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COBSEA and fisheries – bridging the gap
Srisuda Jayaraband

The Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) was initiated as a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme for the East Asian Seas region in 1981. COBSEA currently includes ten member countries; Australia, Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. COBSEA was formed to strengthen regional cooperation for the management of coastal and marine resources in the East Asian Seas region. It is governed by its “Action Plan for the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Marine and Coastal Areas of the East Asian Seas region” and the recently adopted “New Strategic Direction for COBSEA (2008-2012). As outlined in the New Strategic Direction for COBSEA, COBSEA will focus on three main thematic areas during the coming five years:

These areas will be addressed through strengthening information management, enhancing national capacities, addressing strategic and emerging issues and improving regional cooperation.

In order to effectively address these areas, cooperation with the fisheries sector will be required. Fisheries/aquaculture management and coastal and marine environmental management are closely linked. However, in this region, the mandate for coastal and environmental management primarily lies with Ministries of Environment at national level and organizations such as UNEP/COBSEA at the regional level. At the same time, fisheries and aquaculture issues are addressed by Ministries of Marine Affairs and Fisheries or similar at national level and organizations such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia Pacific (RAP)/Asia-Pacific Fisheries Commission (APFIC) at the regional level. This division of mandate and responsibility sometimes hinders the integration of coastal and marine environmental management with fisheries management. In most countries, and even at regional level, there are opportunities for improving coordination and collaboration between these entities to further advance the management of our coastal and marine resources.

COBSEA and Fisheries

Since the national focal points of COBSEA are primarily located within the Ministries of Environment among its member countries, COBSEA has had a very limited number of activities directly related to the fisheries and aquaculture sector in the past. However, the need to work more closely with the fisheries sector has been recognized, especially in the areas of information management and strategic and emerging issues regarding marine- and land-based pollution and coastal and marine habitat protection. In this regard, the COBSEA member countries have expressed the wish that COBSEA, when working on environmental matters related to fisheries, should approach regional fishery organizations for collaboration.

The East Asian Seas Environment Outlook (EASEO)

As part of its activities on information management, COBSEA has initiated the development of a state of marine environment report for the East Asian Seas region, entitled the “East Asian Seas Environment Outlook (EASEO)”. The EASEO is intended to provide the latest scientifically credible information to raise awareness among policy-makers and general public regarding the state and trend of the environment in East Asian Seas region through presenting status and trend of the coastal and marine environment, analysing ongoing management initiatives and case studies.

With regard to fisheries and aquaculture, the EASEO will include information on the state and trend of fisheries resources, relevant legislative and technical management initiatives as well as the socio-economic development. In order to ensure relevant and up-to-date information on the fisheries sector, COBSEA has established close cooperation with the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) and FAO/RAP for the development and review of this chapter.

The East Asian Seas Knowledgebase

As part of its activities on information management, COBSEA has initiated the development of a regional knowledgebase for collecting and synthesizing information from coastal and marine environment related activities in the East Asian Seas region entitled the “East Asian Seas Knowledgebase” together with the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), National University of Singapore.

With regard to fisheries and aquaculture, the East Asian Seas Knowledgebase intends to provide a quick overview of the fisheries sector in relation to other economic sectors relevant to the coastal and marine environment. The East Asian Seas Knowledgebase will also include information on fisheries-related organizations. There is an opportunity for closer cooperation between COBSEA, APFIC and FAO/RAP on the further development of the East Asian Seas Knowledgebase with regard to provision and/or verification of information on fisheries related activities and statistics.

Marine litter – Lost and Abandoned Fishing Gear (LAFG)

As part of its activities to address strategic and emerging issues regarding marine- and land-based pollution, COBSEA has initiated a regional activity on marine litter that led to the adoption of the “COBSEA Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter” in January 2008.

When it comes to the effective management of marine litter, the issue of Lost and Abandoned Fishing Gear (LAFG), including nets, lines, traps and floats that are either accidentally lost of intentionally abandoned by fishing vessels at sea is increasingly becoming a worldwide pollution concern. Some of the impacts of lost and abandoned fishing gear include navigational hazards when vessels entangle LAFG, ‘ghost-fishing” when LAFG continues to catch target commercial species, the entanglement of non-target species, including sea-turtles, sea-birds etc., the spreading of invasive species to new areas; and beaching of LAFG, which can hamper the use of beaches for tourism and recreation.

There is an opportunity for closer cooperation between COBSEA, APFIC and FAO/RAP to mitigate LAFG, through the implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and MARPOL Annex V concerning the discard of waste from ships.


Due to the lack of mandate in fisheries and aquaculture of COBSEA at both regional and national levels and the need to integrate fisheries management into coastal and marine environment management, COBSEA would like to invite APFIC to consider closer cooperation with COBSEA in the areas of: (i) Increased information sharing on activities, the state of fisheries and fisheries statistics in relation to the EASEO and East Asian Seas Knowledgebase development; and (ii) Collaboration on the mitigation of lost and abandoned fishing gear.

