direction in Asian APFIC member countries

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2. Regional synthesis

Information on policy content and direction in individual Asian countries has been analysed to generate a regional synthesis of the extent to which policy contains references to different issues (as explored in the table template on page 29) and the main factors driving policy content and changes. In the figures in the following text, the “spider-web” graphs are used to show the percentage of policies that include a particular issue. In interpreting the graphs, the following points should be noted:

  1. Policy documents are not assumed to include an issue where its reference may only be implied, rather than being specific. For example, if policy refers to ‘credit’, but not specifically to ‘micro-finance’, then it is not referenced as including the issue;
  2. It should be noted that because policy documents do not include an issue, this does not necessarily mean that a country is not involved in the concrete implementation activities related to the issue concerned3;
  3. The percentage of policy documents containing reference to a particular issue is calculated by dividing the total number of policies including the issue, by the total number of policies for which the consultant is fairly certain whether the issue is included or not. Typically it has been possible to say with a high degree of certainty whether issues are included or not for more than 90 percent of individual countries’ policies; and
  4. The graphs provide a clear indication of where there is most consistency within the region in terms of widespread/common references to specific issues i.e. those data points close to the outside of the “spider’s web”.

The following text provides comment and discussion on each of the four main subsections i.e. the use of targets, natural resource management issues, financial/economic and marketing issues, and socio-economic and poverty issues.

2.1 The use of policy targets

Policy documents in the region were reviewed to see whether they contain specific and quantifiable targets for a) development (i.e. production totals), and b) management, of both the aquaculture and fisheries sectors. They were also assessed for the inclusion of targets related to other issues.

Policy consistency between countries was found to be most apparent in the use of aquaculture production targets, with 85 percent of countries specifically stating planned or expected production totals in the coming years. In many cases planned increases are substantial. For example, compared to FAO data for 2004 as a base year, Malaysia plans to increase aquaculture production by 250 percent by 2010, Pakistan ~10 percent per annum, Thailand 5 percent per annum, and Viet Nam 25 percent by 2006 and 75 percent by 2010. While Indonesia is planning a 100 percent increase in aquaculture production over 2005 to 2009.

Fisheries policy content and
direction in Asian APFIC
member countries

Figure 1: Use of policy targets

Seventy-nine percent (79 percent) of policies also include targets for capture fisheries production. Targeted increases in production are considerably more modest than for aquaculture, given recognition of existing levels of (over)exploitation. For example, China’s and Pakistan’s production targets for capture fisheries essentially aim at constant production, and Malaysia and Viet Nam have targets which imply constant or declining coastal production but increasing offshore fisheries catches. Thailand has a target of 1.7 million tonnes from Thai waters and 1.8 million tonnes from foreign waters, representing a 23 percent increase on 2004 production totals, and Indonesia plans for a 9 percent increase in capture fisheries production between 2005 and 2009.

The inclusion and relative levels of development/production targets for aquaculture and capture fisheries are thought to be driven strongly by national economic planning, which tends to focus on production and GDP increases. Overall national economic growth targets influence sector policies, as evidenced in those countries with targeted capture fisheries production increases that may be unrealistic given current stock status. FAO estimate (FAO, 2005) that three percent of marine stocks are under-exploited, 21 percent are moderately exploited and could support modest increases in fishing and in harvests, 52 percent are fully exploited. The remaining 24 percent are overexploited (16 percent), depleted (7 percent), or recovering from depletion (one percent).

Management targets for capture fisheries and aquaculture are less common than development targets and are included in only 58 percent and 46 percent of policies respectively. Cambodia’s use of targets for management of capture fisheries is shown in Box 1. Some other interesting management targets include the area under organic farming in Viet Nam, Republic of Korea’s intention to reduce the number of aquaculture facilities by 10 percent over the next years with new licences being issued for technologies offering the potential for high value-addition rather than production of species already ‘overproduced’, Japan and Republic of Korea’s use of number of species under Total Allowable Catch (TAC) management, and Japan’s targets of 51 Resource Recovery Plans (RRP) and area of seagrass beds and tidelands to be created (5000 ha between 2002 and 2007). Pakistan’ s new policy document also has specific targets for a) area of degraded mangrove to be rehabilitated, b) number of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) offences, c) size of shrimp fleet, d) numbers of artificial reefs, e) rates of by-catch and discards, and f) number of protected areas and fish sanctuaries.

Box 1: Capture fisheries management targets in Cambodia

Targets for 2005-2008 include:

  • At least 50 maps of fishing lots, public fisheries domain and areas for community fisheries will be prepared and printed.
  • Establishing a conservation site in each community fisheries and limit fishing violations within the community fisheries.
  • More than 30 ha of lake and canal will be renovated.
  • 20 new conservation sites will be defined.

Indicators/targets for 2006 include

  • Development of existing fish sanctuaries and assessment of 36 deep pools in Kratie and Stung Treng to determine suitable conservation areas.
  • 20 maps indicating clear boundaries of flooded forest produced
  • Existing community fisheries strengthened and 75 new community fisheries established.

Source: Fisheries Development Action Plan (FDAP) 2005-2008 and

Seventy-nine percent (79 percent) of policies also have targets relating to ‘other’ factors. Most typically these ‘other’ targets relate to increases in:

Key finding(s)/discussion point(s): The inclusion and relative use of targets in policy documents indicates that:

  1. Targeted production increases must be viewed against a background of existing production totals (2004) for the Asian and Pacific countries of 46.7 million tonnes of capture fisheries production, and 40.4 million tonnes of aquaculture production4. These figures compare with global capture fisheries production of 95.0 million tonnes, and global aquaculture production of 45.55 million tonnes (FAO, 2004), demonstrating the quite staggering contribution of Asian and Pacific countries to global totals (49 percent of capture production and 89 percent of aquaculture production);
  2. Targets for increasing production and exports are afforded higher priority than management targets;
  3. Aquaculture is viewed in the region as offering more potential for relative growth than capture fisheries; and
  4. Capture fisheries and aquaculture production increases may both be unrealistically driven by national economic goals. For aquaculture, disease risks and issues related to land availability and feed supply may present unforeseen challenges in the future, while for capture fisheries production resource potential may prohibit any increases at all.

