this is also dependent upon connectivity standards and costs at the receiving end. Acquiring digital document transfer software to ameliorate the problems of postal services is essential, although once again, Internet dependent.

Information resources sharing

The main efforts of the SAIAB library during the second year of the Project were concentrated on enhancing the supply of documents requested. Improving information resources sharing activities remains a challenge and the workshop provided a platform upon which to start and build the necessary relationships. The development of the network for improved access to existing collections among participating institutions depends upon these relationships. Information was gathered on relevant resources sharing initiatives in order to avoid duplication of effort and to identify possible partners for collaboration. Further details of these are given in Part 3.1 under Opportunities.

The starting point for true sharing of available resources is access to the holdings information of the participating libraries. During 2003 SAIAB Library started to enter its journal holdings in the IAMSLIC Union List of Marine and Aquatic Serials. This specific initiative has so far resulted in SAIAB receiving requests from Argentina, Mexico and the USA, but none from Africa so far. The IAMSLIC resources sharing initiatives provide access to the information and expertise of a truly international community of libraries. The SAIAB librarian’s links with other African members of IAMSLIC were strengthened through participation in the first IAMSLIC Africa Regional Group conference held in Accra, Ghana, in July 2003. Network participants from Ghana, Guinea, Malawi and Mauritania also attended this meeting.

A survey of participating institutions revealed that more effort is needed to assess existing collections, systems, capacities and the potential for longer-term implementation of a network. The main contribution so far by network participants has been in the sharing of information and expertise, their eagerness to provide better information services to their institutions and their willingness to collaborate with other libraries inside and outside the region.

African fisheries and aquaculture publications

During 2002, much effort was put into the identification of African fisheries and aquaculture serial publications. The majority of these series fall into the category known as grey literature i.e. institutional or project series such as Technical Reports, Annual Reports and Newsletters, many of which are difficult to trace on an ongoing basis. Over one hundred titles were identified, initially using the library collections of FAO and SAIAB as the source. Bibliographic research was carried out using the ASFA and ABAFR databases and the Internet, as well as contacting participating libraries to provide additional data. The aim was to expand the list but in fact only eight new titles were added to the original one hundred as a result of this exercise.

A database of current African fisheries and aquaculture serials is maintained by FAO and is available online at <> as part of the Directory of Fisheries and Aquaculture Information Resources in Africa. Participants have provided up to date information on serials published in their country or available in their collections, although many noted that it is difficult to maintain a comprehensive and current collection even at national level.

1.3 Summary of workshop findings and decisions

The workshop was the first occasion for all of the participants to meet and discuss the current status of the network and to decide upon the next achievable steps and ways to ensure sustainability. A flexible programme was adopted to allow for a mixture of general presentations by all participants, specific papers related to more complex topics and sufficient discussion time in order to agree on a workplan for 2004. The following is a summary of the main findings and decisions taken at the workshop. The related workplan for 2004 in part 3.3 of the report gives details of the steps to be taken to achieve these. Individual libraries took upon themselves various tasks which should be feasible and are essential for development of the network.

1.3.1 Mapping the fisheries information resources in Africa

Compilation of the Directory of Fisheries and Aquaculture Information Resources in Africa and maintaining it as an online database <> had been the first step in identifying functional fisheries libraries and potential recipients for the ASFA and ABAFR databases. It was agreed that amendments are needed for the Directory to reflect increasing access to electronic resources, dissemination via the Internet and digitization programmes. The Directory also includes details of the current fisheries and aquaculture serial titles published in Africa. Updating and maintenance is currently carried out by FAO and is dependent on the provision of current data by all participants. It was agreed that the management of the database as well as the need for additional output formats would be revisited in 2005.

The papers presented at the workshop provide more in-depth information on library resources and services in institutions and at national level. Promoting networking for information sharing depends upon a good knowledge of which publications exist and how they are made available.

A Directory of the homepages of national and regional fisheries and aquaculture institutions, organizations and projects in Africa is maintained by FAO, with input from participants <>.