Towards addressing fisheries concerns through implementation of integrated coastal management
Raphael Lotilla, Secretary General, PEMSEA

The East Asian Seas region has a very diverse, multi-species fishery sector. It is also a multi-gear, labor intensive activity and largely composed of small-scale fishers (although the contributions to production from commercial operations are very significant). As such, the harvesting of fish resources supports both food security and livelihood, particularly of coastal communities.

The challenges in fisheries management have always been complex because of the multiplicity of issues that are inherently embedded in larger sociopolitical and economic contexts. As with most regions in the world, overfishing in East Asia has significantly depleted and altered fish stocks and ecosystems (and their capacity to provide food and services as well). Open access has contributed immensely to the problem in addition to increasing population, habitat destruction and land-based pollution. The recent widespread impacts of environmental changes caused by climate change compound this complexity.

To address the challenges, PEMSEA has developed and implemented a multi-faceted, comprehensive, ecosystem-based approach—the Sustainable Development of Coastal Areas (SDCA) Framework—to provide as comprehensive a platform as possible by which to achieve sustainable development goals in coastal areas. The SDCA Framework ensures more focus and accountability in coastal governance. It is a strategic attempt to streamline and fast track local government actions.

Embedded in the Framework is a call for action to create food security and sustainable livelihood programs to directly address the fisheries concerns vis-à-vis other programs which also support fisheries management: habitat protection, restoration and management; water use and supply management; pollution reduction and waste management; and natural and manmade hazard prevention and management. Thus, the Framework emphasizes the link which exists between fisheries and other coastal activities. Ideally, a harmonious, peaceful co-existence between these mutually linked (but competing) concerns can be established. But pragmatically—and given the increasing trend in coastal urbanization and the pressure coming from tremendous maritime and navigation use—tradeoffs need to be decided upon; local governments have to choose which coastal activity in which area can best achieve the goals of sustainable development.

The SDCA Framework utilizes the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) cycle—comprising of mechanisms and processes that have matured in over four decades—as the driver to get it moving. On the one hand, the Framework has completed the conceptual and operational “loop” of ICM. On the other hand, and more importantly, ICM provides the Framework a stepwise, iterative approach and the necessary innovative tools that allow a systematic and integrated policy-making, planning and management approach; and confers the dynamism through which the SDCA Framework operates in; as such, the Framework adjusts as new challenges (and opportunities) arise.

The SDCA Framework is based on a platform of interdependence—among local political, economic and civil/social actors—which recognizes a need for communicating effective, nuanced local responses to fisheries problems. This is operationalized in ICM sites by way of the sustainable development council—an interagency, multi-sectoral coordinating mechanism.

From what is being practiced in all PEMSEA ICM sites, a Coastal Strategy (and its implementation plan) is developed and implemented. And because fishery-related issues are major areas of concern, specific interventions are thus instituted. A suite of management tools are available (gear restrictions, enforcement mechanisms, limited entry programs, MPA, etc.), which communities can adopt in consideration of the benefits and costs in setting them up.

Some of the specific interventions from PEMSEA’s sites are instructive:

Xiamen, in China implemented its marine zoning schemes, which stopped fishing in certain areas; transferred aquaculture operations to another area; compensated fishers displaced by this decision; and protected endangered species. User and permit fees govern this scheme while a strong enforcement team accompanies its implementation.

Bataan, in the Philippines instituted a coastal-use zoning scheme, after a wide stakeholder consultation. In it, a municipal fishing zone prohibits large-scale commercial operations. Bataan also instituted a text-a-crime campaign to strengthen enforcement of fisheries regulations, particularly in reporting illegal and destructive fishing practices. Policies for supplemental livelihood were implemented (e.g., seaweed farming and mud crab fattening) as well as habitat protection for mangrove restoration and turtle protection.

Batangas, in the Philippines will refine its coastal-use zoning scheme. A network of 18 marine protected areas exists while a fisheries management plan has been integrated into the Batangas Province Strategic Environmental Management Plan (2005-2020). A strong voluntary enforcement squad (Bantay Dagat) is very active as reflected in the decline of fishery-related violations.

Sihanoukville, in Cambodia established a revolving fund to provide initial start-up capital to fishing families, particularly women members for funding supplementary livelihood. Here, 14 women’s groups are able to access the revolving fund. Of the 142 individuals involved in the project, 102 are women.

Chonburi, in Thailand recommended limiting the number of vessels to allow recovery of resources while the Thailand Department of Fisheries implements a buy-back scheme to reduce the number of trawlers and push-netters in the Gulf of Thailand.

Recently, PEMSEA developed an enhanced, continuous monitoring and evaluation mechanism built through the State of the Coasts (SOC) reporting to keep tab on how local governments interventions are progressing and more importantly, to identify gaps in the programs of action.