2.2 Natural resource management issues

The second main subgroup of issues considered in policy documents are those related to resource management issues. In this section, discussion is provided in turn on issues which are included in all policy documents (Section 2.2.1), those included in more than 70 percent but not all policy documents (Section 2.2.2), and those in less than 70 percent of policy documents (Section 2.2.3).

Fisheries policy content and
direction in Asian APFIC
member countries

Figure 2: Natural Resource Management issues (1)

Fisheries policy content and
direction in Asian APFIC
member countries

Figure 3: Natural Resource Management issues (2)

2.2.1 Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

The greatest level of consistency between policy documents in different countries in Asia is found for issues relating to Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, and the use of MPAs (or related area restrictions on fishing such as fish sanctuaries and fish refuges). All policies are found to contain references to both of these issues.

The high degree of references in policy to illegal fishing, and the need to combat it, is not surprising -the International Plan of Action (IPOA) on IUU observes that “IUU fishing occurs in virtually all fisheries, causing problems for people who are trying to manage fisheries properly”. The IPOA-IUU offers a wide variety of tools (e.g. VMS, observers, catch documentation schemes, vessel registration, etc.) for countries to use to combat IUU fishing, individually and in collaboration with other countries. Many of these tools are incorporated into national policy documents, as in the case of Japan as described in Box 2 below, where private sector initiatives are providing additional support to government sector policy on the issue.

Box 2: Some aspects of Japan’s policy on tuna IUU

To prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing and uncontrolled importation of catches, the “Law of Special Measures for Strengthening Conservation and Management of Tuna Resources” was established in 1996 and has been controlling trade of tunas caught by IUU and reflagged fishing vessels. Policy includes:

  • Only Japanese vessels may fly the flag of Japan;
  • Trade measures to help with IUU e.g. any person who intends to import bluefin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, big-eye tuna, sword fish, patagonian-toothfish or Antarctic toothfish, must submit required statistical documents or catch documents in accordance with the rules set by the relevant international fisheries organizations; and
  • Transhipment regulations require permits and notification.

As a private sector initiative, the OPRT (Organization for Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries) has been established in Japan with a view to promote a responsible tuna fishery. The members of the OPRT includes large-scale tuna long-line fishery organizations from China (Taiwan Province of China), Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Philippines, as well as Japanese importers, distributors, and consumer organizations. Activities of the OPRT include (i) dissemination of information related to the IUU problems in tuna fishery, (ii) calculation of tuna landing statistics by vessel using the data obtained from Japanese import documentation materials and to report back such figures to the vessels’ flag states for their cross-checking of reported catch data, and (iii) implementation of scrapping of IUU vessels.

Source: FAO Summary Brief, 2006, OECD, 2003.

In addition to national policy documents, it should also be noted that many regional fisheries management organizations have measures in place to deal with IUU fishing. Also of significance to fisheries policy in individual countries therefore are their obligations as Contracting Parties to such organizations. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) for example has a wide variety of resolutions and recommendations relating to IUU. These relate to issues such as vessel registers (e.g. Resolution 05/02 Concerning the establishment of an IOTC record for vessels authorized to operate in the IOTC area), an IUU list (Resolution 02/04 on establishing a list of vessels presumed to have carried out illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the IOTC area), and inspections (e.g. Resolution 05/03 relating to the establishment of an IOTC programme for inspection in port).

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are established for a wide range of purposes, including protecting marine species and habitats, conserving marine biodiversity, restoring fish stocks, managing tourism activities, and minimising conflicts (Pomeroy, et al., 2004). Given their multiple functions and objectives, it is also perhaps not surprising that all policy documents contain some reference to them or area closures of some kind. In reviewing policy documents, an impression is gained that area prohibitions are most widely used to protect marine species and habitats, than for the other possible reasons mentioned above:

2.2.2 Community/co-management, decentralization, fleet capacity reduction, expansion of offshore fisheries, cross-sectoral coordination, and conflict management

Schmidt (2003) notes that “while Japan is not the only country that uses co-management approaches, it is the country that has developed this approach most, reflecting the particular importance that is associated with fish and fishing as an activity and the fact that this approach has been applied through centuries.” In fact many countries utilized community management systems over decades/centuries, before control and authority came to be more centralized in the second half of the 20th century. But both community management and co-management, are now gaining increasing recognition. References to community co-management in policy in the region are now surprisingly common (and are contained in 92 percent of countries’ fisheries/aquaculture policy). This trend is driven by, amongst other things, an awareness of resource depletion, conflicts both within the sector and between fisheries and other sectors, and the perceived benefits of community co-management as an approach to address these issues and the relative failure of more traditional centralized management regimes.

Community co-management and improved sector governance is now being encouraged, or at least enabled, by common references in policy documents to decentralization and/or local administrations or management units being involved in fisheries management. But while community co-management is provided for in most policy documents, current community co-management initiatives on the ground remain as pilot activities only in many countries, and in some cases support is more rhetoric than reality with insufficient real transfer of powers and financial resources to local levels (Macfadyen, Cacaud and Kuemlangan, 2005). However, the rise in practical implementation of community co-management appears to be gathering pace, and is increasingly supported by policy references on the issue. While strongly driven and supported by donor projects in recent years, many governments now appear to be realizing the potential benefits of such management techniques.

References to fleet capacity reduction in policy are also very common (in 86 percent of policies), perhaps due both to obvious impacts on resources and the IPOA on the issue. Some countries such as China, Japan, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea already have vessel buyback policies and programmes in place - such decommissioning policies are widely used outside of Asia, for example in Europe. In China there are fishing vessel and power control quota for marine capture fisheries, and in 2002, China started a 5-year buy back programme to carry out policy of “minus growth” for catch of marine and inland capture fisheries. According to the programme, China will reduce 30000 fishing vessels (FAO, 2003). In other countries reference is made to capacity and measures to reduce it, but implementation is more at a planning stage. The marine action plan in Bangladesh for example states that “Based on the assessment of the resource prepare national allocation for the total number of mechanized commercial boats permitted”, and “Distribute allocated numbers across the districts where boats are traditionally harboured”. And India’s policy provides for “An assessment of existing fishing capacity and plans for regulating or developing one or the other sectors of EEZ would be taken up” (Comprehensive Marine Fisheries Policy, 2004). Likewise, Indonesia now has a National Plan of Action to measure capacity and address capacity reduction programmes (FAO Country Review, 2003). But in these countries, as in others such as Philippines where policy requires capacity control, active implementation of policy appears to be progressing more slowly, perhaps in part due to the more ‘open access’ nature of fisheries in these countries making capacity reduction more problematic.

