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27. The Commission considered the agenda item based on document APFIC/08/3, which is a summary of the draft Status and potential of fisheries and aquaculture in Asia and the Pacific 2008 (APFIC/08/Inf.5). The final document is being prepared and will be finalized following the thirtieth session.

28. There is only limited information available on employment in fisheries and aquaculture in Asia and the Pacific region. However, FAO's "The State of Fisheries and Aquaculture" (FAO Rome, 2006) estimated that Asia accounted for 87 percent of the total global number of persons engaged in fisheries and aquaculture production (total 41.4 million). Fisheries and aquaculture contribute significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many countries in the region. Its importance is even greater if the contribution to poverty reduction and food security is considered. In terms of food security, revenue generation and employment, both the capture fisheries and aquaculture sectors continue to be of fundamental importance to Asia and the Pacific region as can be seen by the tonnage and value produced. However, there is a need to address gaps and lack of data and information available on the socio-economic importance of fisheries and aquaculture.

29. There is still a considerable capture production that is not identified to the species level but is instead recorded as marine/freshwater fishes nei (nei = not elsewhere included), marine/freshwater molluscs nei and marine/freshwater crustaceans nei. The quantity reported under these categories has for some subregions been increasing significantly in recent years, indicating that the quality of the statistics is not improving.

30. The total catch in the tropical areas of Asia and the Pacific region is currently 23.1 million tonnes and the rising and declining trends seen in the temperate areas are less obvious in tropical waters. In tropical waters, coastal stocks (typically the demersal and small pelagic species) may be more diverse and perhaps more resilient in the face of heavy fishing pressure (in terms of biomass) than in temperate waters. However, it is important to note that a relatively large proportion of the catch from tropical waters is reported as marine fish nei (almost 30 percent). It is suggested that the uncertainty created by the 30 percent of catch reported as marine fish nei, could to some extent be resolved by targeted sample surveys in those countries reporting high quantities of fish in this category. This would at least give an indication of the percentage composition and value of the species caught. For Southeast Asia, the main species groups are pelagic marine fish and marine fish nei. In particular, the marine fish nei group keeps growing strongly (plus10 percent) and is a major driving force of the overall production.

31. Finfish requiring lower inputs such as tilapia, carps, and barbs, pacu and pirapatinga, freshwater fish nei, milkfish and mullet all have been important food fish for developing states in Asia and the Pacific region. Many of these species are grown and cultured in "backyard ponds" and are in many cases not captured in official statistics. The large numbers of these ponds and the aggregated production and value to the households engaging in the activity are probably very significant. The lack of reliable information from this part of the sector currently limits evaluation of the grassroots impact of rural aquaculture in Asia and the Pacific region.

32. Although a large number of crustacean species is cultured, the predominant commercial species are brackishwater shrimps, freshwater prawns and freshwater/brackish water crabs. Two major species accounted for over 60 percent of the total crustacean production in 2006 (the whiteleg shrimp, Penaeus vannamei and the giant tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon). The trend in shifting production away from P. monodon to whiteleg shrimp (P. vannamei) is quite clear now and has been reported in previous APFIC publications. The massive increase in the volume of whiteleg shrimp production coupled with the similar size ranges produced by all countries has led to severely depressed prices for whiteleg shrimp, a situation that producers are attempting to overcome through greater intensification. This echoes the trend in the early 1990s and although systems have been improved with the use of limited water exchange and specific pathogen free (SPF) stock, there are still aggregated environmental impacts at the system level as a result of the total loadings. P. monodon prices remain very high because of a lack of supply, however, until SPF broodstock can be produced, the disease risks for intensive systems remains too high for farmers. It can be anticipated that there will be a significant shift back to P. monodon once a reliable and commercially available supply of SPF stock can be accessed in the region.

33. The regional trends in aquaculture are as follows: South Asia's production has tripled in the last 15 years, from 1.4 million tonnes in 1991 to 4.2 million tonnes in 2006; aquaculture production in Southeast Asia is much more diversified and in 2006 the production of eighty-three different species was reported; the number of cultured species and the details reported have increased rapidly in the last five years; growth in Chinese inland culture has continued, mainly from the increased production of finfish culture, which has increased by an average of 9.2 percent since 2004; aquatic plants continue to be the predominant form of aquaculture in other regions of Asia, particularly in East Asian states, and account for 54 percent of the total production; aquaculture production from Oceania is relatively limited with molluscs and diadromous fish being the main cultured groups.

34. The trend of a reducing size of catch towards smaller and less valuable species when the larger more valuable species are fished out is sometimes referred to as "fishing down the food chain". Splitting the reported data into the two distinct regions — temperate and tropical — allows a degree of analysis as to the changes in composition of reported catches and some trends in the fisheries.

35. The catches of sharks show remarkable differences between the tropical and temperate seas of Asia and the Pacific region. Temperate waters show a steady decline and tropical catches, in contrast, displayed a steady increase until 2003, after which they fell drastically (2003 to 2005). The reason for this is unclear.