Overview of fisheries certification
Miao Weimin, FAO/APFIC Secretariat

This paper has been prepared as a background paper for an APFIC workshop held in Viet Nam in September 2007. At the 29th APFIC Session from 21 to 24 August 2006 in Kuala Lumpur, member countries recommended that APFIC’s work should focus on ‘Certification in Fisheries’ as one of the emerging issues for the fisheries sector in the region. In response to this recommendation, this paper assesses the potential costs and benefits of fisheries certification for countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The presentation starts by providing a review of existing and recent environmental and social certification schemes in fisheries. It then goes on to consider the hypothetical and actual evidence for the demand for, and benefits of, such initiatives. Related costs are also discussed, before considering the net benefits of such initiatives i.e. benefits less costs. It is noted that there is a lack of studies and very little quantitative evidence published on the financial costs or the benefits of certification or branding schemes, but this lack of evidence is even more pronounced when it comes to an assessment of the net benefits. There is some evidence that the conditions attached to certified fisheries do encourage improved institutional structures and operational practices, but to date these are largely restricted to established, well managed fisheries.

The presentation summarized the available reports and papers by others which have highlighted the potential problems faced by developing country producers in engaging with certification before presenting some possible solutions. It was noted that there is no magic formula to determine whether for particular products or fisheries it is sensible to engage with certification initiatives. The net benefits are likely to be too specific to the particular country and product concerned, the end market, the characteristics of the supply chain and so on. Generalizing about the actual costs and benefits is, in almost all cases, neither possible nor advisable. Some suggestions about how to conduct cost benefit analyses, as well as the presentation of a simple decision-making tree was provided as practical tools. Some refinement will be needed for these tools for later use and it is suggested that a few cases are tried to conduct this refinement. This will also providing some practical assistance to the countries concerned in making decisions about the feasibility of certification or branding for particular products or fisheries.

The presentation concludes that certification is only aspects of product promotion, and that it is almost certainly more important to comply first with the basic mandatory requirements of food safety and hygiene (i.e. in terms of HACCP compliance). There are also many other ways (e.g. quality improvements, pricing strategies, and improvements in logistics to meet client requirements) that may be at least as effective as certification or branding in helping producers and exporters to improve the net value-added of their business operations. Traceability is also expected to become increasingly important in this regard.

Overview of aquaculture certification
Jesper Clausen, FAO/APFIC Secretariat

The presentation briefly described the present status of aquaculture in Asia and how the sector is linked to certification. It was noted that there was an increasing demand for seafood due to population growth and focus on fish as healthy food. Given the projected population growth in the world, an additional 40 million tonnes of aquatic food will be required by 2030. And this is just to maintain the current consumption level per person. Aquaculture is expected to produce much of this increase in fishery products. This will of course be important for APFIC member countries as 90% by volume and 78% by value of the worlds aquaculture production is now produced in Asia and the production is increasing in many countries. Aquaculture now accounts for almost 50% of the global food fish production. Fish is by far the most valuable (net) exported agricultural commodity from developing/less developed countries. Aquaculture in Asia is a very diverse sector which supplies both domestic needs as well as global needs. Traditional production methods side by side with newly developed methods are a common sight in the region. It is a very innovative sector that is constantly developing which both makes it a very flexible and adaptive sector but also makes it difficult to manage at times. The current trend and expectations are that that aquaculture will play an even more important role in the future both in terms of an highly internationally traded and export friendly sector but also as an invaluable source of protein contributing to food security in the region.

The development of aquaculture is not without obstacles and particularly for some export oriented species some are questioning the sustainability of the production methods used, there are some social questions and issues as well as food safety concern and animal health and welfare concerns. All these concerns might be right in some cases and wrong in others. So for the producers to improve their sector standards and for consumers to have trust and confidence in the products it is important to be able to see the different between those who produce in the better way. Certification is one tool that can be used to differentiate products.

At the 29th APFIC Session held in Malaysia in 2006, APFIC members raised the issue of certification as an emerging issue for the region. The members felt there was a need to review opportunities and challenges created by certification schemes in the APFIC region. It was felt that there is a strong need for harmonized guidelines to establish schemes and more guidance was needed for governments to make informed choices. Also at the COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture held in India 2006, FAO member countries were mindful that currently, many certification schemes have resulted in higher costs for producers without delivering significant price benefits to especially small-scale producers. APFIC members requested APFIC to look at the opportunities and challenges presented by labeling and certification to the Asia-Pacific region and an together with the Government of Viet Nam an Regional Consultative Workshop on “Certification of fisheries and aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region held in Ho Chi Minh City, 18–20 September 2007. It was recommend that national and regional initiatives for certification of aquaculture will follow the forthcoming international FAO guidelines for aquaculture certification and other international guidelines as appropriate. Also inclusion of small-scale producers and recognition of traditional production methods in certification schemes should be encouraged. Investigate and facilitate access to development of market for certified fish products in developing countries. Certification schemes should be considered not only to promote South-North trade but also to support South-South trade and national market. Regional or national development of flexible labelling and certification schemes – social, environmental, ecological, or cultural – that are built upon the comparative advantage of Asian aquaculture (e.g. traditional knowledge, sustainable fishing methods and unique fishery products.) Involvement of small-scale producers in the region is of crucial importance. Regional involvement in setting the certification standards should be continued and improved where possible and improve communication and information sharing between producers and consumers.