Box 3: Cambodia’s policy on community management

In October 2000, Prime Minister Hun Sen initiated a reform of the fisheries sector and announced the release of 56 percent of the fishing lots from private control to be used by community fisheries. The Sub-Decree on Community Fisheries Management provides the rules and procedures for establishing and managing community fisheries throughout Cambodia.

Policy includes the statement that “Encouraging the effective establishment of community fisheries in inland and coastal areas in order to enhance the management of sustainable fisheries resources by empowering local communities;”, and one of 6 priority actions in the Fisheries Development and Action Plan 2005-2008 is “Community based fisheries management to promote local participation in fisheries management linked to livelihood diversification.”

Source: RCG Statement on policy, FDAP 2005-2008, Macfadyen et al., 2005, Sub-Decree on Community Fisheries Management.

As with the comments made above about obligations relating to IUU resulting from signatory to international fisheries organizations, national policy on capacity must also be viewed in the context of relevant resolutions of international organizations. Again taking the IOTC as an example, relevant resolutions include Resolution 03/01 on the limitation of fishing capacity on Contracting Parties and Cooperating non-Contracting Parties. It is worth noting here that the IOTC is unlikely to sanction increases in fishing capacity in the future due to the current stock situation, removing policy options for individual countries that are Commission Members6. IOTC has however granted special status to coastal countries of the Indian Ocean, which allows for some possible expansion of fleets along with a requirement to submit a fleet development plan (Resolution 03/01).

Section 2.1 on policy targets highlighted that many countries have targets for production increases from capture fisheries, even though coastal fisheries are acknowledged in almost all cases as being fully- or overexploited. Seventy nine percent of policies in the countries under review specifically refer to expansion of offshore fisheries. Many policy documents provide the impression that offshore fisheries are a panacea for inshore problems. Article 14 of China’s 1986 Fisheries Law for example specifies that “The state shall encourage and support the development of offshore and deep sea fisheries and make rational arrangement of fishing capacity for inland and inshore fisheries”. In Myanmar policy is based on the estimation that about one million tonnes of fish can be additionally exploited annually from offshore fisheries. Sri Lanka’s policy raises a note of caution however by stating that “Although a proper assessment of resources has not been done, it is assumed that these resources still remain under-utilized” (Fisheries and Ocean Resources Policy document, 2002), and the Marine Action Plan for Bangladesh provides for a “plan to collect information on deepwater fishes”. These statements indicate that in many countries, reliance on offshore fisheries may be based more on expectation than on hard science, potentially impacting on the ability of countries to realize their stated policy targets for increased fisheries production. In addition, and as noted in Section 2.2.3 below, there may be difficulties for local interests to move offshore (e.g. capital/credit, skills, etc.) or an unwillingness to do so for cultural and/or social reasons (e.g. not wanting to be away from home for long periods).7

Turning to references in policy to cross-sectoral coordination, fishers and fish farmers in both coastal and inland areas often compete for the water (or access to it) from which the resource is extracted (e.g. with irrigation schemes and hydro-power dams in the case of inland fisheries, and marine parks, tourism activities and general coastal development in the case of inshore fisheries). This multi-use, multi-user characteristic is a factor greatly affecting the livelihoods of fishing communities and the ability of policy makers and managers to define and implement effective policy. Taking an even wider perspective, integrated rural development initiatives aimed at creating or strengthening cross-linkages between literacy, housing, social security, health, infrastructure, etc., can also have a significant positive impact on the livelihoods of fishers, without necessarily addressing directly resource management issues. A good example of this type of approach is an FAO-funded project in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh where the villages along the coast have been empowered to improve their well-being by first dealing with sanitation and health problems, then improving educational facilities, developing saving schemes and, as a last step, addressing fishery resource management and safety-at-sea issues. This type of holistic rural development approach helps to overcome the dilemma on how to conserve resources (in the longer-term) when the obvious immediate imperative is to alleviate poverty and reduce vulnerability of fishworkers and their families (Staples, D., Pers. Comm.).

Such factors highlight the need for fisheries/aquaculture sector policies to consider the impact of policies in other sectors, and where possible to promote cross-sectoral collaboration. The review of national fisheries/aquaculture policies suggests that there is wide appreciation from policy makers of the need for such cross-sectoral collaboration. Seventy five percent of policies refer in some way or another to cross-sectoral coordination. In the new Pakistan policy for example there are seven strategic axes (each with multiple activities). The first axis is specifically focused on strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration and contains more than 30 specific activities aimed at achieving this.

Finally for this group of issues, conflict management is referred to specifically in 77 percent of fisheries/aquaculture policies in the region. And even where not specifically referred to, reference is often implied by solutions related to zoning of fishing activities, and a focus on inshore/small-scale vs offshore/industrial conflicts. In Cambodia policy mentions “conflicts between private fishing lot owners and rural people regarding access to fishing areas” as a key motivation for the Prime Ministerial decree on fishing lot reforms, and one expected result of policy implementation is “conflicts over resource access will be reduced and livelihoods of fish folk are improved”. In Pakistan’s policy, under a cross-cutting strategy axis there are five specific activities on integrated coastal management aimed at reducing conflicts. In some countries policy specifically includes conflict resolution mechanisms, such as in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka - information on the latter is provided in the Box below.

Box 4: Conflict resolution in Sri Lankan policy

The Special Area Management (SAM) process deals with conflict both within the fisheries sector, and between fisheries and other sectors. When conflicts among stakeholders are likely to lead to resource depletion/degradation in environmentally sensitive areas, these areas are identified first as areas needing Special Management Measures in the legislation. Management of such resources is then carried out by a SAM Committee consisting of representatives of all stakeholders. This has worked quite well in Sri Lanka. Two such management sites are the Hikkaduwa and the Rekawa coastal areas.

