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Ichiro Nomura, FAO Department of Fisheries

The Keynote Address was entitled: "Reforming fisheries and aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific". The presentation commenced with a short outline of the global picture. Total global fisheries production in 2004 was 140.5 million tonnes. Note that this figure does not include aquatic plants. This is an increase of about 7 million tonnes over that recorded in 2002, representing a modest increase of 1.9 percent for capture fisheries and 12.6 percent for aquaculture. Marine capture fisheries is still the largest component - 61.1 percent; Inland capture - 6.6 percent; Marine aquaculture - 13.0 percent; Inland aquaculture - 19.3 percent.

Within capture fisheries, total global production in 2004 was 95 million tonnes. A slight increase since 2002 is due mainly to fluctuations in the catch in anchoveta fisheries in Peru and Chile, although Southeast Asia also recorded an increase. With China's figures removed, it is clear that the rest of the world's catch has been declining since early 1990s, indicating that the upper limit of the worlds capture fisheries may have been reached. There are, of course, wide geographic differences with increases in the NW and Central Pacific and declines in the northern Atlantic

Unlike capture fisheries - Aquaculture production is continuing to grow - especially in China and the Asia-Pacific region. China now produces 70 percent of the world's supply of aquaculture. Just considering aquaculture without aquatic plants, production is at an all time high of 45.5 million tonnes. Aquaculture supplied 43.0 percent of the fish for human consumption in 2004. This proportion was only 36.6 percent in 2000. With the inclusion of aquatic plants produced by aquaculture, the total aquaculture production in 2004 was 59.4 million tonnes with a value of USD70.3 billion. Importantly, in terms of the future growth of aquaculture, there is a shift towards more carnivorous and feeding of omnivorous species that require protein inputs as feed. This shift is dependent on the global supply of fish protein resources that is needed, either directly as feed in the case of fish cage culture, or in other forms of aquaculture, indirectly, through its reduction to fishmeal and fish oil that forms the basis of pelleted diets.

Historical trends in APFIC region

Using the Southeast Asia subregion as an example, the keynote address described what has happened in fisheries in the APFIC region. Fishing and aquaculture have been traditional activities in the Southeast Subregion for many centuries. The first major industrial fishing activity occurred in the early 1880s with the advent of pearling in the Sulu-Celebes Sea. By 1830 pearling involved about 68 000 divers. The industry was driven by a strong market in China and with the introduction of new diver technologies, the area of exploitation expanded across the subregion as successive beds were discovered and depleted. Pearling now survives as a small artisanal fishery in the Philippines - although the culture of pearls is a significant industry for several Asia-Pacific countries.

Trawling for fish has occurred in the Southeast Asia since the late 1800s. It started with Japanese sail boats trawling in Manila Bay. The advent of steam power vessels in Europe occurred at this time and several attempts of using this technology in Southeast Asia were tried. These were not successful as the gear often clogged and catches were low. The Japanese fleet also adopted steam-powered vessels in the late 1920's. As stocks became depleted in the Philippines, the vessels expanded into the South China Sea and Viet Nam. In a joint initiative of Germany and Thailand, trawling-technology was transferred to the Gulf of Thailand in the 1960s. Trawling took off very rapidly and as Thailand stocks became depleted, Thailand vessels expanded into Viet Nam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Straits of Malacca. Trawling was also developed in parallel in other countries, especially in Malaysia.

Around 1976, when the establishment of EEZs from UNCLOS negotiations became certain, it changed the way trawling development occurred in the region. Countries declared their own EEZs and accepted their responsibility to manage these areas. This required access agreements be formed with neighbouring countries to allow trawling to continue in their waters.

The degree to which this has occurred is a question that has no definitive answer, although it is known that many trawlers continued to fish in foreign waters, and this aspect of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing is an issue that will be taken up later in the Forum and APFIC sessions. With respect to our discussion on low value/trash fish, it is interesting to note that even in the early days of trawling development, a major market has always been feed for livestock of which ducks are an important end user.

Purse seining is another activity that underwent a dramatic cycle of development. Fishers were using surrounding nets as early as 1800s. These sail-powered Chinese junks were fishing off Viet Nam, Gulf of Thailand and Straits of Malacca in early 1900s. As with trawlers, the introduction of steam power in 1930s, was a catalyst to rapid expansion. As the demersal stocks became depleted through trawling, many vessels were modified to fish for pelagic resources, especially in the Gulf of Thailand. There was a large expansion of Thai purse seiners in the 1970s and 1980s. Pelagic stocks, especially inshore small pelagics became reduced.

As a last example of what has happened in Southeast Asia, the keynote presentation considered tuna longlining, poling and purse seining. As with all the other fishing methods, fishing for tuna has been being carried out for a very long time. Traditional fishing for tuna was being carried out in the 1800s using trawl-shaped nets, lures and long-lines, long-lining for tuna in the Oceans of Southeast Asia developed from 1930s to 1950s. Purse seining targeting tuna developed in 1980s, driven by the rapid expansion of canneries in 1970s and early 1980s. Recent assessments of tuna stocks indicate that many stocks are either over-fished or fully fished. The exception is skipjack tuna, but this species is mostly marketed as canned product and has little potential to become part of the more lucrative sashimi market. In the APFIC region, almost all countries want to increase their national capacity to catch tuna. Given the limited nature of the resource, this expansions must result in increased competition amongst countries and if not managed effectively will result in further over-capitalization of the tuna fleet and overfishing of the tuna stocks.