Strategies and recommendations for certification in fisheries and aquaculture – Outcomes of the APFIC regional consultative workshop on certification scheme for capture fisheries and aquaculture.

Pham Trong Yen, International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam

APFIC Regional Workshop on Certification schemes for capture fisheries and aquaculture was hold in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam from 18-20 September 2007. The workshop was attended by 49 participants from 13 APFIC member countries.

Goal and objectives of the Workshop

This workshop builds on input to make a set of recommendations and follow-up actions in relation to certification schemes for Fisheries and Aquaculture in APFIC region.

  1. Examine the options and opportunities related to involvement of fisheries and aquaculture in certification schemes.
  2. Discuss potential costs and benefits from certification schemes in an Asia-Pacific context.
  3. Develop an action plan for members to further address their activities relating to certification issues in fisheries and aquaculture.

Discussion outcomes:

The Workshop recognized that fisheries and aquaculture certification can offer tangible benefits to the APFIC Member Countries. It also recognized that a number of issues need to be taken into account and addressed for certification to effectively contribute to the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture in the region.

The issues concerned may be:

Workshop Recommendations for Fisheries certification:

Recommendations for Aquaculture certification

Regional cooperation for fisheries trade
Sudari Pawiro, INFOFISH

Global fishery production reached 145 million tonnes in 2007 (excl seaweeds) with around 37% of the total traded in international markets. As the supply and demand for fish and fishery products increased, global trade also grew consistently reaching US$86 billion (export, FOB value) in 2006, with developing countries contributing around 50% of the total. Asia was an important seafood supplier exporting around US$29.1 billion (33%) with China playing a major role in shaping the world seafood trade. Despite being the largest seafood producer and exporter, China is also increasingly becoming a major seafood market. Other Asian countries, particularly Southeast and Far East Asia, except Japan, are growing markets for fish and fishery products including high value imported seafood. The main factors behind the growth are: growing population; increase in consumers’ income; better supplies; improvement in distribution channels; wider usage of seafood; increasing popularity of ethnic foods; growing health consciousness among consumers; growing tourism industry; and increasing trade barriers in developed markets.

Global seafood trade, however, has slowed down a little bit towards the end of 2007 and continues in to 2008, due to the rising fuel and food prices affecting consumers’ confidence in many countries. Moreover, global seafood trade is currently facing tremendous challenges and issues that affect the competitiveness and export of fishery products from developing countries. Among the issues faced by the industry are: issues related to sustainability and the proliferation of private eco-labels; increasing trade disputes; growing number of certification schemes that lead to increasing production costs and also confusion; growing purchasing power of multinational chain retailers; failure in the WTO-Doha round negotiation that has resulted in the expansion of FTAs/RTAs; rising production costs; issues related to safety and traceability etc.

With the deadlock in the multilateral negotiations, particularly Doha Round, many countries are pursuing bilateral free trade agreements to improve their market access in the global market. In addition to the slow progress in the WTO negotiation, there are also other factors that contribute to the growing FTAs: bilateral negotiation is easier and faster; countries can foster strategic industry linkage; and there is also a domino effect whereby a country fears that it would be at a competitive disadvantage over its neighbour which has signed an FTA with another country. Generally, the benefits of FTAs are better market access for agricultural and industrial goods, service sector, concession in certain required standards and investment as well as technology transfer.

However, the proliferation of FTAs has heated debates; whether countries should pursue bilateral or multilateral agreements. Many officials from the WTO strongly defend the multilateral agreement as better option. They point out that FTAs offer much less than a multilateral pact and are not a substitute to it. The arguments are that the FTAs usually do not address systematic issues like farm and fishery subsidies, antidumping or trade facilitation procedures and do not remove trade barriers substantially among parties; thus, they do not create really true free trade; too many FTAs create a jungle of different rules and procedures; they create building block that undermines the principles of multilateral trading system; and the FTAs signed mainly between powerful economies and smaller states are considered to be unbalanced/biased.

Another subject of agreement often signed by developing countries is fishing access agreement often linked to market access agreement. Generally, there are two forms of access agreements: one is between neighbouring countries for sharing fish resources (sharing quota); and the other is between Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) and developing countries. The latter can be signed between government to government (e.g. the EU and ACP countries) and between private and governments (Japan, Republic of Korea, and Taiwan POC with countries in the Pacific). Many host countries, however, have suggested that an access agreement is an unfair deal because the access fee paid for their rich resources is too little. Thus, they seek better concessions and more development related aspects and some even trying to link the access agreement with domestic investment. Access agreements in the ACP countries are now a part of the wider package agreement of the Economic Partnership Agreement or Interim Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA/IEPAs).

