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At its 29th Session, the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) recognized that a rapidly emerging issue in the region is the development of certification schemes for fisheries and aquaculture and the potential opportunities and constraints that these might bring to the region. In particular the member countries specifically requested APFIC to review opportunities and constraints with certification schemes as might apply in the APFIC region. This report is made in response to this request.

Aquaculture is currently supplying 45 percent of all fish consumed by humans and the majority of this is produced and consumed in the Asian region. The increasing global demand for seafood products and increasingly limited supply from capture fisheries suggests that aquaculture will continue its impressive growth rate that has been the sub sector's trademark for the last decade. It is crucial that this continued development be undertaken responsibly and it is in the interest of all stakeholders, producers and consumers alike that the development be sound and sustainable. Certification is one tool that can assist consumers in identifying products that are produced according to responsible production practices.

Aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region is characterized by small-scale operations, with the bulk of the production coming from a mosaic of small-scale farms. It is estimated that in Asia more than 12 million people are directly employed in aquaculture. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the diversity of small-scale farmers be considered as the norm rather than the exception when looking at production and market chains for aquaculture products. It is important that we are sensitive to the needs of the sector when identifying and developing certification schemes, in order to maximize benefits and avoid distortions and barriers to the effective marketing of aquaculture products. As part of this, certification schemes are increasingly including the possibility to certify producers' groups or clusters, in addition to individual businesses. Such approaches are particularly appropriate to the needs of smaller-scale operations and are interesting developments that should be investigated further.

This report is a contribution under the workplan of APFIC and complementary to the work of FAO and its focus is specifically towards the situation of APFIC member countries. The findings of this report were presented at the APFIC Regional Consultative Workshop on Certification Schemes for Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture held in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam in September 2007. This report, together with input from the regional workshop will provide clearer guidance for APFIC members to move forward on certification issues related to aquaculture and also provide a resource document for all stakeholders interested with aquaculture certification schemes in the Region. It should be noted that this work is coordinated with the ongoing work in developing the FAO Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification.

                                                                                    He Changchui
                                                                                    FAO Assistant Director-General and
                                                                                    Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

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