1.3.2 Technology for document delivery

As expected at the outset of the network, the problems associated with poor postal services and inadequate infrastructure makes the exchange of printed documents extremely unreliable and slow. Most participants now have electronic mail, although in some cases not reliable and not able to receive large attachments. Express mail services, and to a lesser extent courier services, have been used for larger consignments by post and the scanning of single articles to PDF has been used for single document delivery. However, an overall solution has not yet been found for the regular and timely delivery of documents. Many large libraries are using Ariel software for electronic delivery in tiff format but external funding will be essential for most of the African libraries to invest in the necessary software and scanner. The provision of documents in tiff or PDF format on CD ROM was one of the solutions discussed. An overview of mechanisms currently being used for electronic document delivery by participating libraries is included in the workplan (part 3.3).

The statistics on document requests clearly show that, regardless of Internet access to journals and documents, there will continue to be a demand for print material which has not yet been digitized and for those parts of Africa without full Internet access. Bunda College Library agreed to investigate further the requirements, advantages and costs of both Ariel and the open source software Prospero for document delivery.

1.3.3 Union database of fisheries and aquaculture serial holdings in Africa

The scope of the project limited the exchange of documents to serial publications and grey literature. For reasons of copyright, postal services, costs and lending restrictions the provision of books was not considered. The first essential requirement in order for the requests to be sent directly to the holding library is a union list of fisheries serial holdings of participating libraries. The creation of such a union list would involve a lot of work, especially as the serials collections of many of the participating libraries are incomplete, outdated or consist mainly of the series of international organizations such as FAO and the WorldFish Center. Maintaining the union list would also depend upon the viability of the network.

As most network participants are also members of IAMSLIC, it was decided to investigate the possibility of using the IAMSLIC Z39.50 Distributed Library. The Z39.50 is a project aimed at facilitating international resource sharing among marine and aquatic science libraries and has proved to be a major benefit for IAMSLIC members. During 2003 the FAO Fisheries Library entered the holdings of over six hundred unique fisheries serials. SAIAB has also registered with the Z39.50 and has entered over one hundred and twenty titles. The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), which also has a good collection of serials is planning to do the same. This will provide a good basis for using the Z39.50 for African fisheries libraries and will also strengthen international collaboration. Reservations were expressed by some participants who felt that entering their holdings to an international system might commit them to providing documents and the costs would be too high. It was agreed that this question and the possibility of a regional output for African Libraries would be discussed with IAMSLIC.

Subsequent to the meeting a positive reply was received from IAMSLIC on their willingness to investigate resource sharing between African fisheries libraries by means of the Z39.50. An outline of the mechanism proposed is covered in the workplan in part 3.3.

1.3.4 Full-text online journals

Several papers and communications presented online systems and services and during the day at the Rhodes University Library computer laboratory we were able to demonstrate these and other initiatives and discuss the benefits. This whole area of development presents unmatched potential for providing access to current scientific and scholarly journals, for those institutions with a reliable Internet connection and sufficient bandwidth. However, there are strictly adhered to eligibility criteria established by the commercial publishers, usually depending on national income levels. A synthesis of the presentations and further details of free or reduced cost full text services relevant to fisheries are provided in section 1.6.

Participating libraries in Ghana, Malawi and Uganda are already accessing full text journals via the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) and most participants are eligible to register with FAO for the newly launched AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) which includes over 400 journals in the broad agricultural and environmental sciences, including fisheries. Registering with these services is the first step but it must be followed up by activities of awareness raising, user-training and regular updating on the availability of new journals and new systems. The problem for those libraries without adequate Internet access has to be tackled in different ways, such as lobbying at national level and by joining forces with other organizations to lobby at international level.

Access to full text commercial journals is of course only one piece of the cake and the discussion led very quickly to the importance of journals of international organizations, associations, NGO's etc., many of which are available online free of charge. About 150 such fisheries related titles have been identified and an updated list with links is maintained by FAO at Several of the open access initiatives also cover fisheries journals and this is an area about which the network should be fully informed. There was a very clear message from participants that one of the most important sources of information is the results of research and development carried out in their own countries. Much of this work is published in African fisheries serials by national institutions. Information on their national fisheries is the most important and heavily used part of their library collections and very little of it is digitized. African fisheries publications, their dissemination, preservation and availability are the subject of almost every section of this report.