Under this current global scenario INFOFISH can offer its services to both member and non-member countries, seafood exporters and other industry players to deal with the increasing challenges faced by the industry. INFOFISH could play an important role to facilitate the creation of transparent and fair seafood trade; bridge the gap and establish closer cooperation between governments, industry and NGOs; provide technical assistance; involve in capacity building through workshop, training; provide consultancy to industry players; products and market development; work closely with the industry, governments and regional/international organizations for sustainable fisheries development and trade; and promote trade and products from member countries.

Moving fisheries offshore, economic and policy implications
Gabriella Bianchi, FAO

This presentation 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 attended by 11 countries of the APFIC region, IGOs and NGOs including INFOFISH, the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), SEAFDEC and FAO.

The workshop was motivated by 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. This usually happens without careful planning and assessment of the ecological, economic and technological implications of moving offshore.

The countries of South and Southeast Asia all have policies to promote and expand fishing further 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. In some cases, the policy explicitly states that the move offshore is to transfer fishing from overexploited inshore areas to underexploited areas. The push offshore will need a concerted effort and development of appropriate technologies and human capacity that make harvesting, processing and marketing these resources effective, efficient and environmentally responsible. Governments are providing a number of incentives to facilitate this move.

There is some concern that the policy to move offshore could backfire if not managed effectively and overall fishing capacity could increase even further. Attention will need to given to what could happen if the incentives are removed, the potential has been overestimated, and 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 potential 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 are also a large number of technological, social and ecological constraints that makes offshore fishing a high risk undertaking. Accordingly, the workshop recommended a precautionary approach to offshore fishing in Southeast and South 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 analyzing exploratory and research cruise data was noted.

In terms of future management, the role of the regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) for highly migratory species was acknowledged but 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 followed if South and Southeast Asia are to benefit from the sustainable development of its offshore resources.

A workshop report and other relevant documents will be available on the APFIC and FAO Web sites.

MPA’s and fisheries management – the human dimension
Ramya Rajagopalan, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF)

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are widely propagated in recent years as conservation of marine resources is becoming a growing global priority. MPAs are used as tools designed primarily for aquatic biodiversity conservation and habitat protection, protection of endangered species, multi-use management, sustainable extractive use, and as cultural-ecological/social protection reserves. MPAs, often identified as area-based management tools, are useful to implement ecosystem approaches as well as precautionary approaches to marine resource management. The design of MPAs often involves managing the pressures from human uses, by adopting a degree of protection that can range from strict protection with no activity allowed to multiple use areas where different activities are allowed and regulated.

The twenty sixth session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in its background note on MPAs and fisheries management, noted that while there are reports of support from local communities for MPAs in some areas, there is strong resistance from fishing communities especially to MPAs that exclude fishing from traditional fishing grounds. While COFI agreed that MPAs could be used in combination with capacity control for effective fisheries management. Some members emphasized the importance of taking into account the socio-economic impacts, the need to involve stakeholders in the design and implementation and the requirement for a clear set of objectives. COFI concluded that there is need for more scientifically-based MPAs, backed by effective monitoring and enforcement, and an appropriate legal framework.

MPAs often seen as only sites copious in biodiversity, but they need to be viewed as regions historically rich in social and cultural interactions, which often have great importance for local livelihoods. MPAs are often “biological success” but “social failures”, as there is no effective participation of communities in the decision-making and management process. There are very few studies undertaken to look at the social implications of MPAs. To have a better understanding of the social dimensions of MPAs, the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) commissioned studies in six countries, i.e., India, South Africa, Brazil, Tanzania, Thailand and Mexico, with the following specific objectives:

The most positive example of livelihood-sensitive conservation is from Brazil, where communities are in the forefront in demanding, and setting up sustainable use Marine Extractive Reserves (MERs). Communities are using protected areas as a tool to protect their livelihoods, as, for example, against shrimp farms and tourism. The Brazil study also highlights the many challenges faced in this process, related, among other things, to need for capacity building of government functionaries and communities, funding, lack of strong community/fishworker organizations, adopting an interdisciplinary approach, and integration of scientific and traditional knowledge.

The studies from India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand, and from a no-take MPA in Brazil, on the other hand, indicated that communities do not consider themselves equal partners in the MPA process. While in all cases there have been recent efforts to enhance community participation, in general, participation tends to be instrumental—where communities are expected to participate in implementation, and are not part of the process of designing and implementing management initiatives.

The studies also document clear costs to communities—in terms of livelihood options lost, expulsion from traditional fishing grounds and living spaces, and violation of human/community rights, with few perceived real benefits. Alternative livelihood options that have been put in place are perceived to have provided limited support to affected communities, and in several cases, as in Tanzania, South Africa and Thailand, communities do not perceive benefits from tourism initiatives associated with the protected areas. The economic and socio-cultural benefits do not go back to fishing communities. There tends to be a resistance to MPAs among local communities, a mistrust of government and NGOs that lead such processes, and violations of rules and regulations, undermining the effectiveness of the MPA itself. Institutional capacity and lack of coordination between different agencies is also highlighted as one of the major limitations in the implementation of effective decision-making process.