In summary, this analysis of the history of this fishery is characterized by "boom and bust" cycle. Traditional fishing dates back centuries, but new technologies and markets has greatly influenced fishing in the region. These new technologies and markets have resulted in expansion and serial depletion of fish stocks across the region. In the case of demersal fishing activities, this has taken the form of "fishing down the food chain" where higher-value market fish have been replaced by low value/trash fish. In the pelagic fisheries, this has also seen lowered catches and catch rates with a recent switch to tuna as the last frontier.

Aquaculture development in the Asian region has seen continual overall growth over the past 14 years. However, beneath these total statistics there are also been significant variation. The rapid rise of export focused aquaculture (especially shrimp) witnessed rapid development and was accompanied by serous disease problems and was often associated with local environmental degradation.

Consumer demand and market demands have seen a change in the relative contribution of different aquaculture commodities. Export focused aquaculture is highly sensitive to market demands. The increasing affluence of several Asian economies has also seen a trend towards higher valued species. There is enormous diversity of aquaculture species in the Asian region with over 177 reported species cultured at significant levels. As demands change, aquaculture has responded by shifting species and production systems. Superimposed on these changes are also "booms and bust" created by disease problems, conflicts over land use and changing technologies. The most recent changes include: a dramatic shift to production of the Pacific white leg shrimp; increasing production of marine carnivorous species; a shift away from extensive low inputs freshwater finfish systems; increased use of supplemental and formulated feeds and a general trend to intensification.

The history of APFIC and its role

The history of APFIC also reflects this pattern of development in the region's fisheries and aquaculture. APFIC is, in fact, one of the oldest fisheries commission in the world. In its first phase (1949-1962), APFIC promoted biological and oceanographic research and supported Member's administration, particularly in strengthening their Fishery Departments and administration. In the second phase, it supported countries in being able to benefit from the rapid pace of development that occurred during this period. In its third phase (1980-present) it became more concerned with promoting better fisheries/ aquaculture management and more rational development.

However, APFIC is not a management body and can only act in an advisory role. The advice was probably good but it had little impact on the development during this period. Today's fisheries and aquaculture in the region are now facing major challenges. The theme of this Forum is "Reforming fisheries and aquaculture" and, we believe that major changes are required if we are going to getting greater benefits from the huge potential that fisheries and aquaculture offers the region.

Options for the future

APFIC and FAO and the member countries have the goal of achieve in our efforts for better administration and management of fisheries and aquaculture. Based on global instruments and agreements, we are all trying to achieve sustainable development. Sustainable development is an attempt to find the right balance between human well-being and ecological well-being, so that development (improving human well-being) is maintained into the future by conserving the ecosystems on which it depends. Human well-being is the overall standard of living of all humans as measured by human health, education, sanitation, poverty etc. Ecological well-being is the overall health of the ecosystem that support human needs. In the context of fisheries, it is the fishery resources and critical habitats on which these fishery resources depend.

Sustainable Development, therefore, includes three main dimensions - Social, Economic and Ecological. It will also require good governance in order to find the right balance. Experience in the past has shown that you can not have human well-being without ecological well-being, but also importantly, that you can not have ecological well-being without human well-being. The two depend on each other.

There are many options for the future, but we can consider two extremes:

In accepting "boom and bust" neither governments nor the stakeholders try to control the path of change and maintain an open access regime for common property resources and allow unregulated aquaculture development. Advocates of this approach will argue that change is just a process of evolution that can not be controlled. They will also argue that development in many countries in the past has not been controlled. In fact, they will argue that economic growth at the expense of the environment is necessary so that there is sufficient capital to enable the damages to be reversed. They will also argue that this type of open access system will provide a social safety net for the poor so that when there are no other options for poor people they are able to subsist, through catching fish. Lastly, but possibly most importantly, this approach keeps favour with the fishers and those dependent on fish that will result in votes for politicians at all levels. There are several consequences of this approach that need to be recognized. We have probably reached the last frontier in terms of marine capture fishery expansion and aquaculture is facing severe constraints. In terms of fisheries there are very few unexploited resources left to explore. In terms of aquaculture two main constraints are the lack of land for further expansion and the limit to the global supply of aquaculture feeds. The approach will result in degraded natural resources and reduced biodiversity, a condition that will have major implications in years to come.

It has to be realized that fisheries will not contribute to sustainable development to its full potential. Fisheries and aquaculture have the potential to contribute significantly to the region's sustainable development, especially in poverty reduction and increased food security, but this potential will not be realized. There are many hidden costs, for example increased subsidies, that will be needed to the activities viable, despite the fact that the sector may be running at an overall economic loss. It is true that this will result in social benefits in having many people employed, but at what cost? The "not doing anything" option will result in locking the rural poor into the poverty trap from which they can not escape.

Alternatively, action can be taken to reduce "boom and bust" through management measures that include:

There are many justifications for investing in better management, based on reducing the consequences of the "do nothing option". However, there are also implications and consequences that need to be considered. In the case of access limitations, who will be excluded; what happens to the social safety net and who pays for the increased costs of management?

What is happening in the region?

It appears that several policies are trying to address the mistakes of the past but during this Regional Consultative Forum Meeting we need to ask ourselves, whether some of these are appropriate, including:

There are also some good examples of policy decision that should reduce the "boom and bust" of the past. These include:

In the case of aquaculture, the trends of intensification, demand for improved health and safety of products and competition for natural resources are all pushing aquaculture towards a higher degree of management. This is occurring at farm level in order to remain profitable, but also at sectoral level with choices of species and commodity and increasing state regulation and international scrutiny of farming methods and product quality. The future of Asian aquaculture lies in better managed farms and a higher degree of regulation.

Challenges for APFIC Members

The keynote address raised 6 challenges for the participants to consider during the RCFM.

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