Coordinating document requests will have to take into consideration the availability of full text journals, whether free or via one of the services for eligible countries, and whether the requesting library has Internet access. The role of network coordinators will therefore entail more emphasis on awareness-raising about online resources, re-directing requests and training to help libraries exploit the full text resources available.

1.3.5 African fisheries and aquaculture publications

The dissemination of the results of African fisheries research and development is best achieved by the coverage of published reports in international databases. Over one hundred fisheries and aquaculture series titles published in Africa were identified and details are included in Annex 5. The great majority of these are institutional series and they are characteristically not widely disseminated or available. Their coverage in the ASFA and ABAFR databases has been monitored and almost 50 percent of the serial titles were not located in either of the databases, and those that were are not covered in full.

However, a survey of the participants indicated that many more publications are being produced in Africa and not being captured by any international systems. The site visits conducted by Bunda Library staff in 2003 found that over 80 percent of the fisheries publications produced in Malawi are not covered in ABAFR. Many of them were not received by the Bunda Library either, indicating that dissemination is not good even at national level. The analysis by Guinea of the ASFA database and its coverage of francophone West African publications concluded that, apart from the input of FAO and IFREMER, there is very little coverage of their literature.

The general lack of exchange of African fisheries information between countries, as well as its inadequate preservation for future generations, has frequently been cited as a constraint to research. A better system for the dissemination and exchange of current African fisheries and aquaculture publications is essential.

SAIAB Library has offered to act as a repository for all African fisheries and aquaculture publications and additionally will provide the SAIAB journals on an exchange basis. This arrangement would have the added advantage of ensuring that the publications are indexed in the ABAFR database. FAO Fisheries Library already has an arrangement with most African fisheries institutions to provide their publications on an exchange basis but it is extremely difficult and time-consuming to maintain a current collection. African fisheries publications sent to FAO Library are automatically indexed in the ASFA database. It should be stated that, since the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute became an ASFA partner and input centre, the coverage of literature produced in Eastern Africa has greatly improved.

Several institutions are already planning to produce and disseminate their publications digitally, which will greatly improve the possibilities for dissemination and distribution. At present three of the institutions represented at the workshop have their own web site and three have a presence via the website of ODINAFRICA. These provide opportunities for the dissemination of publications but international standards for metadata and format should be taken into consideration from the outset. Developments in open archives, digital repositories, metadata harvesters and other necessary tools of the digital age will only be effective if we adopt agreed standards. Details of some of the available open source initiatives are given in section 1.6.

The databases and backup document collections on the fisheries and aquaculture of both Nigeria and Malawi were discussed as potential case studies in producing guidelines on the use of standard methodologies to produce digital repositories of this type of local information resource.

1.3.6 Expanding the network and network focal points

The Background in part 1.1 gives details of the origin, basic objectives and scope of the network initiative. FAO, in collaboration with SAIAB, has been coordinating the network and a small core group of 12-14 libraries have been participating during the initial phase. The main objective was to collect and analyse data and to discuss ways to improve access to fisheries and aquaculture information in Africa, in particular via information resources sharing activities.

The workshop agreed that the diversity of participating institutions has not presented real difficulties, for example the languages spoken; the marine or freshwater environmental regimes; capture fisheries or aquaculture; geographical sub-regional divisions etc. There is general agreement that the information resources covering the fisheries and aquaculture sector are the common element for the basis of a network. They are extremely diverse but cannot be separated on the basis of language, environment or geographical sub-region.

