The 26 December 2004 Asian earthquake and tsunami is considered by many to be the worst natural disaster to occur in living memory. The sheer scale and complexity of damage to the countries of the Indian Ocean is without precedent. Estimates of the number of people killed or still missing range between 250 000 to almost 300 000, with more than 1 million people displaced and damage to infrastructure running into billions of dollars. It is estimated that a further 250 000 people in the region could be driven below the poverty line through loss of livelihoods in fisheries, tourism, trade, agriculture and artisanal or cottage industries (UNEP 2005), see also (ADB et al. 2005; FAO and MOAC 2005).
Concerns were quickly raised on the potential for damage to natural resources and ecosystems. Scientists, governments and non-government organizations (IGOs and NGOs) were concerned about the impact of the tsunami on ecosystem goods and services because of their crucial role in providing food and livelihoods for millions of people (UNEP and WCMC 2006; Wilkinson et al. 2006). These concerns focused mostly on damage to fisheries resources, aquaculture, forests (including mangroves) and coral reefs.
Indonesia and Sri Lanka had the greatest number of people affected by the disaster (Narayan et al. 2005; Pomeroy et al. 2005). Aceh Province was near the earthquake epicentre, with Simeulue Island within just a few kilometres and Sabang about 270 kilometres away. Although Sri Lanka was more than 2 100 kilometres distant it lay in direct line-of-sight with the epicentre and the energy of the tsunami was sufficient to cause major damage.
In Indonesia, damage was sustained as a result of the causative and subsequent earthquakes, and the tsunami itself. During the tsunami, waves accumulated water on land up to 30 m in depth. Between 170 000 and 220 000 people were killed, with the greatest damage recorded in the areas of Meulaboh, Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar and Aceh Jaya (Wilkinson et al. 2006). The total losses associated with fisheries including harbours, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) assets, aquaculture, boats, gear and production were estimated at approximately 4 752 billion rupiah,2 of which 80 percent was attributed to losses in fishing production (BAPPENAS and International Donor Agency 2005).
In Sri Lanka over 31 000 people were killed, approximately 15 000 were injured (UNEP 2005) and 99 000 houses were destroyed (ADB et al. 2005). The districts most affected were those on the eastern and southern sides, although impacts extended around most of the coast with waves encircling the country. The estimated losses to fisheries were around US$297 million, including losses to assets and outputs (ADB et al. 2005).
In its Regional Strategic Framework for the rehabilitation of fisheries and aquaculture in tsunami-affected countries in Asia, the Consortium to Restore Shattered Livelihoods in Tsunami-Devastated Nations (CONSRN 2005d) focuses on "getting rehabilitation and development right" to avoid past mistakes and make a substantial improvement over the pre-tsunami situation in each country. The 2005 Rome Declaration on Fisheries and the Tsunami expressed concern over the risk of negative impacts from rehabilitation efforts if not appropriately designed and duly coordinated (FAO 2005). One of the greatest of these anticipated risks concerns the over-restoration of fishing capacity. The meeting also recognized that environmental degradation of critical habitats caused by the tsunami in affected coastal areas, such as coral reefs and mangroves, may continue to affect the productivity of inshore fishing grounds and the potential for aquaculture rehabilitation for some time.
The Blue Plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction in Aceh and Nias (ROI 2005) calls for the restoration and enhancement of fishing activities, largely in a bid to reactivate the local economy. At the same time,
2 US$1 = 9 090 Rupiah (October 2007).
the plan calls for the restoration of "environmental supporting capacity" including the rehabilitation of coral reefs, mangroves and coastal vegetation (to form a protective green belt) and monitoring of environmental risks. At the sector level, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) acknowledged that "there needs to be a strong attempt not to recreate poverty and unsustainable activities" in fisheries (MMAF 2005). In Sri Lanka, the strategy produced by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (MFAR) recognizes an "opportunity for effecting necessary urgent improvements to create conditions for sustainable management and development of Sri Lanka's fisheries" and to improve the living conditions of fisherfolk (MFAR 2005).
The fisheries rehabilitation activities in Indonesia and Sri Lanka are focused on the restoration of fisheries capacity, which targets boats and to a lesser extent infrastructure and gear. Currently, there is a weak linkage between national and sectoral tsunami recovery policies, with national policies being slow to specifically acknowledge that resources may have been overexploited before the tsunami, or that they may have been damaged by it. This study reviews the available information for Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and other tsunami-affected countries, to determine whether and to what extent fished resources were affected by the tsunami. The extent to which ecosystems that support fisheries (such as coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons and coastal waters) may have been damaged and examine changes in fishing capacity is also reviewed. All of these factors may be concurrently and interactively influencing the status of fisheries resources in affected areas and thereby the basis of recovery of livelihoods and economies. Answering these questions is central to the formation of recovery policies because it identifies whether there are likely to be new drivers affecting resources under post-tsunami conditions.