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Mainstreaming fisheries co-management in Asia: Lessons learned in Asia, Africa, and the wider Caribbean

Robert Pomeroy, University of Connecticut

68. Cooperative management or co-management can be defined as a partnership arrangement in which the community of local resource users (fishers), government, other stakeholders (boat owners, fish traders, boat builders, business people, etc.) and external agents (non-government organizations, academic and research institutions) share the responsibility and authority for the management of the fishery.

69. Mr Pomeroy identified the key conditions for the successful implementation of fisheries and coastal co-management in Southeast Asia. Co-management in Asia has been carried out since the 1960s, but in the early days there was little government involvement. From the early 1990s governments were more involved, especially with regards to protecting rights. Since the early 1990s there has been a move towards decentralization.

70. All countries have their own co-management scenarios and cases and there is a wide range of factors that can affect the implementation and performance of co-management related activities: from resources and fisheries to cultural and institutional factors.

71. There is a move in fisheries management towards:

72. Through consultations and negotiations, the partners develop a formal agreement on their respective roles, responsibilities and rights in management. This is crucial to determining what kind of and how much responsibility and authority to allocate to the community level. This is ultimately a political decision. The government will always hold the balance of power in co-management.

73. The drivers behind the development of co-management are often threats to livelihoods from poor management, resource conflicts, and a desire by coastal communities to be more involved. Doing co-management is doing something differently. It should be underlined that there is no blueprint or model for co-management, but rather a variety of arrangements from which to choose to suit a specific context. The countries in Asia and the Pacific region are all different.

Co-management in aquaculture

Pedro Bueno, NACA

74. Mr Bueno considered the extent to which there is co-management in aquaculture and whether aquaculture can be managed under a co-management approach. Co-management has mostly been described through its application in the management of common resources (mostly at the community level). Varying definitions of co-management cover the need for involvement of stakeholders and the sharing of authority in decision-making. Typically, the arrangement includes state and civil society, often through the use of groups and/or associations.

75. The general trends in aquaculture in the region are towards: increasing intensification because of restrictions and limits to aquaculture expansion; diversification of species; diversification of production systems; increasing influence of markets; enhanced regulation and better governance. All of these challenge current regulatory and management mechanisms and require a higher degree of interaction between the state and the producers, as well as other stakeholders.

76. Aquaculture development and its need for resources has generated or has the potential to generate conflicts such as: (i) competition for common resources between users, including fish farmers; (ii) denial of access to common resources to some groups; (iii) social inequities that arise when the benefits from aquaculture are not equitably shared; (iv) specific people or groups reaping benefits while others bear the costs; and (v) ecosystem impacts by aquaculture and the cost of mitigating the damage or restoring the ecosystem.

77. The fundamental purpose of managing an economic resource is to ensure its sustainability through harmonious development and sharing of the benefits and the costs of such development equitably. Management approaches include command-and-control, market incentives, and voluntary arrangements. Realistically, a carrot is not always enough to induce good behaviour. Equally, morality by itself is not always enough to compel individuals to act wisely. Adherence to a code of conduct could be facilitated by the threat of punitive action.

78. A preferable approach is the integration of producers and regulators under a co-management arrangement that combines incentives and disincentives into a complementary set of governance tools. Faced with increasing difficulty with and costs of regulating aquaculture activity, greater importance is being given to voluntary arrangements and co-management practices. Their practical application is in the adoption of good or better management practices, codes of conduct or practices by farmers and industry. Self-regulation and co-management imply divesting the government of some responsibilities. The presentation raised the question: Are market mechanisms alone sufficient to ensure that farmers' goals (of profitable production) can be balanced with broader societal goals that include environmental quality, social equity, food safety etc.?

79. The desired state of affairs is that the stakeholders have co-ownership of the development of policies and programmes to attain such objectives as equitable access to resources and a share of the returns from aquaculture, environmentally friendly and socially responsible farming, harmony, and cooperation. Some experiences in Asia show clearly that the voluntary adoption of better management practices by farmer groups leads to more environmentally responsible and economically efficient farming, as well as better quality and safer products. These are important issues in sustaining farming and accessing markets.

80. Examples of co-management applications in aquaculture were presented from a number of countries from the APFIC region and included: culture based fisheries; better management practice mechanisms and cluster management of organized farmers groups; and codes of conduct for responsible aquaculture.