During the course of 2002 and 2003 a number of what we have called satellite institutions have been requesting documents and participating in discussions. Fisheries institutions in Benin, Senegal, Madagascar and Tanzania requested to attend the workshop but funding could not be secured. The question of opening up the network to an unlimited number of fisheries libraries holds many potential difficulties, financing not the least of them. The ability to effectively coordinate the activities of a larger number of participants is probably a more important consideration. The basis for participation from the FAO point of view has been based upon the project to provide ASFA/ABAFR to Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDC’s) in Africa. After several years of operation, it is apparent that much remains to be done in many countries to ensure adequately staffed fisheries libraries with the essential library resources. At present 28 libraries in 20 African countries participate in the ASFA project. It was agreed that FAO and SAIAB would assess the network activities for 2003, largely based on the statistics of requests, and assess the feasibility of including additional institutions.

To address the question of countries with several or many fisheries and related libraries, it was decided to investigate the issue of network focal points as an effective mechanism for coordination and to avoid duplication of effort. The data collected during 2002 and 2003, discussions with participants and the two papers prepared for the workshop by Malawi and Nigeria all suggest that a network with focal points would be an effective way to coordinate activities. KMFRI reported that its experience with the RECOSCIX and ODINAFRICA networks also supported coordination of activities via network focal points. The heavy demand for documents over a broad range of diverse subjects strengthens the case for participation in library networks at national level in order to obtain peripheral subject material and to concentrate the efforts of the regional network on specifically fisheries and aquaculture information.

The papers from Malawi and Nigeria gave much food for thought and a synthesis of their proposals for the feasibility, the role, constraints and requirements for network focal points is given in Part 1.4. It was agreed to follow up with our respective institutions on the possibilities for the establishment of this kind of arrangement and to pursue this avenue during 2004.

1.3.7 The use of standard methodologies for information exchange

A comparison of the various methodologies being used by the participants in areas such as library cataloguing, indexing and classification systems and library software packages shows that there is very little standardization at present (Annex 1). The most commonly used cataloguing software is one of the versions of CDS/ISIS, although some of the current users are ODINAFRICA partners, which are now converting to the commercial package InMagic. Several of the libraries are using the ASFIS methodologies for classification and indexing of their collections, i.e. the indexing techniques developed by the ASFA partnership for creation of the database. The Seychelles Fishing Authority uses ASFIS for classification of its physical collection and all indexing terms. Guinea, Kenya, Malawi NAC and Mauritania also use ASFIS for parts of their indexing.

There was a brief introduction to the web-based ASFA input software, www-ISIS-ASFA, and discussion on the advantages of using international standards for indexing and information exchange. Fisheries literature almost always requires taxonomic and geographic indexing, in addition to subject terms if it is to be retrieved successfully. The development and maintenance of a subject thesaurus and specialized indexing terms requires significant resources and probably benefits from the collaboration of an international partnership.

The workshop agreed that the use of agreed standards would improve indexing and enhance information exchange but without external funding there is little possibility to change current systems. Also, some of the libraries are bound by their affiliation or integration in larger subject areas than fisheries and aquaculture, for example the libraries of FAO Fisheries, Bunda College of Agriculture and SAIAB are all in this category.

Developments in this area will be monitored and should be reviewed in more depth in the future. Given that many of the participating institutions are planning, and some already starting, to digitize their publications it was agreed that guidelines on the need for standards in this area are essential if we are to avoid a digital mayhem in the future.

1.3.8 Sustainability of the network

The question of sustainability and longer term implementation of the network was the question at the forefront of everyone’s mind and gave rise to much discussion. Funding is presently available to continue activities through 2004 and all participants will have to make an effort, either individually or as a group, to secure longer term funding. This is an area in which libraries generally have little expertise and where they are often excluded from the budgeting process in their parent institutions. However, the opportunities for library consortia and other co-funding arrangements were presented at the workshop and several participants have contact with bilateral or multi-lateral donors. Working together as a group and sharing ideas for funding should benefit the network as a whole.

SAIAB proposed extension of the project for a further three to four years, with biennial workshops of the active participants to assess progress, exchange ideas, and plan future action for the project. In that time SAIAB would undertake to coordinate and promote the project, with the aim that networking links established between institutions throughout the course of the project should be sustainable after cessation of the project.