Disputes between user groups have been settled by government over a number of decades using a dispute resolution mechanism that has resulted in specific local regulations being made, and which can be thought of as a form of co-management. Fisheries Ordinance 1940 contains detailed provisions to deal with disputes. Sections 20 and 20A, provide regulations to appoint a Committee of Inquiry or a Commissioner to deal with fishing disputes. Many area-specific regulations have resulted from this process.

The 2002 policy document also has a section on access, which includes issues which will reduce conflict e.g. zoning, access to beaches and landing sites, etc. It states that “The State shall provide all facilitative functions to ensure that conflicts among resources users, especially between those using inland water bodies for agricultural and fisheries purposes are resolved through proper coordination of the activities of multiple stakeholders, with the support of the relevant authorities”.

Source: Macfadyen et al., 2005, Fisheries and Ocean Resources Sector Policy 2002.

2.2.3 Ecosystems management, increasing use of ‘use rights’, offshore expansion at the expense of foreign vessels, small-scale vessels moving offshore

This last group of issues relating to natural resource management was less well represented in policy in the region. This was especially the case for specific references to a) expansion of offshore fisheries at the expense of foreign vessels (in 50 percent of policies), and b) small-scale fishers moving offshore (also in 50 percent of policies). With respect to the former point, it may be because countries feel that excluding foreign vessels does not necessarily mean that local vessels will be able to exploit offshore resources, thereby just resulting in lost licence revenue for governments. This appears to be the case in Pakistan where the Deep-Sea Fishing Policy specifically refers to the failure of local vessels to move offshore for a variety of reasons including access to credit, and hence sanctions the use of offshore zones by foreign vessels. But some countries are specific in their policy about excluding foreign fishing interests. India has never signed a fisheries access agreement with a distant water fishing nation and has persisted for decades in its attempts (e.g. 1981 Charter Policy, and use of joint ventures) to develop its own offshore industrial fisheries by nationally-owned interests. And Malaysia is currently in the process of training locals to be tekongs (skippers) of deep-sea boats so that they can replace foreign tekongs.

With respect to local small-scale vessels moving offshore, some countries specifically refer to this as a policy objective e.g. India (“the small-mechanized sector would be encouraged by providing incentives for acquisition of multi-day fishing units), Malaysia, Viet Nam and Sri Lanka (“subsidies and subsidized credit granted to facilitate movement of coastal fishermen into less-exploited offshore and deep-sea resources could facilitate this transfer”). But many do not. Again this may be because of a realization of the practical and financial difficulties of small-scale fishers moving too far offshore, even though greater motorization and inshore pressure has forced many to do so. Or it may be because policy is to reduce inshore fishing pressure by other means e.g. through support for alternative livelihoods.

Only slightly better represented in policy (in 64 percent of policies) is the use of use/property rights. From an economic point of view, use rights have a special emphasis on certain characteristics, especially duration, exclusivity, and transferability. Permits and licences are therefore a weak form or right and not widely included within an interpretation of use rights (Shotton, 2000). A management system that allocates rights to a share in the fishery can take many forms. In developed countries, there have been several attempts to grant rights of access and harvest to individuals or firms e.g. in the form of individual transferable quotas (Shotton, 2000), while in the small-scale fisheries of developing countries, access and harvest rates are typically devolved to communities (Willmann, 2000; Kurien, 2000). Territorial use rights in fisheries (TURFs) are an example of allocation of property rights to a geographically-defined group (Christy, 1982).

There is of course considerable literature on the issue of rights-based fisheries management. While there is a general agreement that ‘open access’ to ocean and lakes induced by the lack of enforceable use rights have generally led to overfishing (through increases in capital inputs as well as increased numbers of fishers), restricting access to the resource means that some people will be excluded from fishing. Many countries, particularly developing countries - but not exclusively (for instance the EU in the 1990s) - have therefore been relatively reticent to limit access because of the anticipated social and political costs that would have to be borne in the transition to better fisheries management. This pattern is prevalent in Asian countries as it is elsewhere in the world, but that makes the concern no less worrying that not more policy documents in the region make specific reference to the need for use rights. Some information on policy on use rights in China and Japan is provided in Box 5.

Finally in relation to natural resource management issues, ‘ecosystems management’ is featured in ‘only’ 69 percent policies. However, given the relatively recent advent of this issue as a topical fisheries management subject, the extent of its inclusion can be considered impressive, and to have resulted from considerable focus and attention on the issue within fisheries circles in recent years, and the publication of the recent FAO Technical Guidelines to the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) on the ecosystems approach to fisheries (FAO,2003). The lack of even wider reference in policy may be because of limitations in understanding about ecosystems, and challenges in making ecosystems approaches to fisheries management operational. But as Sri Lankan policy nicely puts it “Ecosystem considerations in fisheries management do not require that we understand all things about all components of the ecosystem. It is understood that a traditional single-species approach of fisheries management is traceable, but it is also known that it may not be sufficient. It is also understood that an ecosystem perspective is desirable, but it is complex and unpredictable. However, an Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) need not be endlessly complicated. An initial step may require only that, those who are concerned with management, consider how the harvesting of one species might impact other species in the ecosystem” (Fisheries and Ocean Resources Sector Policy, 2002). Indeed the abstract to the FAO Guidelines specifically state that “Although there are many gaps in our current knowledge of ecosystems and how they function, these guidelines stress that uncertainty should not prevent the development of operational objectives aimed at improving human well-being as well as protecting and improving the status of marine coastal ecosystems” (FAO, 2003).

Key finding(s)/discussion point(s): Some questions and issues raised by the text in Section 2.2 on natural resource management issues include:

  1. Given the prevalence of IUU fishing and the importance for stock preservation of reducing IUU fishing activity, are countries utilizing the full range of measures available, as outlined in the IPOA-IUU?
  2. Given the wide use of MPAs and area restrictions in the region, countries must evaluate the natural and socio-economic impacts of such policy measures. Are such evaluations being conducted?