81. Mr Bueno concluded his presentation by asking a number of questions:

Strategies and action to mainstream fisheries co-management in the APFIC region

Simon Funge-Smith, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

82. The APFIC regional workshop on mainstreaming fisheries co-management (Siem Reap, Cambodia, 9-12 August 2005) acknowledged that the co-management of fisheries is widely practiced in most countries in Asia and the Pacific region, but noted these were mostly undertaken through traditional arrangements or on a pilot/demonstration scale through projects. Although these pilot/demonstration schemes have shown that economic, social and environmental benefits can be achieved, countries in Asia and the Pacific region are urged to move towards more organized implementation of co-management at local, provincial and national level, i.e. they should mainstream fisheries co-management. This should build on existing co-management and community-based arrangements where available.

83. A number of challenges to successful co-management was highlighted, including poverty levels of fishers in the region; limited communication of the benefits of co-management; resource constraints; weak governance frameworks and poor institutional linkages, the lack of integration of fisheries management with other policy developments such as decentralization and poverty reduction.

84. Mr Funge-Smith listed various strategies and actions to facilitate the mainstreaming of fishery co-management in Asia and the Pacific region for further consideration by the forum. These were:

Country experiences with co-management

Brief presentations from APFIC Members

85. This session consisted of brief presentations from representatives of the APFIC member countries.

86. Australia – Co-management has been implemented in Australia with a trend towards smaller management units. Both information technology and developments in science and technology have had a profound impact on the ability to engage in co-management. This is particularly the case with tracking and information management, as well as with the increased interaction and engagement between stakeholders. There is now a greater expectation of being consulted in decision-making and a policy to devolve more management powers from national to state or local level. Australia has three pillars for management of the natural resource base:

87. Bangladesh – The co-management process was initiated by the sensitization of fishers and the organization of fishing communities in village organisations into gear-based fisheries maintenance organizations/community-based organizations (FMOs/CBOs) and FMAC. Training and workshops were conducted and multi-stakeholder committees, including NGOs, established at local levels. Administrative steps taken include the identification of locations and the number of illegal gears, supportive policy, and recognition of CBOs and the establishment of a mobile court. Surveys have suggested significant benefits in terms of resources and marketing. Efforts have so far been based most strongly on inland fisheries.

88. Cambodia – The move to co-management started in 2000 when the Prime Minister released more than 56 percent of a total 'fishing lot' concession area of 536 302 ha to local people. Since then Cambodia has developed legal instruments in the form of a new fisheries law, a sub-decree on community fisheries, and community fisheries guidelines. Institutional support is available at national level (the Community Fisheries Development Office - CFDO), at provincial level (community fisheries development units -CFDUs), and local level (community fisheries committees - CFCs). There have already been two rounds of impact assessment, which show local people now have greater access to fishing grounds and improved incomes. There is also increased awareness and a decreased number of conflicts related to resource utilization between lot owners and small-scale fishers. The main issues remain the low capacities of CFCs, and the fact that many of them do not function well. The majority are still lacking management plans, boundary maps, and a functioning committee. There is now a need to strengthen CFCs and provide motivation and incentives, support networking, promote cooperation of CFCs with commune councils and support livelihood diversification.

89. India – Union government has authority outside territorial waters and states have authority over other inland marine areas. There are co-management arrangements in the form of: a) collection and fattening of lobster rather than harvesting them too young, where the state provides finance to local banks so that communities can get access to necessary finance; b) use of fish aggregating devices (FADs), where the state defines areas, researchers input, and fishermen's groups are custodians. There are significant advantages of these arrangements, but they also need careful regulation to avoid over-development or inappropriate developments (e.g. too many operations, dumping of materials in the sea to act as FADs).

90. Indonesia – The country has customary laws/practices (e.g. Panglima Laut), and since 1957 licensing has been decentralized. More formal systems of co-management have been in place since 1997, supported by the Fisheries Law of 31/2004 and the Autonomy Law 32/2004. Management plans are developed using a combination of top-down (central to local fisheries agencies) and bottom-up (fisheries to groups and their representatives) approaches. The major objective is "poverty alleviation through increasing public awareness without increasing fishing capacity." Constraints include limited human and institutional capacity and lack of good knowledge of stocks. Key lessons learned from this process are the importance of participation of the local community, and the importance of ensuring that laws and regulations are specific to the local context.