For the immediate future it was agreed that good and regular communications between participants is vital. Everyone has electronic mail, not always reliable, not always within their institution and in one case not available without payment for each message sent and received. An e-mail discussion list should be investigated and, perhaps in the longer term, the possibility of a joint Internet presence and information exchange platform. Obviously the possibility to hold regular meetings and workshops would provide the ideal scenario upon which to develop the network. However, the funding required is substantial and it is important that the various overlapping interests, such as AFRIAMSLIC, are not competing for the same limited resources. It was agreed that the opportunity should be taken for participants to meet in conjunction with other meetings. For example, the planned 2004 AFRIAMSLIC meeting to be held in Tanzania and the 2005 IAMSLIC meeting to be held in collaboration with FAO in Rome. Both of these have the potential to provide a forum for network development.

Several potential funding partners were suggested in addition to the donor community, including NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development), the fishing industry and fisheries and aquaculture societies. A brief overview of organizations and programmes with potential for collaboration is given in Part 3.1.

It was agreed that drafting a realistic and achievable workplan for 2004 would be an important function of the workshop as a step towards sustaining network collaboration. The final item discussed was the need for a network name and several suggestions were put forward. However, it was decided that until some degree of permanence is achieved it is probably better to continue to refer to the FAO/SAIAB African fisheries library network.

1.3.9 Important issues

Given that the workshop was the first opportunity for the network participants to meet and discuss a very wide range of topics, the list of proposals, decisions and recommended future activities was very long. There were some issues which arose in several of the workshop presentations and again during discussion sessions. It was agreed that these should be elaborated upon in more detail under the following three headings: Network focal points; African fisheries publications; Online services and open source software.

1.4 Focal points for regional network development

At the outset of the library networking activity it was very clearly stated that there should be no duplication or conflict with existing national or regional networks, that our goal was to assess and meet the needs specifically for fisheries and aquaculture information and, most importantly, to propose mechanisms for sharing the information resources available in the region.

Many of the participating libraries are members of library networks at national level, some of them well developed, formal networks with stated objectives, benefits and obligations. Examples of this type of network are found in:

Other countries do not have such well established library networks and several participants rely on donor funding to purchase international lending coupons. South Africa has the most comprehensive collections of fisheries literature and the most well developed library network for sharing resources. Apart from South Africa, the other participants do not have access to the information and documentation they need at national level and depend upon regional and international cooperation.

The lack of inter-library cooperation at national level is probably more common but at the same time contributes to even weaker access to information in resource-poor situations. Current methods of acquisition of information resources ranged from very low budget purchases to donations and the majority of libraries do not have an adequate budget for acquisitions or for access. Students and researchers are forced to travel in many cases huge distances to libraries in order to obtain the information they need. Research grants in some institutions include travel to other countries in order to obtain information. Donor programmes such as those of the International Foundation for Science give grantees an amount to cover the purchase of information. Unfortunately none of these examples contributes to the availability of information in the long-term.

Even during the first year of network activity, it became obvious that the institutions need a much broader and deeper subject base of information than merely the current core aquatic science journals. The statistics and analysis of information requests given in part 1.2 show that a very broad range of diverse information resources are required by fisheries institutions in Africa. This strengthens the case for participation in library networks at national level in particular for access to peripheral subject areas. This would avoid duplication of effort and enable more effective coordination with the regional network for specifically fisheries information. The statistics also indicate that, even when full Internet connectivity and electronic access to full-text documents is achieved, many of the requests will still have to be satisfied from print collections.