Box 5: Use rights in Japan and China


Law seeks to use a property rights and quasi-exclusive ownership approach to manage principal ocean resources in China’s territorial sea. The Law sets out a framework for classifying uses of ocean space and granting licences according to the functions classified. Article 10 of the 1986 law states that “In conformity with the overall arrangement made by the state for utilization of water areas, people’s governments at and above the county level may assign state-owned water surfaces and tidal flats that have been designated for aquaculture to units under ownership by the whole people and units under collective ownership to develop aquaculture, and after examining their qualifications grant those units aquaculture licenses to confirm their rights to the use of such water surfaces and tidal flats. Ownership and rights to the use of water surfaces and tidal flats shall be protected by law and shall not be subject to encroachment by any units or individuals.” The 2001 Law reinforces this by stating in that Article 6 “The State establishes a registration system for the right to the use of sea areas. Such rights shall, once registered in accordance with law, be protected by law.” Numerous other articles then provide detail on the mechanisms for this.

Source: Chinese Laws of 1986, 2001 and 2002.


Sea tenure in Japanese coastal waters operates at various levels, ranging from the national government, through the prefecture and the local FCA, to the fishing squad and finally to the individual fisherman. There are essentially three main types of rights. The first is the Joint Fisheries Right (Kyodo-Gyogyoken). This fishery right is originally based on common ownership systems of local fishing grounds. The licence is issued only to fishery cooperatives, in which at least two-thirds of members are engaged in coastal fisheries for at least 90 days in the areas. Members of the cooperative use the licence on an individual basis. This type of fishery occurs in almost all areas throughout the Japanese coast. According to the Fisheries Law (1949) fisheries rights in the sea area under the jurisdiction of a Fishery Cooperative Association (FCA) are the bona fide personal property of the individual members of that association, to whom they are distributed by the association. Each FCA establishes regulations for the control and operation of various types of fishery in an equitable, efficient and sustained manner, as local conditions dictate. The second type of fishery rights is the Demarcated Fishery Right (Kukaku-Gyogyoken). This is the right to engage in aquaculture. The main types of these fisheries are hanging culture, cage culture, seabed sowing cultivation in semi-inland sea areas. The last of the three fishery rights is the Set-Net Fishery Right (Teichi-Gyogyoken).

Source: Fisheries Law of 1949, OECD, 2004.

  1. Effective community/co-management requires decentralization of budgets, the ability to raise and retain revenue at the local level, and coherence between community/ co-management policy and legislation. Are such factors in place? (see also key conclusions about supportive policy and legislative frameworks for community/co-management in Macfadyen, Cacaud and Kuemlangan, 2005).
  2. Capacity reduction is provided for in policy in many countries. What are the relative costs and benefits (economic, social, natural and political) of different measures e.g. buy-back schemes, use/withholding of licenses, input versus output restrictions, etc., and do countries have national plans of action in place? Has progress towards implementing policy been hampered by technical issues related to measuring and assessing appropriate levels of capacity?
  3. Increased production from offshore fisheries is a stated policy objective in many countries, but the extent to which such resources actually offer potential for sustainable and meaningful increases remains unclear in many cases.
  4. What practical difficulties are small-scale fishers likely to face in moving offshore (e.g. access to credit, skills, etc.), and how can these difficulties be minimized?

2.3 Financial/economic and marketing issues

The third main group of sub-issues assessed for their inclusion in policy documents related to financial, economic, marketing and trade issues.

Fisheries policy content and
direction in Asian APFIC
member countries

Figure 4: Financial/economic and marketing issues

2.3.1 Trade/marketing issues

An objective of ‘increasing exports’ or references to export increases are included in all fisheries/ aquaculture sector policies in the region, often as a high-level policy goal. In India the first of three key policy goals is “to augment marine fish production of the country up to the sustainable level in a responsible manner so as to boost export of seafood from the country and also to increase per capita fish protein intake of the masses”. This policy goal is being supported by the Marine Products Export Development Authority, a nodal agency was set up by the Government of India in 1972 for the promotion of seafood exports from India. And in Malaysia the overriding objective of the 3rd National Agricultural Policy is “the maximization of income through the optimal utilization of resources in the sector. This includes maximizing agriculture’s contribution to national income and export earnings as well as maximizing income of producers.” (author’s emphasis). In Pakistan’s policy there are nine specific activities aimed at increasing access to international markets.

The wide inclusion of references to exports is not surprising given that, while trade has become an extremely contentious issue in recent years, there is little doubt that both domestic and international trade has the potential to generate enormous direct and indirect benefits, and offers huge potential for the fisheries sector to contribute to foreign exchange, economic growth, and poverty alleviation. Bangladesh for example has a stated policy objective to “achieve economic growth and earn foreign currency by exporting fish”. And in Thailand overall fisheries management objectives, as presented by the Minister when detailing the restructuring of the Department in late 2002, included “earning of foreign exchange through the use of responsible fisheries practices”.

This focus on exports must be seen in the context of some important trends in fisheries trade in recent years, which include:

These trends have a number of implications and impacts, which are important to consider given that poverty and food security are also high-level policy goals in many countries.

The regional policy review reveals that many countries are concerned to address this latter issue, and traceability/certification is included in 83 percent of policies in the region. Some countries such as Viet Nam are focusing attention on organic aquaculture production. In many countries, including but not limited to Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, there is a strong focus on traceability, HACCP and quality improvements, especially in relation to certification/codes for aquaculture production, and especially for shrimp exports. However, while other issues with potential distributional/location impacts were not specifically examined for their inclusion in policy documents, an impression is gained that policies are generally rather silent on such issues.

References to increasing value-added are found in more than 83 percent of policy documents, and in many, but not all cases, are related to comments/objectives about increasing exports. For example Philippines’ policy in the 1998 Code states a requirement for BFAR to develop value-added fishery products for domestic consumption and export. The high inclusion of this issue in policy is a recognition that limitations to increasing capture fisheries production and a strong emphasis in national planning on growth in GDP (itself a measure of value-added), require specific focus on maximizing the potential economic and financial benefits from a limited resource/output. Comments on value-added are most often tied to sections of policy related to trade and post-harvest activities. While this is in some way understandable given the obvious potential to add value through processing, it should be remembered that value-added (i.e. profit plus wages) is also generated in the catching/farming sectors. A lack of concentration on value-added throughout the supply chain is therefore perhaps a little surprising.

