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3. Emerging regional issues

Each biennium APFIC highlights two very important regional issues. For the biennium 2008 to 2009 it is suggested that the two most important regional issues are livelihoods in fisheries and the ecosystem approach to fisheries. This chapter provides an introduction to these issues and looks at the way forward.

3.1 Livelihoods in fisheries

Fishing for livelihoods: opportunities and challenges of strengthening the resilience of fishing communities50

Fishing communities, particularly in the Asian region, are increasingly becoming caught in a poverty trap: they depend on a resource base that is under increasing pressure and declining quality and therefore need to continuously intensify their efforts to exploit it. This drives the resource down even more quickly. Set against this is a trend of economic development, inflation and rising costs of fuel, food and the other livelihood necessities. This dependence on a shrinking, fragile and unpredictable resource makes fishing households vulnerable to the internal and external processes that impact their livelihoods. The inter-relationship between resource use and dependence and the socio-economic drivers is rarely considered in conventional fisheries management.

Conventional fisheries management tends to focus on the fishery resources, i.e. the stocks of fish. In the most conventional forms of management, this focus may even be on single stocks under management. Some of the limitations of this sort of management approach in the context of multi-species, multi-gear diverse fisheries are explored in the section "Ecosystem approach to fisheries". The need to address fisheries both from a fisheries resource perspective and a socio-economic perspective, demands a shift to an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Instead of formulating fishing rules that address certain aspects of a specific fish stock, the ecosystem approach to fisheries seeks to establish practices, agreements and rules that reduce the impact of fishing on the ecosystem's status while preserving the socio-economic benefits of the fishery.

Although this shift in focus towards ecosystems reflects the many hard lessons fishery managers had to learn from the failures and limitations of single species approaches to fisheries management, the centre of attention is still the welfare of fish and aquatic resources. A modern, ecosystem approach to fisheries management, however, that addresses the issues of sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals requires an equal focus on human welfare.

In seeking to reconcile the human and the ecological dimensions of fishery systems for sustainable development, an ecosystem approach to fisheries management thus won't focus on managing a well-defined ecosystem within clearly defined geographical boundaries; instead it is a flexible, adaptive and iterative process of problem solving that is based on a collaboratively developed vision of desired future conditions that merge ecological, social and economic perspectives through participatory decision-making about managing human behaviour. This focus on managing human behaviour requires both an understanding of people's livelihoods and the creation of diversified livelihood options, as people's behaviour is a consequence of their livelihood strategies.

A livelihood from fishing: understanding why people fish the way they fish

Fishing communities are vulnerable because of their dependence on the fishery resource base. Small-scale fishing communities often lack institutional and financial safety mechanisms that can cushion the impacts, not only of disasters such as cyclones, but other unexpected events and processes over which they have no control.

The result of this is that fishing activity is often driven by various external forces (quality of the resource base, competition, weather, financial insecurity, etc.) rather than by choice. Fishers typically have few options to generate income and reduce their vulnerability. This is particularly true for people and communities in developing countries who engage in small-scale, coastal fishing activities. It is this dependence on fish and other aquatic resources that drives their fishing activities and the way they fish, which in turn drives the processes of overfishing and degradation of aquatic resources and habitats.

This contextual understanding of fishing suggests that achieving the goal of improving the livelihoods of coastal communities will require:

(1)improving the resource base the fishers depend on; and
(2)creating or promoting alternative or additional sources of income to diversify coastal dwellers' livelihoods and thus to reduce their dependence on fish and other aquatic resources.

These two challenges are closely interlinked. The achievement of the first challenge requires the formulation and implementation of changes in behaviour, rules and regulations that prevent the further degradation of the resource base, or even initiate its recovery. However, the immediate outcome of this will typically lead to short-term reductions in catch and therefore reduced income. The diversification of livelihoods or the creation of other opportunities for income generation are the most commonly promoted mechanisms for addressing this. Unfortunately, the solutions found are frequently simplistic or too narrow and fail to meet the objective of genuinely and sustainably contributing to the improvement of fishers' livelihoods. Some of these issues and opportunities will be explored in the following sections.

Reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening resilience: options and approaches

Strengthening a community's resilience entails institutional changes such as the acknowledgement of a community's rights and responsibilities, access to credit and capital or a supporting legal framework. However, it is clear that for these changes to be usefully adopted, the creation and provision of additional sources of income remain crucial.

Opportunities for wealth creation arise from within a community and its locality and from outside. They can be resource dependent or arise from the exploration of resource-independent income-generating opportunities. Exploring these opportunities and turning them into actual livelihood improvements requires an understanding of their respective limitations and the criteria used to judge their success, which in turn will reveal the close interdependence of both.

Resource dependent livelihood improvements

Providing other ways of generating income and sustaining a livelihood is often not as straightforward as it may first appear. Fishing communities based around water bodies may have limited land resources and typically very little capital or assets that could be "cashed in" to support a change in employment or provide the start-up capital needed for a new enterprise. The geographical location of fishing communities is also a constraint, as it is frequently distant from urban and commercial areas, lacking communications and proximity to places where alternative or supplementary employment can be found. Fishing families are often not able or willing to move away from their homes to work and in some extreme cases have migrated to the fishery because of the inability to reside elsewhere. Rural transformations often see a drift to cities for employment, but it is equally the case that people drift to the coasts as a last resort.