Participants from Malawi and Nigeria had been requested to prepare papers for the workshop and for FAO on the status of fisheries information resources in their country and on the feasibility of a focal point to coordinate network activities. Both papers were from institutions working with inland fisheries and aquaculture, otherwise Nigeria and Malawi are as diverse as can be in relation to their size, the number of fisheries and related institutions and their sub-regional location. The terms of reference for these papers requested the following information in relation to each country:

Malawi identified and was able to carry out an in-depth survey at seven institutions with fisheries programmes, whereas this level of analysis was not possible for Nigeria which has over 40 institutions with fisheries programmes and a further 36 State Departments of Fisheries. Differences of scale aside, the information needs in both countries are similar and, where access to peer-reviewed international journals is concerned the needs are the same. The same emphasis is also placed by both institutions on their specialized collections of local publications, organized and searchable by means of CDS/ISIS bibliographic databases. These collections are regarded as one of the most important information resources by their institutions and by external library users.

The following points synthesize the findings of the two papers plus the discussions held at the workshop on this topic. Both papers presented the role and the potential benefits of a network focal point and were careful also to point out the requirements and the potential constraints of such an arrangement. Both concluded that a focal point would be an advantage for the further development of a regional network, for improving access to fisheries and aquaculture information and for the preservation and dissemination of local publications.

Role of a network focal point

The primary function of network focal points would be coordination in order to rationalise and improve the flow of information and documents in the network. Communication between all collaborating institutions should be as direct as possible but the following activities would eliminate duplication of effort and ensure more effective dissemination:

Benefits of the focal point arrangement

Both papers highlighted the potential benefits of network focal points. In the case of Malawi, Bunda College had the opportunity to conduct personal interviews, over 93 percent of respondents indicated that they would support such an arrangement. The main benefits would be:

Requirements and constraints of the focal point arrangement

Attention should be paid to formal or informal agreements which would be necessary in any kind of networking arrangement. Libraries all over the world are renowned for operating on the basis of cooperation and the sharing of resources. However, an agreed modus operandi is usually in place and is probably even more necessary in the context of few resource-rich libraries and very many resource-poor partners.

The following points were highlighted:

1.5 African fisheries and aquaculture publications

The initial exercise to identify African fisheries and aquaculture serial publications found about one hundred current titles based upon the library collections of FAO and SAIAB. Subsequent searches of international databases and the Internet retrieved only an additional eight titles. These titles are listed by country of publication in Annex 5. It seems unlikely that there are only 108 periodicals on fisheries and aquaculture produced throughout the whole of Africa and the workshop concluded that many African publications are poorly disseminated and distributed. This certainly applies to dissemination outside of Africa, but more importantly they are poorly distributed between countries in Africa and in some cases even within the country of publication. The network participants suggested that there are many more serial publications being produced, although we have not significantly improved upon the 108 titles.

Most of the African fisheries series fall into the category known as grey literature i.e. institutional or project serials such as Technical Reports, Annual Reports and Newsletters. These publications represent the results of fisheries research and development in African countries and the general lack of exchange of this information between countries, as well as its inadequate preservation for future generations, has often been cited as a problem. A better system for the dissemination and exchange of current African fisheries and aquaculture serials is essential. Several institutions are already planning, or hoping, to produce and disseminate their publications digitally. The possibilities for dissemination and distribution will then become much greater, particularly if the institutions have their own Homepage on the Internet. At present five of the institutions have a web site but no full text publications as yet.

A programme to provide access to the more conventional, scientific journals published in Africa is the Africa Journals Online (AJOL) service, which is supported by INASP, the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications. Several aquatic sciences journals are covered by AJOL and many of the multidisciplinary journals include fisheries and aquatic sciences articles.

Discussions on how to improve the dissemination of the results of African fisheries research and development in fact stretched well beyond the original workshop intentions. The programme included a session to summarize the general situation of fisheries literature published in Africa and to review ongoing or planned digitization projects. A much wider range of issues was raised in several papers and almost all discussion sessions. It was agreed that all of these issues are important and should be taken into account in any effort to improve access to fisheries information in Africa. A brief summary of the issues which were raised is also included in this section.

Coverage in international databases

The poor coverage of African fisheries and aquaculture periodical titles in international bibliographic databases is illustrated in the paper by Lawrie et al. An analysis of the coverage of the 108 known African fisheries and aquaculture periodical titles was carried out using the MOFR, ABAFR, FISHLIT and ASFA databases. Around 49 percent of the 108 titles examined are not covered by any of the databases and even those which are covered are incomplete.