Finally in relation to trade/export issues, a very low proportion of policies in the region specifically refer to issues of tariff/trade barriers. This is also a little surprising given the often-stated impacts of tariff schedules, technical barriers to trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), and the Generalized System of Preference (GSP), but is perhaps explained by national and regional (e.g. ASEAN) policy on tariffs being considered outside of sectoral fisheries policy. Nevertheless, such issues might be properly included in fisheries policy, at least in terms of actions to mitigate against negative impacts of international trade regimes and actions. For example, does Indonesia have sufficient fisheries/aquaculture policy on ways of dealing with potential threats to its shrimp exports i.e. anti-dumping legislation in the USA? Does Thailand have appropriate policy to ensure that that it makes the most of tuna trade opportunities with the phasing out of EU preferential tariffs to ACP producers in the coming years?

2.3.2 Financial/economic issues

Financial aspects of fisheries are gaining increasing recognition, and there are moves internationally towards greater ‘market discipline’ in the sector. Policies in the region were thus reviewed to see if they contained references to subsidies, improvements in administrational efficiency, and/or the use of user charges.

While subsidies and wider incentives leading to overexploitation should of course be guarded against, subsidies may be appropriate if they enhance or diversify livelihoods without leading to increased fishing capacity or trade distortions, and/or are used to facilitate a structural change, and/or to assist with the move to responsible fishing e.g. inshore to offshore, different fishing gears, etc. (FAO, 2005; Béné, Macfadyen and Allison, in press). A very high proportion of policies (86 percent) make specific reference to the need to provide subsidies. Most commonly subsidies are provided under credit provision, and/or in support of specific policy objectives e.g. exports, sustainable fisheries. The range of different forms of subsidy being used in the region is extensive. But the context in which subsidies are referred to in policy documents implies a relatively careful and specific use in many countries. For example, China and Japan both provide subsidies for vessel scrapping and job redeployment, India for fleet upgrading although amounts are modest and one-time payments, Republic of Korea for co-/community management assistance based on a system of results-based performance, Malaysia and Pakistan for specific sections of the aquaculture supply chain to support/ kick-start the sector (e.g. spawning, breeding and culturing). Supporting this view of selective use of subisides is that policy in 50 percent of countries specifically refers to either reducing or rationalizing the use of subsidies. Some examples include:

Box 6: Use of subsidies in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka provides an example to illustrate how powerful a subsidized credit scheme can be on the development of small-scale fisheries. The drive for craft mechanization in the late 1950’s was implemented using a high rate of subsidization of crafts (of up to 50 percent) and small-scale fishermen benefited significantly from this move. Subsidies were channelled through fisheries credit cooperatives to ensure that they reached those who needed them most. But eventually they led to over capacity and inshore subsidies were withdrawn, but provided instead for offshore multi-day fishing.

Policy now provides for targeted subsidies to “help asset-poor fishermen adopt new technology, those that lead to a shift of focus from heavily exploited to under-exploited or unexploited areas, and those granted to help certain target groups or individuals to engage in economically important and sustainable fisheries activities, shall be maintained. Subsidies granted to all non-sustainable activities shall be terminated”.

Source: Macfadyen 2003 & 2002 Policy.

All governments have limited financial resources, and sectors thus have to compete for a proportion of national budgets, with budget allocations seldom matching the level perceived by fisheries/ aquaculture sector managers as necessary. This implies the need use what budget is provided in a way that is most efficient, so as to maximize its impact. Ninety-two percent of countries make reference in policy to improvements in administrational efficiency, often through institutional and human resource development, but also notably through greater levels of private/public partnerships:

As noted in the recent Fisheries Technical Paper published by FAO (de Young, 2006), the costs of fisheries management in almost all countries in the region have been rising steadily in recent years, although costs may still be relatively low compared to some other countries/regions. However, policy references to increases in user payments were found to be present in only 29 percent of policies in the region, and charges imposed on private sector operators in the region virtually never cover the public costs of management (FAO, 2006). This can be viewed as worrying, given that user charges can be used to fund measures aimed at sustainable fisheries management. The reasons for so few policies including specific reference to user charges and the need to increase them, is perhaps explained by the same socio-political context in which governments have found it difficult to restrict the inflow of capital and labour into the fisheries sector with the consequence of worsening overcapitalization and overfishing (Willmann, Boonchuwong and Piumsombun, 2003). As Willmann, Boonchuwong and Piumsombun observe, “the socio-political fisheries dilemma faced by many governments in South, Southeast and East Asia is likely to be only resolvable in an orderly and peaceful manner if adequate economic compensation could be provided to those who are required to give up their acquired rights to exploit fisheries resources, however ill-defined these rights may be at present.” Increasing user charges would be one method of ensuring that necessary funds are made available in an economically rational manner, but would itself be difficult in terms of socio-political consequences.

Key finding(s)/discussion point(s): Some aspects for consideration, raised by the text above are:

  1. In focusing on export increases, policies could be clearer about the relative emphasis/ reliance on exports from large-scale and/or small-scale sectors, and the potential trade-offs and distributional aspects of trade, given the inclusion of poverty and food security as an important objective in most policy documents. What policy measures/solutions (e.g. as described in the recent Technical Guidelines to the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) on increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security (FAOb, 2005) are most appropriate in individual countries to deal with such issues?
  2. Policy comment on value-added focuses strongly on the post-harvest sector. Would more policy-focus on value-added throughout the supply chain (e.g. in the catching/farming sectors) and in related activities be useful? What lessons can be learned from value-chain analysis? (By assessing the impacts of policies, institutions and infrastructure on the ability of businesses to source, produce, and deliver/sell products, a value-chain approach allows: an assessment of relative importance of factors affecting competitiveness (e.g. input costs, transaction costs, productivity); benchmarking against global competition; identification of gaps/weaknesses in value-chain performance; and the development of targeted action programme (for the public and private sector).
  3. The issue of tariffs is not at all well covered in policy in the region, but tariffs in export markets, especially on processed products, can have a significant impact on relative competitiveness. Would it be appropriate for fisheries-sector policy to be more specific on strategies to address such issues?
  4. Is the provision of subsidies carefully justified and the period for which they are to be used specified with an exit strategy? Is there any ongoing evaluation of their effectiveness and impacts?
  5. Can countries in the region share lessons learned about methods of improving institutional efficiency?
  6. Policy in the region does not widely include objectives/strategies to increase user charges in the sector. What socio-political solutions can be found to this problem, given the potential importance of user payments in generating resource rent for government to manage and re-structure the sector towards more sustainable exploitation?

