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Presentations on Regional Policy Issues

Moving fisheries offshore, economic and policy implications

Gabriella Bianchi, FAO

93. The presenter reported on a workshop held in Bangkok, Thailand from 17 to 19 June 2008 on “Assessment and management of the offshore resources in South and Southeast Asia”. The workshop was organized because of the recognition that many countries in the region are moving towards exploiting offshore resources (both pelagic and demersal), with the expectation that there are substantial untapped resources. The countries of South Asia and Southeast Asia all have policies to promote and expand fishing farther offshore from their coasts. The main policy drivers are: (i) overfishing in inshore areas; (ii) attempting to realise the potential of offshore fishing; (iii) building up catch history records for subsequent negotiations in RFMOs; and (iv) ensuring full utilization so that others cannot fish under the provisions of UNCLOS. Governments are providing a number of incentives to facilitate this move.

94. There is some concern that the policy to move offshore could backfire if not managed effectively and overall fishing capacity could increase even further if effective controls were to put in place. Attention will need to be given to what could happen if the incentives are removed, the potential has been overestimated, or the costs of fishing in the offshore are too high relative to the revenue gained. The workshop provided an excellent overview of the many exploratory fishing/research cruises that have been carried out in the region and identified the main species that may support commercial fishing. The overall conclusion, however, was that these resources are rather limited, and in the case of oceanic tuna, already heavily exploited. There is also a large number of technological, social and ecological constraints that makes offshore fishing a high-risk undertaking.

95. Accordingly, the workshop recommended a precautionary approach to offshore fishing in South Asia and Southeast Asia, starting with in-depth economic feasibility studies, risk assessments — especially with respect to impacts on existing fisheries and potential environmental concerns — and gradual development as more information and knowledge are accumulated. A need for better regional collaboration in carrying out and analysing exploratory and research cruise data was noted. In terms of future management, the role of the RFMOs for highly migratory species was acknowledged and the lack of regional arrangements for other shared fish stocks was highlighted. The workshop recommendations provide a number of important actions that need to be undertaken if South Asia and Southeast Asia are to benefit from the sustainable development of their offshore resources. A workshop report and other relevant documents will be available on the APFIC and FAO Web sites.

Fisheries assessments — a tool for management?

Duncan Leadbitter, MSC

96. MSC has developed a risk assessment evaluation tool based on several other tools for rapid assessment and evaluation of the performance of fisheries. This new integrated approach to assessment can aid judgments in data-poor situations, is cost effective, flexible and applicable to different categories of fisheries. The tool is also designed to be relevant to management needs. A test case for the tool was an assessment of tuna stocks carried out for the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in the Pacific. It had two main components, namely strategic assessments of the fisheries and advice on areas where performance could be improved. It covered four species and five gear types assessed across the entire distribution of the species. Three criteria were used, namely stock, ecosystem and management and these were rated as being in “good shape”, “requiring minor remediation” or “requiring major remedial work”. Good science was available and lowered the need for risk-based assessments.

97. Mr Leadbitter stated that this tool can be applied to Southeast Asia. He pointed out that such strategic assessments will help implement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) and implement one of the main recommendations of the APFIC certification workshop and strongly recommended that the assessments be carried out. He also pointed out that the approach was not linked directly to certification and labelling, but added that it could be used as a precursor to a consideration of these, if a client wanted it.

98. During the discussions, an observation was made that the approach is similar to that taken by FAO. The workshop was also advised that funding may be available to assist the process and if there is interest and agreement by countries in the region, a workshop could be held, preferably in the first half of 2009.

MPAs and fisheries management — the human dimension

Ramya Rajagopalan, ICSF

99. MPAs are used to regulate extractive use of an area to conserve natural diversity and historical and cultural features. They range from “no-take” zones to “multi-use” zones, although for some people, only “no-take” zones are considered as MPAs. This is not consistent with the accepted definitions. From a fisheries perspective, they are a spatial closure tool and form a part of a package of fishery management tools that can be used. Although there have been many studies on their effectiveness from a biological perspective, there are very few studies on the social implications of MPAs.

100. ICSF examined six case studies to look at ways that livelihood concerns were incorporated into MPAs. The first case was India where there were inadequate consultations, despite the fact that the constitution has significant provisions to support the rights and responsibilities of communities. In Thailand, the participatory approaches were limited and communities did not perceive any benefits. There was also inadequate capacity to manage the MPAs. In Africa, there were also few benefits for small-scale communities living in or adjacent to MPAs; they tended to exclude these communities. In Latin America, the situation was similar.

101. In all cases there was a lack of appropriate alternative livelihood options. In summary, the case studies showed: (i) loss of livelihoods; (ii) ineffective processes; (iii) that whereas natural science plays an important role social science plays no role; (iv) ineffective implementation of legislation and poor institutional capacity; and (v) economic and social benefits do not flow back to communities. It was concluded that there is a need to adopt a human rights approach to MPAs and it is important to recognize that traditional actions for conservation can be used as a starting point for MPAs.