The paper by Kaba illustrates the need for improved coverage of African publications in general, and those from francophone Africa in particular, in the ASFA database. Pointing out that the records included are mainly input by FAO or IFREMER, he attributes the problem in part to the small number of ASFA input centres in sub-Saharan Africa i.e. four, with only one of those in francophone West Africa. The language is obviously a barrier as well as the lack of national and sub-regional networks to enable collaborative input to the database. He indicates that there is generally better coverage of the francophone African fisheries publications in the HORIZON database, which is produced by Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). Le Fonds Documentaire de l’IRD (FDI) integrates almost all research publications from francophone Africa, which have been produced since the 1960s.

Grey literature is by definition often difficult to track and obtain. For African fisheries publications the problem is compounded by the lack of financial resources to improve their production, dissemination and distribution. From the point of view of international database publishers, the main difficulties in covering these titles are lack of knowledge of the existence of many publications, lack of current contact information and the fact that the disproportionate amount of time involved in trying to obtain them is too costly.

Dissemination at national and regional level

Dissemination of the literature published is not widespread or effective, even at national level, and is almost never systematically carried out between countries in the region. One example is that Bunda Library staff collected 61 fisheries publications during site visits which were not held by Bunda Library and were not covered by international databases. None of the institutions surveyed in Malawi, apart from the academic institutions, has a policy or mechanism put in place to ensure that local publications are easily and readily accessible to other users, either within or outside the country. As a result, most publications are kept in individual offices and are not organized or catalogued in any way. Some institutions distribute their publications to directors rather than libraries, which often results in their loss to a wider audience and to the next generation. Establishing exchange agreements between libraries can be one of the most effective ways of dissemination and also provides a relatively inexpensive way to develop library collections.

Digitization programmes

Few fisheries institutions in Africa have yet made their publications available digitally. However, the table of library methodologies in Annex 1 shows the emerging diversity of digitization plans. Different partners and donors will no doubt decide upon different formats, different metadata standards and different methods for the preservation and archiving of digital publications. Unless libraries collaborate now to ensure the adoption of agreed standards, the result will be the same incompatibility problems which now face most library catalogues.

Difficulties for African scientists to publish

In all of our efforts to digitize, to provide online full-text access and to globalize information, we have to remember that the difficulty for African scientists to publish is the most serious problem for the research and development community. Many of the participating libraries are also responsible, at least in part, for the publishing programme of their institution. A common problem in research institutions is often the lack of funds to regularly publish their own series. One example is the National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research which has been publishing the Nigerian Fisheries and Aquatic Science Abstracts since 1988. Two completed volumes are currently compiled in the library computer, unable to be printed and distributed due to lack of funds.

Tom Hecht sums up the effects of the low scientific publication rate and high rejection rate resulting in demoralized scientists, high emigration and a loss to the economic development of the country. Fodé Kaba reports that only three of the seven francophone African countries he studied have research institutions which are regularly publishing fisheries series. A previous study carried out a bibliographic analysis using the ASFA database to identify publications produced by African fisheries institutions as an indicator of the dissemination of research results. One of the conclusions was “...It is apparent from the brief analysis of the literature that the participation in the global scientific community of the region’s research institutions is modest” (Nauen, 1995)[1].

Scholarly journals or grey literature

The editorial boards of scientific journals reject the publications of African scientists because of the lack of up to date citations. The latter is largely due to the lack of access to scientific journals in African libraries. The result is that most African scientists publish in the form of grey literature, such as institutional reports. Several participants indicated that up to 70 percent of African fisheries research is published as grey literature, the remainder in conference proceedings or as theses and only a small percentage finds its way into scholarly journals. Others pointed out that many of the papers cited as being published in Africa are in fact produced by international organizations such as FAO or as a result of working group meetings organized by regional fishery bodies such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).

