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18. The Executive Committee was informed of the actions taken by FAO and APFIC in response to the disaster created by the earthquake and the resultant tsunami of 26 December 2004 to many coastal communities in the Indian Ocean region as detailed in document APFIC: ExCo/05/3. It noted that, besides the high death toll of more than 300 000 people, the livelihood of many of these coastal communities had been shattered. The disaster affected local natural resources (coral reefs, mangrove forests and sea grass beds) and seriously impacted some local fisheries and aquaculture. The APFIC Secretariat, through FAO, has worked closely with several UN agencies and the relevant governments in support of short-term relief operations as well as longer-term rehabilitation.

19. The Committee commended the prompt action taken by FAO and the APFIC Secretariat in response to the calamity caused by the 2004 earthquake and tsunami to many fishing communities in the affected countries of the region. It unanimously agreed that FAO, through its Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and APFIC, should continue to assist the affected countries of the region in both short-term relief and long-term rehabilitation operations.

20. The Committee noted further that APFIC has played an active role in networking and dissemination of information as well as in the creation of a consortium of five specialized fisheries and aquaculture agencies (CONSRN), comprising the Bay of Bengal Programme-Intergovernmental Organization (BOBP-IGO); FAO through its Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) and APFIC; Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA); Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC); and the WorldFish Center (WorldFish). The overall objective of CONSRN is to enhance efforts on well planned and well-targeted rehabilitation and sustainable development activities. In this connection, a fisheries/tsunami page was established at the APFIC website and 23 updated fishery and aquaculture impact reports for India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were produced. The impact reporting was, however, discontinued when the official UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) system was fully integrated and operational in March 2005.

21. The Committee took note of the degree of impact generated by the tsunami especially on the fisheries sector in the affected countries of the Indian Ocean region and the direct support provided by FAO in the relief and rehabilitation operations.

22. FAO, through APFIC, organized the Regional Workshop on the Rehabilitation of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Coastal Communities of Tsunami Affected countries in Asia, in Bangkok from 28 February to 1 March 2005. The conclusions and recommendations of this Workshop were used in formulating a regional strategic framework for the rehabilitation of fisheries and aquaculture in these affected countries. Furthermore, FAO reported the findings and activities related to the relief operations and rehabilitation programmes to the Twenty-sixth Session of COFI(March 2005) and the ensuing Ministerial meeting. The Committee was gratified to note that the latter had adopted a statement in support of FAO tsunami rehabilitation activities and concurred with its caution, that the countries concerned should not relocate any excess fishing capacity as part of the tsunami relief and rehabilitation effort.

23. The Committee noted that, at the country level, some countries had undertaken monitoring studies on the effect of the tsunami on fish catches, whilst some other countries had participated in regional joint activities on resources assessment and effect of ecosystem impact. It noted that APFIC could collate this information and produce a regional overview. It was suggested that the lack of pre-tsunami baseline information might constrain the assessment, but that the use of fishers as informants can indicate some of the impacts and changes. It was recognized that whilst the relief and rehabilitation effort focused primarily on the return of fishers to the fishery, effort should be made to provide possible alternatives to fishing and aquaculture livelihoods.

24. The Committee discussed the need for appropriate early warning systems in fishing communities and noted that in several countries, in particular India, there was a lack of adequate arrangements at the grass roots level. Fishing communities and NGOs need to be targeted to integrate fishing communities into existing national early warning systems, together with appropriate training. The Committee requested the secretariat to seek support for such a system through FAO or other collaborative arrangements.

25. The Committee recognized that CONSRN is an informal arrangement set up to coordinate short-term relief and longer-term rehabilitation efforts, and that donors usually deal directly with affected countries in implementing donor-financed projects. The Committee recommended that CONSRN continue its activities. It also recommended that APFIC participate in the two subregional meetings that are to be organized by the CONSRN partners (SEAFDEC and BOBP-IGO), which are scheduled during 2005.

26. The Secretariat advised that a coordination unit supported by full-time officers based at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok was currently under consideration. The role of the unit will be to undertake future long-term coordination efforts relevant to the tsunami rehabilitation programme and cross-sectoral (e.g. forestry and fisheries) activities which are anticipated to last about three to five years.

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