102. During the discussions it was asked whether there was any link between who develops the MPA and the degree of inclusion of social dimensions. The answer was that MPAs are often designated by environment departments for environmental purposes, without any consideration of social objectives, and they were often designed as no-take zones.

The World Oceans Conference 2009

102. The World Oceans Conference 2009 is to be held from 11 to 15 May 2009 in Manado, North Sulawesi and the RCFM was informed about the background and prospectus of the conference. The goal of the conference is to better understand how climate change might adversely affect the social and economic welfare of the people. It is important for the conference to build consensus and hopefully produce a fully endorsed Manado Declaration after the meeting. For more information on the conference please visit

Promoting Long-term Sustainable Management of Marine Fisheries by Addressing Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing — Issues and Challenges for the APFIC Region

Ndiaga Gueye, FAO

104. The presenter first reviewed the pattern of adherence to international fisheries instruments and reporting to FAO. It was also highlighted that IUU fishing issues in the APFIC region have been identified and the relationship between IUU fishing and fishing capacity has been explored. Not all countries in the APFIC region have ratified UNCLOS and UNFSA. It was recommended that APFIC Members should review their commitments to these instruments. NPOA are also important, but only a few APFIC countries have formulated them.

105. The importance of port state measures was emphasized. Their purpose is to ensure that fish associated with IUU fishing do not move through national ports. Work is in progress to develop binding port state measures and APFIC Members need to become more active in this development. Another important tool is a global record of fishing vessels. At present there is no single source of information for fishing vessels and no agreement yet on how to proceed with developing one. Flag state performance initiatives are also being considered, but it important to agree on what constitutes a responsible flag state and what possible actions can be taken against irresponsible flag states.

106. The importance of VMS as part of the MCS package was also highlighted. FAO is reviewing the status of VMS worldwide through a questionnaire and encourages APFIC Members to participate. FAO is actively carrying out the following activities: (i) developing indicators to assess progress; (ii) reviewing policy and legal issues; and (iii) assessing the VMS status in the APFIC region.

107. The APFIC secretariat provided further information on the status of NPOA in the region: six countries have or are developing NPOA to tackle IUU fishing.

Global drivers and their implications for SE Asian fisheries

Steven Hall, Director-General, WorldFish Center

108. The focus of this presentation was fisheries, although many of the conclusions are also applicable to aquaculture. In order to identify the main drivers, it is necessary to first understand the dependence of people on fisheries and how sensitive national economies and national food security are to fisheries. The top 50 counties who are most dependent on fisheries are those with a low Human Development Index. In Asia, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, China are the countries most highly dependent on fisheries and their products.

109. The most obvious drivers are trade and markets. Global climate and environment are also major drivers with many impacts. A considerable number of analyses of the impact on resources have been carried out but there have been fewer analyses of the impact on communities. A map of vulnerability shows Africa and sub-Saharan Africa as most vulnerable to climate change, but large impacts will also be felt across Asia. Another driver is health and disease, especially high rates of HIV among fishers that have serious implications for fishing communities. In Asia, 36 to 40 million fishers are at risk. Trends in governance are another driver — decentralization and community-based participation are all positive trends as this will mean more emphasis on human rights.

110. The increasing pressure on implementing global/regional agreements will also have an impact, but there is a need to consider negative impacts, for example the links between fishing and crime. There is a known link between vessel decommissioning and the increase in human trafficking. Demography is a driver that is of considerable importance. Migration is high within and between developing countries, but little is known about fishing populations and the impacts of human movement. The causes of migration are complex and include both “push” and “pull” factors that are poorly understood. There is a need to consider migration scenario planning, e.g. consequences of dams and coastal inundation. The presenter concluded with some consideration of how to make research count and have an impact. This requires: (i) a framework for thinking about drivers; (ii) research orientated towards policy; and (iii) including external drivers in fisheries assessments.

111. A question was asked about the impact of resource allocations, e.g. commercial catch versus recreational catch. In reply it was noted that social impacts are rarely considered. The issue of “hidden people” was raised, for example the millions of people who work as crews on fishing vessels. Little is known about these yet the origin of the crew is important in terms of its ability to change. The impact on women was also emphasized and actions such as restructuring of fleets also have a large impact on women as they are often involved in the post-harvest sector.

Adapting to challenges — water development and inland fisheries

Chris Barlow, Fisheries Programme Coordinator MRC

112. The presentation outlined the size and importance of the Mekong basin fishery. Many millions of people depend on the Mekong and its fish. Most people in the basin do not have any alternative and fish is extremely important for food security and livelihoods. Small fish are the most important source of food. Fishing activities are extremely varied, ranging from river fishing to rice field fishing. The best estimate of importance of the fishery can be gained by calculating the consumption of fish and then back calculating the yield from the fisheries. An estimated 2.1 million tonnes fish and 0.5 million other aquatic animals are consumed in the lower Mekong each year. Per capita consumption is 29 to 39 kg per year. This corresponds to a yield of 2 to 3 million tonnes per year, which is 2 percent of the world capture fishery. There are little data on value but it is estimated to be in excess of US$2 000 million.

