into the development discourse

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4. Conclusion - The way forward

The economic and social importance of fisheries in the APFIC region has helped ensure that aggregate scores under each of the four identified criteria are substantially higher than those recorded for other geographic regions (Table 3). More pertinently, perhaps, the APFIC region is markedly more effective at both highlighting the linkages between fisheries and poverty and encouraging sectoral stakeholders to participate in discussing and formulating national fisheries and aquaculture development policies. This can most likely be attributed to the recognition, in both FAO fisheries country profiles and regional research reports (cf. the STREAM [2000] publication on poverty in Viet Nam’s fisheries), of the endemic nature of poverty in fishing communities, a recognition that has been championed by fisheries stakeholders (and/or their supporters) in demanding input into the decision-making process. It is surely no coincidence that Bangladeshi fishers, who were “among the extremely and moderately poor people” according to the Bangladesh fisheries country profile in 1999, were invited to participate in the national and regional participatory consultation meetings on poverty and its causes and the identification of poverty prone groups prior to the release of the country’s full PRSP in November 2005.

Table 3. Extent to which the fisheries sector has been mainstreamed into PRSPs and NDP (by region)


No. of







APFIC 10 1.8 1.4 1.6 1.3

Latin America

16 0.5 0.25 0.875 0.125

Africa (PRSP countries)

26 1.04 0.85 1.39 0.65

Transition Economies

13 1.08 0.46 1.23 0.39

Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

12 1.5 0.5 1.17 0.58

Scores are the average score, by criteria, for each regional grouping (minimum value = 0, maximum value = 3).
Table 2 (this paper) for APFIC region, all others from Thorpe (2005).

Although there is a strong correlation between the national significance of the sector and the acknowledgement of this in key national policy documents, there is no room for complacency.

First, despite the national recognition of the importance of fisheries in development and poverty reduction strategies, its relevance has been somewhat overlooked, or misdirected, at the wider regional level. The UNESCAP appears singularly fisheries-blind. The sector was ignored in the 111-page report Promoting the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific: Meeting the Challenge of Poverty Reduction (2003) and, although the UNESCAP Subcommittee on Poverty Reduction Practices has deliberated on poverty alleviation through tourism development, urban poverty and slums, information and communications technology (ICT) for rural development, microfinance, housing rights and organic produce, it has not found room to date to comment on the fisheries/poverty nexus (UNESCAP, 2005). Equally, although the Asian Development Bank produced a fisheries policy framework in 1997 to direct ADB activities in the sector, a recent ADB evaluation (May 2006:44) states that, “The fisheries policy has been lar gely irrelevant to national fisheries policy development...” The report concludes by suggesting that the current policy should be retired within twelve months, but offers only five very general suggestions14 as to how the ADB might subsequently proceed in the fisheries arena. UNDP, in contrast, appears to have rather belatedly recognized the importance of fisheries in the region. Its just published 2006 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, suggests that “Asia has much to gain by promoting equitable agricultural trade generally, but this is particularly true for that in fish” (2006:66, italics added). It is therefore imperative that APFIC and its member states focus on addressing these concerns at the regional level. This could be achieved in a number of ways. One option is to ensure fisheries representatives are both present and vocal in their defence of the sector at relevant regional meetings, such as the recent Pro-Poor Policy Analysis and Dialogue at the Country Level Planning Workshop (International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Food and Agriculture Organization-Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAO-RAP) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC), Bangkok, April 2005) and the Forum on National Plans as Poverty Reduction Strategies in East Asia (ADB, Vientiane, April 2006), for example. These activities can be augmented by more specific strategies - for example: (i) lobbying ESCAP to fund a Flagship Fisheries project in the thematic area of fisheries and poverty reduction; (ii) linking with UNDP to develop strategies to facilitate the more equitable development of fisheries trade; and (iii) working with the ADB to produce a framework to help guide its future policy interventions in fisheries.

Second, there is also a need at the national level to ensure policy promises are followed through and implemented, as best practice at the level of policy formulation does not necessarily translate into best or at least effective policy outcomes.

Third, there are lessons to be learned, not just regionally but also globally, relating to the processes that have enabled fisheries to be mainstreamed into the national development discourse. If fisheries can be adequately represented in the 2004 Cambodian PRSP, a country where the sector provides 65 percent of total agricultural exports and 56.2 percent of daily animal protein consumption, why has the sector been largely disregarded in the 2002 Gambian PRSP, a country where fisheries supply 43.9 percent of total agricultural exports and an almost identical contribution (56.9 percent) to national animal protein intake?

Fourth, insertion of the sector into the national development discourse is in itself no guarantee that resources will be harvested in a sustainable manner. Indeed, the emphasis in the Ninth Malaysian Plan 2006-10 on greater commercialization, large-scale production and enhanced infrastructural facilities such as the Tanjung Mamis fisheries complex may well militate against the long-run sustainable contribution of fisheries to domestic livelihoods, food security and/or export earnings. Hence, organizations such as APFIC have an important role to play in advising national governments on the status of fisheries resources and on potential threats to these resources. Despite the publication of a number of regional studies confirming the magnitude of poverty within the fisheries sector, there remains a more general unmet need, as identified by Thorpe (2005) and FMSP (2006:4), to understand the underlying causal factors linking fisheries and poverty better. An improved understanding of the poverty/fisheries linkage will aid in the development of projects and programmes that not only maximize the benefits derived from fisheries, but also reduce the poverty and vulnerability of fishers.

14 These include: (i) emphasizing development and management approaches that adhere to the principles of responsible fisheries, (ii) refer to fisheries policy instruments of regional organizations for policy guidance, (iii) assess ADB in-house capacity to administer fisheries assistance, (iv) develop strategic partnerships with international organizations with expertise in the sector and (v) integrate fisheries into broader rural development approaches).

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