91. Japan – Records of traditional community management systems date from 600 AD. In 1875, the introduction of a complete institutional reform saw the introduction of a top-down centralized system. This led to a chaotic situation and serious conflicts between fisheries. A new law was introduced in 1901 under which fishing rights and licences were articulated. However, there was no control over transfer of rights and this led to the concentration of rights holdings. Further reform led to the current law (1949), which ensures that fisheries coordination is based on democratic decision-making processes and fishing rights that are subject to limitations and obligations. There are various levels of coordinating organizations. Currently, emerging issues include non-competitiveness and multiple coastal uses, thus the process of 'trial and error' is still ongoing, emphasizing that co-management is also a co-learning process.

92. Republic of Korea – There has been a paradigm shift in fisheries management (mainly since 2001) from a top-down approach to one of fishermen's participation and voluntary management. The government's responsibilities for management are now shared with fishermen. Fishermen's role has changed from "users" to "users and resource managers". Community activities under this system include fishing ground management (collecting lost gear, etc.), fisheries management (mesh size rules, etc.), and production management (catch limits, length restrictions, etc.). Key lessons from this are that building leadership is critical, a government role and political will are important, and incentives are necessary. Future activities will include the establishment of an evaluation system, an income analysis process, and a civil society consultation system.

93. Malaysia – An example of successful co-management in inland fisheries is the tagal system in Sabah. As a result of its extension, many river fish populations have been revived in the last three years. State laws empower communities to establish regulations for their resources (Sabah Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture Act 2003). Under the tagal system, the local community forms a committee, identifies sites, and harvests once or twice per year and shares the catch equally. The community also liaises with the Department of Fisheries (DOF), which gives technical advice and has assisted in setting up a model tagal. DOF promotes the system, monitors progress and engages in dialogue with fishers and capacity building, gives material assistance and helps to promote ecotourism in tagal zones where no harvesting is allowed. The tagal committee's responsibilities include paying a fee, deciding on a closed period, deciding on fines and holding meetings. Communities protect the site using signboards and through community and peer pressure. Key lessons are that you must have strong support and cooperation from all stakeholders, especially village heads, and committed department staff, and that zoning of tagal sites is important. There are now 244 tagal sites with plans to increase to 400 tagal sites by 2010.

94. Myanmar – The country is exploiting its fisheries in accordance with estimates of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) with the fishery being divided into inshore and offshore fisheries. Offshore fisheries are using trawling, purse seines and longlines. Aquaculture development has grown to 164 000 ha under cultivation. Production and marketing of eels provides an example of co-management in Myanmar. Government specifies minimum sizes, and an Eel Association has been established. There is joint monitoring of eels, and collectors have a chance to export. Greater private sector participation in co-management is important for sustainable fishery development. There are now many associations for different sectors of the industry, with regular meetings between associations and government.

95. Nepal – Since the 1980s there has been a public/private partnership in the fisheries management of water bodies, establishing legal regulations, conservation awareness and environmental protection. Ongoing co-management activities include cage fish culture in Lake Phewa (420 ha with 300 beneficiary families). Another example is cooperative fish harvesting in Lake Rupa.

96. Pakistan – Fisheries only contribute 0.3 percent to the country's GDP. Marine aquaculture has not really started yet in Pakistan, but inland aquaculture is growing rapidly. There is one major fisheries cooperative society, with the membership mostly comprising marine fishers. There was a community development project between 1991 and 1994 in Punjab. There is a need to establish greater sectoral representation for co-management. Government has an important role in providing models that can be replicated by the private sector.

97. Philippines – There are a wide range of coastal co-management interventions including marine protected areas (MPAs), Resource Enhancement Projects (REPs), community-based coastal resource management (CB-CRM), Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (FARMCs), bantay dagat, aqua-silviculture, fish sanctuaries, municipal ordinances, and mangrove rehabilitation. Less attention has been given to inland fisheries, although some co-management activities are beginning in terms of lake management plans and protected area management. Methods of inland resource management may not be easily replicable.

98. Sri Lanka – Total production was 286 370 tonnes in 2004, with exports of US$94 million. Co-management is practiced in inland and marine fisheries. But in coastal waters, boat numbers have increased steadily since 1980 and fish production and catch per unit of effort (CPUE) are declining. Negombo lagoon has been used as a pilot area to form fisheries management committees and a fisheries management authority. Regulations have been implemented and are being enforced.