These studies show that there is a need to adopt a human rights approach to MPA management, that is democratic, transparent, bottom-up, and consultative process. It is important that fishing and other marine resources-dependent communities and their organizations should be the starting point for MPA management. These studies, and examples of conservation and management initiatives undertaken by fishing communities elsewhere, clearly indicate that community-led processes, which draw on community knowledge systems and social institutions, are most likely to contribute positively, both to biodiversity conservation and to improving community livelihoods. The need is to move towards effective coastal and marine resource conservation from a livelihood and poverty alleviation perspective.

Promoting Long-term sustainable management of marine fisheries by addressing IUU fishing: Issues and challenges for the APFIC region
Ndiaga Gueye, FAO

Focussing on the APFIC region, the presentation provided a summary of issues relating to the implementation of existing and potential measures to combat, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing impacts the long-term sustainable management of marine capture fisheries in the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) Convention area. Through national action and regional collaboration, Commission Members are addressing it in a range of different ways with a view to improving the manner in which the region’s fish stocks are harvested and utilized.

Status of ratifications and acceptances of international fisheries instruments by APFIC Members was reviewed and revealed that the pattern of ratifications and acceptances of key international instruments points to the need for APFIC Members to review their commitment to national and regional fisheries management and to take appropriate action. This was followed by a discussion of key measures designed to combat IUU fishing: the international plan of action on IUU fishing, the binding instrument on port State measures, the development of the global register of fishing vessels, the development of criteria for flag State performance and strengthening fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance including vessels monitoring systems. The presentation addressed also capacity building and challenges for APFIC Members in implementing measures to combat IUU fishing. Finally, follow-up activities were discussed. The most significant challenge for APFIC Members with respect to the IPOA-IUU will be the implementation of their NPOAs-IUU and the RPOAs-IUU. APFIC Members were urged to undertake periodic assessments to determine the extent to which NPOAs-IUU and the RPOA-IUU are being implemented: i.e., whether the instruments are achieving their goals and the purpose for which they were concluded.

Global drivers and their implications for the Southeast Asian fisheries
Steven Hall

Fisheries serve many functions, from feeding the poor, sustaining local communities and providing employment to generating export earnings. Yet, despite their importance, most countries have largely failed to ensure sustainable fishery systems and livelihoods for the millions of people dependent on them. Management at inappropriate scales, inappropriate property rights, inability to control fishing capacity, poor governance and other causes have conspired to block fisheries from achieving their potential.

Classically, management has concentrated on the fishery itself. Yet many of the challenges fisheries face are shaped by complex combinations of bio-physical, social, political and economic forces. Many of these forces operate at scales beyond national level and outside the domain of fisheries. While there is usually limited scope for fisheries management to control these forces, policy makers and managers must understand them and plan for their impact. Some of these forces, such as climate change, or the globalization of markets, are beginning to enter the consciousness of fishery policy makers. Others, however, remain largely ignored. In this paper we briefly identify the drivers of change that are likely to affect Asia-Pacific fisheries over the next decade and examine several of them in some detail. A more complete analysis of global drivers in the contents of developing country fisheries is in preparation.

Some of the drivers identified here have been considered by others in a fisheries context, but several have not. For the most part, our treatment is restricted to wild capture fisheries, with discussion of aquaculture restricted to those areas where the two are most intimately bound. Because neither available data, nor space allow a comprehensive analysis of the implications of these drivers for fisheries, our objective is to raise awareness of these emerging issues among researchers and policy-makers. We do this in the hope that others will be stimulated to undertake further analysis and identify policy alternatives for fisheries. Some readers may believe that expanding interests to consider a wider the range of issues that impinge on fisheries simply adds to the list of problems to deal with. To some degree, this is of course true. We believe, however, that it might also help identify new arenas in which to also find solutions to more mainstream fisheries problems. Linking fisheries considerations into wider issues of migration, human rights or climate change, for example, might offer a more effective context for solving traditional fisheries management issues such as access rights, effort control or vessel decommissioning.

Inland fisheries of the Lower Mekong Basin – importance, challenges and mechanisms to meet those challenges
Chris Barlow, Fisheries programme manager Mekong River Commission (MRC)

The fisheries in the Mekong River are immense, even by world standards. Recent studies have shown that the yield from the fisheries and aquaculture (including aquatic animals other than fish) is between 2-3 million tonnes per annum. To put some perspective on that figure, the capture fishery yield from the Mekong is approximately 2% of the total world marine and freshwater capture fishery.