Fisheries policy content and
direction in Asian APFIC
member countries

Figure 5: Socio-economic and poverty issues

2.4 Socio-economic and poverty issues

The issue of food security is included in virtually all fisheries/aquaculture policies in the region (93 percent of policies). Reasons include the obvious fact that fish is food and an important source of protein (especially where other sources of animal protein may be scarce or expensive), energy, and micronutrients. But the emphasis on food security in policy also comes from concerns about predicted rises in global population and corresponding increases in demand for food and fish, which mean that many of the food security problems present today are likely to persist8. At an international conference on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Supply held in Kyoto, Japan in 1995, the 95 participating states approved a Declaration and a Plan of Action to enhance the contribution of fisheries to human food supply. The 1996 World Food Summit stressed the connection between food security and the need for sustainable management of natural resources. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development also focused on food security as a key issue and reiterated a global commitment to responsible fisheries (Béné, Macfadyen and Allison, in press). There is thus a clear relationship between sustainable fisheries management and food security, resulting in a natural inclusion of the issue in most policy documents.

As suggested by the recent FAO Guidelines to the CCRF on increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security (FAOb, 2005), the issue of food security is complex. Fish can provide for food security directly at the household level through fishing for consumption, and indirectly at both household and national levels through the generation of incomes/revenues derived from labour-wages and sales of fish, which can be used to purchase food. A country’s capacity to produce sufficient food to feed its population, referred to as national food self-sufficiency, is neither necessary nor sufficient to guarantee food security at the individual/household level. Some countries may be food self-sufficient, yet remain with a large proportion of their populations suffering conditions of food insecurity; other countries may not be self-sufficient yet exhibit little food insecurity due to a strong capacity to import. Food security, therefore, is brought about by a combination of individual, household, community, national and even international factors. In particular, for national self-sufficiency to ensure individual food security, it requires and presupposes efficient “trickledown” and redistribution mechanisms, and transfer-based entitlements (i.e. individual-based access to these mechanisms). Food security is also a fundamental dimension of poverty. People who are chronically poor usually lack access to adequate food. Malnutrition negatively affects peoples’ working and learning capacity, and may affect vulnerable groups living just above the poverty threshold, causing them to enter the ranks of the poor. Eliminating hunger and malnutrition, is therefore a precondition for the eradication of poverty (FAOa, 2005).

What appears evident from the review of policies in the region is that nuanced policy dealing with these different aspects of food security is still not that common. Policies tend to contain rather bland statements about food security as a key policy objective and/or expected outcome.

There is also a strong focus on poverty in fisheries/aquaculture policy in the Asian region, with poverty specifically referred to in 77 percent of policies. The level of poverty, not just in many fishing communities, but also in developing countries in general, remains high9. While economic growth has helped to reduce the number of poor people in the world, the positive impacts of growth on poverty have been less than expected, in part because of inequitable distribution of the benefits, population increases, political instability, and in some countries the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As a result there has been a re-focusing on poverty by many NGOs, academics, development practitioners, governments, and donor agencies, for example in the form of national poverty reduction strategies. The United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, the 2000 World Development Report published by the World Bank, the UN Millennium Declaration adopted in 200010, and the 1996 UN World Food Summit, all considered poverty alleviation as a central priority. The re-examination of poverty alleviation strategies is also motivated by the broadening of the poverty concept, a better understanding of the causes of poverty, and the recognition of the importance of vulnerability.

While past policies and development interventions in fisheries were often implicitly aimed at reducing poverty, most were not explicitly focused on improving the living conditions of the poor. Rather, they often aimed to accelerate economic growth through technology and infrastructure development and through market-led economic policies. The lack of an explicit focus on poverty and the inequitable distributional impacts of development programmes may explain the ineffectiveness of many fishery policies and development interventions in the past. (Béné, Macfadyen and Allison, in press). Recent global focus on poverty issues, combined with the failure of many implicit rather than explicit policies to deal with poverty, help to explain the strong focus on poverty in fisheries/ aquaculture policy in the region. As with food security, poverty is a high-level goal in many policies, but policies are perhaps now also more specific than in the past on the way they consider and address poverty issues, with more discussion about and linkages with:

Employment generation is linked to poverty alleviation, and two-thirds of policies in the region specifically refer to increases in employment. Policies in Malaysia, Viet Nam and China appear to suggest a realization that increases in employment from the sector may not be possible. China’s buy-back programme over 2002-2007 is expected to arrange for 300000 fishers to be transmitted to alternative jobs. Central government is inputting around $33million each year, with local government also contributing considerable sums in support of the programme. Few policies are specific in suggesting that overall increases in employment may have to be composed of decreases in capture fisheries sector employment offset by larger increases in employment from aquaculture. Republic of Korea’s policy is a notable example of one that recognizes reductions in capture sector employment and increases in aquaculture employment (OECD, 2002).

A high proportion of policies (85 percent) refer to alternative/supplementary employment/livelihood activities, and the promotion of alternative livelihoods has recently become a common feature of many policies. Two main approaches can be distinguished, (i) one which aims at creating supplementary livelihoods (rather than alternative ones) to reduce dependence on fishing, and (ii) approaches which aim at creating alternative livelihood opportunities outside the fishing sector (especially for those engaged in inshore fishing activities) and thus encourage people to exit from fishing activities. Both approaches are not totally exclusive, as the first alternative can also be seen as an initial step towards the creation and accumulation of sufficient capital and assets for a definitive exit out of the sector in the longer run, and the objective/motivation for both is reduced pressure on resources. But policy in the region is generally not that specific in terms of a) related strategies and actions designed to successfully achieve alternative employment creation, or b) what such alternative employment creation might be. This is perhaps because it is easy to state alternative employment as an objective, but bringing it about is not a formulaic or easy matter of just moving fishers into “basket weaving”, “eco-tourism”, or other such activities, but depends strongly on differences in cultural, social, economic and natural conditions and potentials. Cambodia’s policy seems to recognize this by stating a medium term action as “researching the potential role of rural livelihood enhancement and diversification, and livelihood alternatives to reduce the pressure on fishing resources…” (FDAP, 2005-2008, author’s emphasis).

