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1. Introduction

Asia is the world's largest producer of seafood, accounting for over 50 percent of global production from wild capture fisheries as well as around 90 percent of global aquaculture production. As such, the management of wild capture fisheries in the region for long-term sustainability is of global significance as well as being of vital national interest to the countries of the region because fishing activities account, in many countries, for a significant proportion of GDP and are often important in supporting large rural populations. Despite this importance, the history of exploitation and management of wild fish resources in the region has generally not been good with stocks often being overexploited both historically and also in recent times (for example, see Butcher, 2004 for a review of the history of sequential overexploitation in the industrial marine fisheries of Southeast Asia and Sugiyama, Staples and Funge-Smith, 2004 for a review of the status of regional fisheries), fisheries that are usually characterized by open access and hence overcapacity and low profitability and weak enforcement of fisheries regulations (see Box 1 for the benefits of better management of fisheries).

However, there has been a growing recognition within the region that the rapid decline in fishery resources over the past thirty to forty years must be curtailed and that there is a need to manage wild fisheries resources for long term sustainability (see, for example, Morgan, 2006). This is being reflected in many countries by an increasing emphasis on measuring and managing fishing capacity and on controlling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, both by nationals of coastal states and also by foreign fishing fleets.

The extent to which progress has been made by countries of the region in addressing the key issues of overcapacity and IUU fishing was examined as part of a workshop, organized by the Asia-Pacific Fisheries Commission (APFIC) and held in Phuket, Thailand in June 2007. As a background paper to this workshop, this regional synthesis has been prepared to provide information on progress and trends in the region in identifying and implementing actions on the major issues of overcapacity and IUU fishing and to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of these actions. This synthesis relies on information provided directly by the APFIC countries, which was requested from all country delegates as part of the preliminary work undertaken for the workshop. The information is therefore current and provides a snapshot of fishing capacity and IUU issues which has not previously been available.

It is anticipated that the information contained in this regional synthesis will provide the necessary background for identifying the major issues related to management of fishing capacity and IUU fishing and for developing specific action plans at both national and regional level.

Box 1: A required paradigm shift – the benefits of improved management of marine capture fisheries

  1. Poor management of fisheries is currently resulting in:
    • Harvesting overcapacities
    • Declining catch per unit of effort
    • Change in catch composition towards short-lived low-value species
    • Non-selective fishing gear types becoming advantageous relative to selective fishing gear
    • A growing intensity of the "race for fish"
    • A proliferation of IUU fishing
    • Technological progress that is targeted on increasing catch in quantity rather than in value
    • Fishers who operate under economically marginal conditions
    • Low-value fish that becomes a critical share of revenue to make ends meet
    • Post-harvest value addition severely impaired
  2. Management that is focused on maximizing the economic potential of capture fisheries would result in:
    • Reduced growth and recruitment overfishing and lowered ecosystem impacts
    • Restored species diversity
    • Better quality and higher value of catch
    • Reduced fishing costs
    • Greater net benefits to society at large
    • Potential to redistribute fishery benefits to meet social objectives
    • Greater value addition in post-harvest sector
  3. A Global Rent Drain study being undertaken by FAO has shown that, by reducing global fishing effort from the present 13.9 m GRT to 7.3 m GRT, the following would be achieved:
    • Increase in harvest from 85 to 93 million tonnes
    • Increase in fish biomass from 123 to 254 million tonnes
    • Increases in operational profits from the present loss of US$5.3 billion to a profit of US$41.6 billion
    • Increase in rents generated from the present zero US$50.8 billion
  4. To achieve this paradigm shift of moving to management which maximises benefits rather than landings, there is a need to:
    • Invest more in fisheries management in order to capture the benefits
    • Change the focus of debate form quantity to value
    • Establish baselines for measuring the economic health of the world's fisheries
    • Raise awareness through targeting a broader set of national policy-makers and delivering the benefits of the change to major global and regional fora
  5. The practical issues that need to be addressed in achieving this paradigm shift in fisheries management are:
    • High upfront economic and political costs versus long-run benefits
    • Low activity and marginal vessels easiest to encourage to exit the fishery
    • Where fishery access cannot be made exclusive through rights-based management regimes, high risk of re-investments
    • Concepts of cost-recovery and payment of resource rentals are hard to sell

Source: Adapted from "Economic considerations in the management of fishing capacity", presentation by Rolf Willmann at the APFIC Regional consultative workshop on Managing Fishing Capacity and IUU Fishing, Phuket, June 2007.

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