Extrapolation from average prices for capture and aquaculture product gives a first sale value for the fishery of at least US$2 000 million. This figure is very conservative and probably an underestimate, due to increasing price of fish and the rapid expansion of aquaculture in the Mekong delta in Viet Nam in the last few years. The multiplier effect of trade in fisheries products would increase the value of the fishery markedly.

There are about 1 000 species of fish in the Mekong freshwater system, with many more marine vagrants occasionally entering freshwaters. In terms of fish biodiversity, the Amazon River contains the most fish species of any river in the world, but the Mekong probably ranks second along with the Zaire River. The Mekong has more families of fishes than any other river system. About 120 fish species are regularly traded.

Table 1. Fish consumption in the Mekong River areas of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, based on populations in the year 2000. The total tonnage of fish consumed in the LMB is a surrogate measure of yield in the LMB. However, the consumption figures for each country are not indicative of the yields within the countries, as they do not account for the trade of fisheries products between countries. Details can be found in Hortle, K.G. 2007. Consumption and the yield of fish and other aquatic animals from the Lower Mekong Basin. MRC Technical Paper No. 16, Mekong River Commission, Vientiane, 87 pp.




Viet Nam


Estimated consumption (kg/capita/year

as actual consumption) of inland fish

and other aquatic animals in the LMB

Inland fish






Other aquatic animals (OAAs)






Total inland fish and OAAs






Estimated consumption (tonnes/year

as fresh whole animal equivalents)

of inland fish and other aquatic animals

Inland fish

481 537

167 922

720 501

692 118

2 062 077

Other aquatic animals (OAAs)

105 467

40 581

190 984

160 705

497 737

Total inland fish and OAAs

587 004

208 503

911 485

852 823

2 559 815

The fisheries are nutritionally important for the approximately 60 million people living in the LMB. Fish are the primary source of animal protein, and a major supplier of several micro-nutrients, notably calcium and vitamin A. Consumption of fishery products is about 46 kg/person/year as fresh-fish-equivalent, or 34 kg/person/year as actual consumption. There are no readily available foods to substitute for fish in the diets of people in the LMB. Hence, fisheries are extremely important for food security.

The bulk of the production comes from the river fishery, which is a renewable resource, available every year, unlike other natural resource industries like mining and petroleum. In addition, relatively little capital input is required in the river fishery to generate the product when compared to other natural resource or manufacturing industries.

The major threats to the fisheries of the Mekong are loss of habitat, reduction in the extent or changes to the timing of the annual flood, barriers blocking migration of fish, and overfishing. The first three of these arise from activities outside the fisheries sector, such as alienating wetlands for agricultural or industrial development, flood control schemes, and dams for irrigation and hydropower development. Building of dams for hydropower production is a high priority activity for governments in the region. These include dams on the mainstream of the Mekong, which will be very deleterious for the fisheries based on highly migratory species (the “white fishes”) in the Mekong. Management agencies face difficult decisions in balancing the needs for development (for instance hydropower dams, with their focused income streams and easily recognized benefits) with maintenance of fisheries (which are a form of traditional, communal wealth with generalized benefits which are not readily appreciated).

Mechanisms for managing the fisheries include traditional effort and gear restrictions as well as protected areas; but the most widely developed management approach is co-management, or communities and governments working together under various arrangements to jointly manage the fisheries. It is suggested that effectively communicating to governments the importance and value of fisheries in comparison with other water development activities is paramount if the resource is to maintain its current level of productivity. Within the Mekong, the governmental fisheries agencies and the MRC have also developed a regional fisheries management body (known as the Technical Advisory Body for Fisheries Management, or TAB). The TAB has brought the regional element of fisheries management into the realm of national agencies. However, it and other fisheries bodies still face considerable obstacles in communicating the importance of fisheries across all levels of government and into private commercial development initiatives.

Aquaculture development in the Asia region and associated issues that need attention
Sena De Silva, Director General, NACA

The growing importance of aquaculture as a global seafood resource and the contribution to this food source from Asia is highlighted. Some salient facts with regard to aquaculture production is Asia that often go relatively un-noticed is considered in the context of potential expansion of the sector in the region. It is demonstrated that the great bulk of aquaculture production is freshwater finfish, and the cultured commodities command a farm gate price of less than US$2.00 per kg, a trend that has been persisting over the last two to three decades.

In spite of this low farm gate value commendable developments in the sector have occurred in the past decade, some very recent. Most notable amongst these is the catfish and rohu culture practices in Viet Nam and Myanmar. The developments of these two practices are traced and the need to explore fresh “niche market” opportunities for aquaculture produce in a globalized world trade scenario is stressed.

The expansion of inland aquaculture is becoming increasingly difficult due to land and water resources limitations in most countries. However, use of culture based fisheries, as a secondary and a non-consumptive use of existing water resources for aquaculture development is highlighted. The needs, such as legislative, technical, community organization etc., for ensuring expansion of these communally based activities, predominantly in rural areas, are discussed.