The lack of access to affordable credit and the inability to generate savings, are major constraints for many poor small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fishworkers, who, in contrast to larger-scale entrepreneurs, often do not have easy access to credit or savings mechanisms. An emphasis on poverty alleviation in policy documents might therefore be expected to be accompanied by references to micro-finance, which has special potential for poverty alleviation as discussed below.

Informal savings schemes and credit markets are widely developed in many countries and may have positive attributes in terms of providing access to capital or assets because they are ‘closer’ to the users, more flexible, and more adapted to their needs. But the widespread use of informal credit markets and savings may be as much a function of the lack of alternative options for the poor, as of people choosing such sources per se. Governments have typically responded to these problems, with support from donor agencies, by establishing rural credit and savings institutions in the form of cooperatives, or by forcing or encouraging commercial banks to provide cheap/subsidized credit to fisheries and other sectors. As with informal savings and credit mechanisms, such initiatives have their benefits, and there is certainly a need to increase access to general credit and savings institutions, as well as to fisheries-specific institutions. However, evidence from evaluations suggests that such formal credit programmes are often not successful, both in terms of the viability of lending institutions, and the ability of intended beneficiaries to access credit (Shetty, 2003). The problems of informal credit markets and rural credit institutions have led to a growing recognition of the importance of micro-finance as a crucial development tool for poverty alleviation. Micro-finance is the provision of a broad range of financial services such as deposits, loans, payment services, money transfers and insurance, and is characterized most commonly by small loans.

Despite the potential importance of micro-finance for poverty alleviation, a surprisingly low proportion of policies (33 percent) in the region include specific reference to it, although some countries such as Cambodia, Japan, and Pakistan are examples of countries that do. Other countries such as India and Philippines have successful micro-finance schemes even though the issue is not thought to be specifically included in formal policy (see Box 7).

Box 7: Micro-finance programmes in India and the Philippines

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in India runs what is probably the largest micro-finance programme in the world. The highlights of NABARD’s programme as of March 2002 are as follows:

  • Over 7.8 million poor in agriculture and other allied sectors, including fisheries and aquaculture households, are accessing banking services and micro-credits through 458000 self-help groups (SHGs). Over 2000 NGOs and 17000 branches of 444 banks are associated with the programme.
  • Considering the need to upscale micro-finance interventions in the country, a micro-finance Development Fund has been set up in NABARD through initial contributions of approximately US$20 million from the Reserve Bank of India, public sector commercial banks, and NABARD.
  • Cumulative bank loans disbursed to SHGs as of 31 March 2002 stood at US$205 million.
  • Cumulative refinance by banks from NABARD for financing SHGs stood at US$163 million as of 31 March 2002.
  • More than 90 percent of SHGs have exclusively women members.
  • Repayment of bank loans on time was above 95 percent from SHG members.

In the Philippines, the Amalbalan Women’s Association (AWA), in Pangasinan, was organized in 1990 with only ten members. The women were involved with salt production/trading and fish vending. Their first loan of Peso 80000 was used as capital for these activities. This loan was followed by seven more rounds of lending with the loan size increasing to Peso 270000 by 1997, and membership increasing slightly to 22. Some women then used the loan to buy inputs for milkfish pond production such as fingerlings, fertilizers and feeds. In October 1997, the AWA was formally registered as a cooperative (AWMC), with an increased membership of 75. As a cooperative, the women were given a bigger credit line and they have taken advantage of this to increase the volume of commodities they are trading and purchase more fish pond inputs. In September 2000, AWMC took out the biggest loan since becoming a cooperative, amounting to Peso 614200. Successful repayment rates allowed them to have continuous loans, and total loans extended to the group from 1991 to 2000 amounted to Peso 3.3 million. The bigger loans have enabled the women to increase the volume of their trading activities and venture out of the province to new markets. This was helped in great measure by the “entrepreneurial ” skills developed and enhanced by the project.

Source: Tietze and Villareal (2003).

Key finding(s)/discussion point(s): Analysis of some important socio-economic and poverty issues included in policy raises the following questions and observations:

  1. Would ‘better’ policy be possible with a more nuanced consideration of policy objectives and strategies related to food security?
  2. Is it really appropriate to have employment increases as a policy objective in a sector with such obvious resource problems, especially when policy may also contain commitments to capacity reduction and the importance of alternative employment/livelihoods?
  3. An objective of alternative employment activities is included in many policies, but with insufficient attention to the potential difficulties of realizing this objective. What are the key success factors in moving people out of fisheries into other sectors?11
  4. Micro-finance can be a useful tool in supporting poverty alleviation. Because of the diversity of the demand for and suppliers of micro-finance services, it is not possible to prescribe or subscribe to a particular methodology or an institutional mechanism. Lending methodologies and procedures must be carefully tailored so that they appropriately serve the financial needs of the fishing, trading and fish farming communities concerned. But case studies of success stories may be useful in providing specific guidelines or examples of best practice.

3 This relates to the slightly gray area as to whether government actions represent ‘policy’. For the sake of this paper, a fairly narrow definition of policy is assumed, and one which relates primarily to statements in formal policy and planning documents.

4 Excluding aquatic plants.

5 Excluding aquatic plants.

6 Resolutions are binding on the Commission Members, unless there is specific objection on the part of the Members. Recommendations are slightly different in that they are not binding the Members, but rely on volunteering.

7 Moving fleets offshore or rebuilding fleets can benefit from an example outside the region. In Namibia, foreign capital assets were permitted, but Terms and Conditions of Licences included a ‘national content’ clause with a higher percentage of national crew content resulting in lower license fees, and a commitment to increase national content over time. Such initiatives can help to foster a gradual move offshore and nationalization of the fleet, or at least increased offshore employment, and provides additional benefits without large local capital inputs.

8 Estimates suggest that 840 million people globally remain classified as undernourished.

9 Globally around 1 000 million people are estimated to be living on less than $1 a day; and 70 percent of the world’s poor are women.

10 The Millennium Declaration contains the commitment to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s population whose income is less than one dollar a day.

11 For example, the ‘CHARM project’ in Thailand provided revolving funds for supplementary/alternative livelihoods but failed to provide technical support or sufficient recognition of livelihoods outside of the sector (Banks, Bradley and Promrucksa, 2005).

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