113. Major threats to the fishery include: (i) changes to extent and timing of annual flood; (ii) barriers to fish migration; (iii) loss of habitat; and (iv) overfishing. Although river fish are highly resilient and able to adapt to a changing environment, overfishing is still possible. Many fish are also highly migratory and undergo migration during their life cycle and it is this cycle that is vulnerable to outside pressures.

114. The main pressure is from the development of hydro projects, especially on the main stream of the Mekong. There are currently three dams in China and plans to build more in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand. Dams cause fundamental changes — changes in hydrology and reduced habitats, less recruitment and possibly changes in migratory cues. The barrier across the river blocks fish migration and fish cannot complete their life cycle. On the positive side, reservoir fisheries may be developed. It is extremely difficult to estimate the impact of dams on fisheries. Information is needed to assess the trade-offs between fisheries versus hydropower and irrigation. Hydropower and irrigation benefits are easier to define and understand, for example the formal economy and focused income versus the informal economy and generalized wealth.

115. The presenter stressed that it is possible to have both hydropower and fisheries with proper planning. However, planning requires institutional systems and information that are not in place and planning is non-existent. In deciding the trade-offs, fisheries are seldom a determining factor. The challenges are: (i) having sufficient fisheries data, especially data relating to economic and livelihood values; (ii) having isolated developments without considering the cumulative effects; (iii) communication problems; and (iv) political imperatives and decision-making that work against fisheries.

116. It was suggested that value should be based on the price that consumers pay and not the “farm-gate” price. It was also pointed out that damming also impacts coastal areas through hydrographic changes such as silting. It is important to understand the underlying driving factor the belief that people can live without fish but they cannot live without rice.

Aquaculture developments in the Asian region and associated issues that need attention

Sena De Silva, Director-General, NACA

117. Aquaculture now accounts for 50 percent of the fish consumed in the world and the bulk of this is finfish, mostly freshwater fish. For many of these cultured fish, the farm gate price is less than US$2 per kg and has not changed for many years. For Asia, it is important to understand the changes in markets and the formation of niche markets. These open up many opportunities and the focus on shrimp needs to change. For example, the fastest growing farm sector is Pangasius from Viet Nam. It is now provided cheaply in overseas markets and is replacing white fish in developed countries. It is extremely important in Viet Nam as it supports the livelihoods of 80 000 people. Another example is rohu, which is cultured in Myanmar and sold to Indian expatriates, mainly in the Middle East.

118. Culture-based fisheries (CBF) refers to the use of existing public waters to grow and harvest fish. CBF are becoming important because of the scarcity of water and the fact that they have many benefits, including no capital outlay, low environmental impact and are community-based. In Asia, 6.25 million km of suitable water is available. If 20 percent of this is used it would add an extra 1.25 million tonnes of food. This form of aquaculture was not popular in the past for various reasons, but is now being increasingly used.

119. Fishery-based aquaculture (FBA) uses wild seed/fish as a source of the cultured species. FBA also has an important place in Asia, especially in the production of high-value species. For the live fish market (grouper and wrasses), aquaculture is now replacing destructive fishing practices and where undertaken responsibly, can be considered as contributing to conserving biodiversity. The presenter then considered several issues associated with the sustainable development of aquaculture. A major concern is the dependence of aquaculture on low value/trash fish sourced from both large-scale commercial and small-scale artisanal fisheries. Of most concern is direct feeding of low value/trash fish in cage culture, although compounded feeds also need fish meal and much of this comes from low value/trash fish. It is estimated that 2.5 million tonnes of material will be needed for direct feeding alone. However, 60 percent of fish meal is used in salmonid and shrimp culture, although these species only account for less than 10 percent of world production. The shift to compounded feed will also have socio-economic impacts that are little understood. Furthermore, use of these low value/trash fish for other purposes are not even considered, e.g. fish used for cat food amounts to 2.5 million tonnes annually.

120. Climate change will have the greatest impact on delta areas. How much does aquaculture contribute to carbon emission and greenhouse gases is a question that is going to be asked more and more. We need answers to this question and will have to accept that public scrutiny of aquaculture will be intense. However, it was pointed out that livestock accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gases and this gets little scrutiny, despite the fact that globally it contributes more than the transport sector. Shrimp culture is very energy intensive, especially whiteleg shrimp and it is possible that lower impact culture may have a greater role in the future, especially systems that result in carbon sequestration rather than emissions.

121. A comment was made that culture/fisheries interactions need further work, e.g. capture of black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) for broodstock. We also need to consider the lack of natural broodstock for future genetic improvement and to preserve the genetic variation.

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