Information ownership

Because of the difficulties of publication, African researchers often feel the need to protect their research results rather than share them with colleagues, as cited in the paper from Tanzania. The whole concept of information sharing has to be based on recognition of the originator, which is difficult to achieve when there is no opportunity to publish.

Local publications

Notwithstanding the “grey” nature of African fisheries publications, many libraries stated that their specialized collections of local publications are the most heavily used resources and provide the most relevant content for the fisheries sector as a whole.

Indigenous and traditional knowledge

Managing knowledge in general and indigenous knowledge in particular has become an important and valuable input in the management of sustainable development programmes. The growing awareness that indigenous knowledge has a role to play in national development has led to the growth of interest in preserving and managing it. The major challenges to the management and preservation of indigenous knowledge are issues relating to collection development, intellectual property rights, access and the preservation media (Ngulube, 2002)[2].

1.6 Online services and open source software

Several papers at the workshop presented online services and during the day at the Rhodes University Library computer laboratory we were able to demonstrate these and discuss the benefits. We concentrated on systems and services which are open source or are available to many African countries free of charge or at reduced cost. Several of the systems are part of the Open Access Movement, which is concerned to ensure comprehensive open access to scholarly literature and research documentation and to reduce information inequality.

The Internet and access to full text electronic information provide a huge opportunity and great potential for the development of African fisheries libraries, as well as for the publication and dissemination of information generated in Africa. It is essential that we push forwards in this direction for the benefit of those who already have Internet access. Unfortunately, many of the libraries either have no Internet access at all or it is unreliable, has too low a bandwidth or it is far too costly. This means that we have to work with various parallel systems to take into account those who still totally rely on print or CD-ROM as well as those who have Internet access. The Internet will not, at least in the near future, diminish the need for access to the vast bulk of fisheries publications which are not digitized.

Several participants already have access to some online full text information, but many fisheries libraries are outside of the mainstream and are unaware of the larger multidisciplinary initiatives. The following is simply a brief outline of some of the important online services which were presented:

Examples of open source, free of charge or reduced cost systems


Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture: A global partnership to provide free or reduced-price online journal access to developing countries.


African Journals Online: promotes use and awareness of journal publication in Africa.


Internet Portal and Community Content Manager


Bioline International: not-for-profit electronic publishing service providing open access to quality research journals published in developing countries


CDS/ISIS for Windows An information processing tool developed by Unesco


Directory of Open Access Journals: Contains information about 350 full-text, free journals.


Electronic Information for Libraries: an independent foundation that strives to lead, negotiate, support and advocate for the wide availability of electronic resources by library users in transition and developing countries.


The electronic Journals Delivery Service Programme of the Abdus Salam ICTP/TWAS Donation Programme. Facilitates access to current scientific literature free of charge. Scientific articles are sent via e-mail to scientists in institutions in Third World Countries who do not have access to sufficient bandwidth to download material from the Internet in a timely manner and/or cannot afford the connection.

Fish Base

The Fish Base Programme An information database of textual and graphical information covering 25,000 fish species worldwide


Open Source Digital Library Software


l'Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD): Le fonds documentaire et pleins textes.


International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications: Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information, especially for those with less developed systems of publication and dissemination.


An Open Source Content Management System; an Internet community portal for information dissemination and exchange


Document Exchange Software


The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library: Full-text and bibliographic CD-ROM library of over 140 important scientific journals in the field of agriculture. Available well below cost to over 100 of the lowest-income food deficit countries.


Free software portal

[1] Nauen, C. (1995). Governance of fisheries and aquaculture in Southern and Eastern Africa and in the Southern Indian Ocean. A short review and related considerations on flows and communication of research results. In Proceedings of the First Dialogue Meeting Eastern and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean and the European Union. Swakopmund, Namibia, 5-8 July 1995. ACP- EU Fisheries Research Report, no. 1, pp. 125-144.
[2] Ngulube, P. (2002). Managing and preserving indigenous knowledge in the knowledge management era: challenges and opportunities for information professionals. Information Development, vol. 18 no. 2, pp. 95-102.

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