marine fisheries in Southeast Asia
The study by Butcher (2004) highlights the boom-and-bust nature of development of industrial marine fisheries in the region over the past century or so as, one by one, stocks and habitats were exploited in an often uncontrolled, unregulated manner and, when these were depleted, the fleet moved on to the next area or stock. This sequential plunder also occurred across fisheries as the declining economic performance of one fishery spurred the transfer of vessels and fishers to a new, developing fishery (very often with government assistance) which in its turn also declined. However, the point was reached in about the 1980s where there were very few new, underexploited areas for fleets to move to within the region and very few new types of fisheries that fleets could transfer to. This remains the situation in the region today.
This boom-and-bust nature of development of industrial fishing has severely impacted on the small-scale fisheries in the region, which still account for the vast majority of landings (up to 94 percent of total landings for example, in Indonesia) and this led in the past, and continues to lead to, violent clashes between industrial and small-scale fishers.
Another issue highlighted by the analysis of Butcher (2004) is the poor state of even basic statistics on landings, fishing methods and fishing effort. This lack of statistics from the past has made the analysis by Butcher (2004) on the development of fisheries in the region very difficult and often reliant on isolated, qualitative information which, nevertheless, Butcher has assembled from an impressive range of sources. There has never been and there remain today virtually no statistics that are collected on a regional basis (an important gap since many stocks cross national boundaries and are fished by fleets from a number of nations) and there is no consistent regional approach to the type and methodology of statistics collection. In addition, most national statistics are poor both in the extent of their coverage and precision. The basic data upon which to assess the impact of fishing on fish stocks and to make informed fisheries development and management decisions was, therefore, never collected in the past and this important gap in knowledge remains today.