36. The most valuable and largest tonnage part of the pelagic catch is the catch of tuna species. It is clear that tuna catches in temperate waters have declined steadily since 1965 in Asia and the Pacific region. The main reason is declining catches of bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin tuna in temperate waters. In contrast, the tropical tuna fisheries have increased production over the same period (perhaps reflecting this shift in effort from temperate to tropical waters), and yellowfin catches are still good, although declining. The bulk of the catch in both regions is made up today of skipjack and, to a smaller degree, albacore tuna in the temperate waters. Skipjack tuna is considered to be rather resilient in the face of fishing pressure and is a faster recruiting species. Nevertheless, there are even questions raised about the status of this species in some fisheries.

37. South Asia now has the largest share of inland capture production among subregions in Asia and the Pacific region and is approaching the values of Chinese inland production. The bulk of this production (75 percent) is freshwater fish nei from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

38. Chinese total production in 2006 was 18.0 million tonnes, almost back to the 18.3 million tonnes reported in 1998. However, as the People's Republic of China (hereafter China) has since revised its figures for 2006 and is expected to revise data back to 1996, these trends are likely to be adjusted in the coming years.

39. Asia and the Pacific region produced 46.3 million tonnes of aquaculture which is 90 percent of global aquaculture production (total aquaculture production less aquatic plants). The growth of aquaculture production in the region has continued to be very strong, reflecting the trend for the last 15 years. This results mainly from continuously increasing production from China. There has been little change in the top twenty cultured species in the region between 1990 and 2006 (excluding aquatic plants and molluscs).

40. There is significant volume of aquaculture production reported by large group of species, e.g. not identified at family, order or species level. Consequently, the species items totals could have underestimated the real production of the individual species. The top species are all inland waters species, which are dominated by Chinese and Indian carps. It is worth noting that the number of carnivorous species has increased during the past 15 years.

41. Attention was drawn to the tables containing the status of APFIC member countries' accession to various international and regional agreements.

42. The Commissioners were requested to comment on the report, Status and potential for fisheries and aquaculture 2008 and to reflect on the suggestions and recommendations for improved reporting contained in the report. Where possible, the Members were requested to provide clarifications on the information contained in the report.

Responses by the commission and observers

43. The Commission thanked the secretariat for producing the APFIC overview Status and potential of fisheries and aquaculture in the region 2008 and underlined that fishery statistics are of absolutely fundamental importance for good fisheries management. Effective monitoring of catch landings and port state measures were mentioned as important tools for the monitoring and management of fisheries.

44. It was suggested that the APFIC secretariat should contact member countries for updates on statistics and policy developments. The possibility of using a Web-based system for update was also suggested.

45. The Commission requested the secretariat for guidance on what proportion of nei in reporting would be acceptable. It was noted that the global average of reported nei is around 11 percent of total catch. It was also noted that the trend in reporting nei was increasing in the APFIC region and that this was of concern.

46. Noting that several Members have made great efforts to improve their reporting, but also noting that there are still significant areas where there could be improvement, the Commission recommended that APFIC member countries:

47. The Commission noted that marine protected areas (MPAs) are often created by departments other than the department responsible for fisheries and aquaculture. Usually the line ministry for MPAs are the environmental ministries. The Commission noted that constructive dialogue between fisheries and environmental agencies is crucial in order to ensure that the social and environmental benefits of MPAs are appropriately realized.

48. The Commission was informed that there are good examples of MPAs that have multiple usage areas and are not "closed parks". These good examples should form the basis for discussions on MPAs. It was noted that this would be part of one of the emerging issues in APFIC's work plan for 2008-2010. The secretariat was requested that in the preparations for this, work on suitable indicators for the environmental and livelihoods benefits and performance of MPAs should be identified. These would assist fisheries agencies in their dialogue with other stakeholders.

49. In consideration of the issue of shark fishing, Indonesia noted that some APFIC Members, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have developed NPOA for shark management. The recorded increasing catch of shark in tropical areas and reducing catch in temperate zones requires action to strengthen shark data collection. In addition, greater public awareness is needed as the issue of shark finning and lack of retained catch in the region is one possible explanation for the declining shark catch figures.

50. The SEAFDEC representatives thanked APFIC for inviting them as observers to this important session. It was noted that SEAFDEC has developed an initiative on the regional framework for fisheries statistics of Southeast Asia. The initiative would also respond to the concern about reporting catch by detailed species for fisheries management. In addition, SEAFDEC in collaboration with the member countries conducted a regional study on shark in Southeast Asia, which includes information on catch utilization and a market study of shark fin. These findings could be shared with APFIC Members.

51. BOBP-IGO representatives expressed their thanks for the invitation to attend the thirtieth session as observers. The issue of MPAs is also important for the four Members of the BOBP-IGO. An initiative on shark fishing has been started by BOBP-IGO and it was suggested that BOBP-IGO could share the findings of these studies with APFIC Members.

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