99. Thailand – The Department of Fisheries (DOF) has implemented various patters of co-management or community-based management. DOF has been encouraging self-regulatory fisheries activities, and providing capacity building and training. The legal framework also allows for local communities and fishers to manage their own territories, and local acts and dispensations are provided and the 1947 legislation is being reviewed/updated. There have been three prominent pilot sites for community based resource management in Phang Nga Bay, Bang Saphan Bay, and Pathiew District in Chumphon province. There are also several fisher groups on the coasts of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea involved in management activities. Other sites are planned. The Bang Saphan project has been successful (strong voluntary participation, reduced conflicts and a sustainable revolving fund). There have also been successes in the Phang Nga Bay project (central market, good research, good ecotourism) and the Pathiew project (good research, success in small business development). But there are some weak points in each project too. In the Bang Saphan project there is a weak fisher community network, ecotourism is not well developed, and no law and legal support to prevent outsiders coming in). In the Phang Nga Bay project there is weak participation in monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), and weak waste management for tourists. In the Pathiew project there is weak participation in MCS, and no law and legal support to prevent outsiders coming in).

100. Viet Nam An example of co-management can be found in Tam Giang lagoon (22 000 ha stretching through five coastal districts, and with 400 000 inhabitants with one third being direct users of the lagoon). Traditionally, there was no planning between aquaculture development and capture fisheries. A pilot model has established fishermen's organizations and fisheries management. The fisheries sub-association has its own legal entity. Results have included planning, rearrangement of fishing grounds, and water traffic circulation to create a better environment. A rule on fishing ground self-management was approved in 2003. The pilot model is being scaled up to 14 self-associations in the province. These self-associations are self-financing, and can get group-use rights.

What are fishery rights?

Suriyan Vichitlekarn, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC)

101. Mr Vichitlekarn covered fishery rights issues in the context of the various problems affecting fisheries in the region, including overfishing and overcapacity, use of destructive fishing gears and practices, conflicts of various users' interests and the lack of appropriate regulatory systems. The consequent deterioration of the state of the fisheries and declining economic returns have aggravated poverty, particularly in small-scale fisheries in inland and inshore waters. Fishery rights are increasingly considered as a management tool and implemented in the region to address these problems. Noting that rights come with duties/responsibilities, different forms of rights in fisheries can be distinguished, including territorial use rights (TURFs), input rights (e.g. limited entry/licensing) and output rights (e.g. harvesting quotas). Rights of use or access need to be differentiated from ownership rights, which usually rest with states. In the absence of accompanying management measures, limited entry has generally failed because it does not effectively curtail the 'race to fish'.

102. In the context of its effort to provide guidance on the adoption of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and in support of the 2001 Resolution and Plan of Action on Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, SEAFDEC developed regional guidelines for co-management using group user rights. The guidelines provide consideration on policy and legal support, understanding on group user rights, co-management mechanisms and local fisher institutions as well as on the steps needed when implementing a rights-based fisheries management system. Licensing and community/group user rights were considered appropriate for commercial/industrial fisheries and small-scale fisheries, respectively, in the region. Whether the process of introducing rights-based fisheries management should start as a top-down or a bottom-up process or as a mixture of both would largely depend on the specific context in each country.

103. The costs (transitional costs) and benefits (e.g. greater compliance; reduced management costs) of adopting rights-based fisheries management systems need to be carefully assessed and there was often a need to support institutional and legal frameworks. Traditional rights systems usually require appropriate adaptation to deal with the rapid changes that fisheries face in today's world.

104. In conclusion, emphasis was placed on the importance of local institutions for effective co-management, economic activities to strengthen the established community-based institutions to be financially sustainable/viable, and the need for supporting regional collaborative mechanisms.

Recommendations of the APFIC Regional Consultative Forum

105. Noting that fisheries co-management includes both fisheries (marine and freshwater) and aquaculture activities, the forum recommended that fisheries co-management be mainstreamed in national systems of management in the countries of Asia and the Pacific region, building on previous activities.

106. In this context, fisheries co-management can be defined as:

a partnership approach where government and the fishery resource users share the responsibility and authority for the management of a fishery or fisheries in an area, based on collaboration between themselves and other stakeholders.

107. The mainstreaming of fisheries co-management should be achieved by various actions of APFIC members and other parties.

APFIC members should:

All parties should:

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