With regard to capture based aquaculture development the current status in the region is reviewed. It is shown that there is an increasing shift towards dependence on cultured high valued species by the up-market live fish restaurant trade, as well as on hatchery bred seed stocks in this sector. All these factors have indirectly contributed to a reduction in destructive fishing methods used for the capture of these high valued species, and thereby contributed to the conservation of critical habitats such as coral reefs and hence to preserving biodiversity. The culture of high valued marine species in the region, however, is very dependent on low-valued and or trash fish as feed for the cultured stocks. The pros and cons in relation to the use of the latter resources, both from a global and a regional view point, are dealt with briefly.

Climate change is a global issue and potential impacts of it on aquaculture are considered. But more importantly ways by which aquaculture would, compared to other forms of animal husbandry, particularly in the tropics, become an increasingly significant food production sector from a GHG emission perspective is presented.

Reducing vulnerability and improving fisheries livelihoods of coastal communities
Richard Gregory, FAO/APFIC consultant

Many Asian small-scale coastal fishing families are caught in a poverty trap. They depend on a declining resource base and must continuously intensify fishing efforts to maintain livelihoods, yet must pay more for fuel, food and services. These difficulties are compounded by static prices for their products and poor education, health & social services in the communities where they live. Improving coastal fisheries’ livelihoods is required and must depend on; protecting the natural resource base; as well as promoting alternative sources of income and food generation.

An option promoted frequently is aquaculture but many forms, particularly intensive culture systems are ‘extractive’ from the resource base. Reducing post-harvest losses and creating links to new markets, can increase fisher incomes but can also increase fishing effort.

The development of tourism within protected areas, can capitalize upon the value of natural resources, without exploiting them through extraction. However, due to a range of factors, tourism opportunities are usually seized upon by ‘outsiders’, although some labour opportunities may be created for fisher families. Some may have the practical skills to manage small businesses but often lack the business skills required to be successful. Handicraft and village industries are often promoted by development projects and can increase family incomes significantly but sustainability questions often exist.

Livelihood diversification may be limited by access to finance. Many are tied to informal sources of credit as most financial institutions are reluctant to lend to fisher families. This prompts development projects to establish revolving funds, micro-finance and saving schemes centred on community or peer groups.

It seems likely that a growing number of coastal fisher families are going to struggle to maintain their traditional ways of life in the future. Whilst livelihood diversification efforts may help maintain a status quo, they are unlikely to result in large numbers of people moving out of poverty. Longer term solutions are urgently required. It is the responsibility of governments to help fishers and their families, in unviable circumstances, move away from their dependency on small-scale coastal fishing. This can only be achieved through improved education & skills training so that they can become active in other economic areas.

Aquaculture Certification – Common frameworks and small-scale producers in Asia
Sena De Silva (Network for Aquaculture Centers in Asia-Pacific, NACA)

Due to NACA’s member countries concern about the proliferation of aquaculture certification schemes, NACA entered into a process with FAO to develop “Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification”. The main objectives of this work were to create a more level playing field and involve mainly the less vocal small-scale farmers in the Asian region. It was furthermore requested by NACA members to ensure recognition of Asia regional schemes and to promote improved harmonization and equivalence„

NACA is particularly concerned about the impact of certification schemes, and trends in market and trade, on small-scale aquaculture farmers which form the mainstay of Asian aquaculture production. A typical small-scale farmer in the Asian Region is characterized by having a small land and water area (e.g. China has 240 million agriculture farmers, with <0.1 ha.), the operation is often family driven and is mostly using family labor. The group is of great importance to the socio economic landscape in many Asian countries. Small-scale farmers are more than 80% of an estimated 12 million aquaculture farmers in Asia. They are the major contributors to production in many countries and major contributors to global farmed fish supply. The sector is highly innovative and it is of crucial importance for rural development, communities, employment, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

Currently there are no certification scheme that specifically target the small-scale sector and build on their comparative advantages. There would for example be great potential for a Fair Trade scheme building on the nature of small-scale farmers but at present there are none. The certification schemes that are already operating in the region favors larger scale production units and have difficulties handling the small-scale farmers. Some of the issues are the small size and large numbers of farmers, that some farms are not being formally registered. The small volumes and value of product from individual farms may not cover the costs of certification and this will lower or completely remove the market incentives for the small-scale farmers. The marketing channel are often complex and trace-ability is difficult.

An important question that has to be asked is if there ways for small-scale aquaculture farmers to participate in modern market chains, trade and certification programs. Recent experiences show positive pro-small-scale farmer action can result in positive benefits. One way forward can be to organize farmers into producer groups/aqua clubs. This may allow certification of groups as opposed to individuals and allow economies of scale (e.g. bulk purchase and marketing) that would attract some larger retailers. The formation of aqua clubs would also facilitate communication, “better management” and organized marketing for the small-scale farmers. There is an increasing risk of smaller individual farmers facing increasing difficulties for market access. And the formation of farmer clubs can be one tools to mitigate this risk.

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