Finding supplemental forms of income, enhancing incomes and creating wealth, are often confined to trying to base the options around the existing natural resource base. This is something which fits with existing activities and the location of the household. It also benefits from the familiarity of people with the resource itself. Initiatives that seek to boost income from the existing natural resource base can be termed "resource-dependent livelihood interventions".

Improving livelihoods through resource enhancement and management

Resource-dependent activities relate to the improved yield from a resource through interventions of enhancement or conservation or creation of key habitats, and are expected to arise from resource enhancement and conservation efforts such as establishing conservation zones or refuges and rules that reduce fishing effort. Fish and other aquatic resources may be enhanced through aquaculture and re-stocking, and aquaculture in itself is often seen as an option for additional income and a way to reduce fishing effort. Two basic approaches can be employed to improve the resource base for fishing communities:

(1)direct and active interventions in fishery ecosystems that aim at enhancing fishery resources and habitats critical to them; and
(2)efforts to manage and regulate the ways fishery resources are used.

Managing the resource through conservation or enhancement

Fishers and fishery managers have long had knowledge of and employed measures that seek to enhance both fishery resources and ecosystems. Direct enhancement seeks to increase the amount of or concentration of fish. The most common of these are the deployment of artificial reefs (providing habitats and preventing large-scale gear use such as trawls), fish aggregating devices (FADs), and the release of hatchery bred stock into the wild (restocking or stock enhancement).

Many traditional fishery systems, particularly in areas of the South Pacific, are based on various forms of fishing ground closures, which provide fish populations with a refuge in which they are permanently or temporarily protected from fishing activities. This is also quite common in traditional inland fisheries management. More recently, marine protected areas (MPAs) have gained prominence as a form of resource enhancement through conserving a core area (no take zone) and relying on "leakage" of resources and new recruits into the surrounding areas to restock and enhance the fishery. This is dealt with in detail in Sub-section 3.2 on MPAs.

All of these and other manipulative interventions in coastal and inland ecosystems that aim to enhance resources are not without controversy: questions are raised not only about their real effectiveness and benefits to the fishery sector (e.g. MPAs and artificial reefs), but also with regards to management issues, such as:

Limitations to these approaches are well known, but often overlooked by enthusiastic proponents. Thus it is not clear, whether and to what extent the establishment of reserved areas and other measures aimed at re-building degraded resources create sufficient benefits to sustain such efforts. More often than not the costs involved in implementing such measures are far higher than the benefits derived from them. At the same time, the environmental impacts of some these resource enhancement and income generating measures need to be re-examined. The value of both artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices is questionable as both attract fish to a specific location and thus make it easier for fishers to catch them. What fishers perceive as "enhanced" fish resources in terms of more and bigger fish around these structures may just reflect the disappearance of fish from surrounding fishing grounds.

Similarly, aquaculture activities may negatively impact nearby fish populations and habitats. Not only does the farming of carnivorous species drive fishing activities to generate the feed for the farmed fish, but even the culture of other fish, shellfish and even seaweeds may cause ecosystem changes (e.g. smothering/pseudofaeces and shading of reefs/lagoon seabed) that cascade through food webs and change the species composition and quality of nearby habitats.

As outlined above, the often promising looking resource dependent livelihood activities need to be augmented by management approaches that are based on user and access rights as well as effort regulations that are designed to ensure that aquaculture, ARs, FADs, reserved areas, stocking and other resource enhancement measures can deliver on their promises.

Managing the people who exploit the resource

These questions touch upon issues that are at the core of developing broader and better functioning fishery management systems that are rights-based and capable of regulating fishing capacity and effort. In recent years the concept of comanagement has emerged as a new paradigm that is believed to provide the most suitable framework for establishing sustainable fisheries management systems. Such a partnership arrangement in which resource user communities, government and other stakeholders share the responsibility and authority for the management of the fishery, is assumed to be able clearly define access and use rights for the resources in question. In such a system, the way people are allowed to participate in a fishery and the respective roles of fishers and state would be clearly described. These rules and regulations have to be coupled to some form of enforcement either using local custom or peer group related mechanisms, or more formally through the intervention of an enforcement body such as the judicial system or management authority. The typical rules and regulations are designed to:

Such a comanagement system requires well-organized communities that have the capacity needed to engage government and other partners in the fishery management discourse. Experiences from comanagement experiments and related community organizing efforts, however, show that there seems to be a relationship between people's livelihoods and their willingness to engage in community organization processes for fisheries management. There is a correlation between a community's vulnerability or resilience, the benefits it derives from engagement in resources management and its motivation and capacity to take part in comanagement arrangements. Communities that are in situations of severe vulnerability or crisis (economic or otherwise) are less able and less willing to enter this sort of management arrangement. Unless risks can be reduced and the vulnerabilities addressed, there is little prospect for the widespread adoption or implementation of successful resource comanagement by local stakeholders.

Value chain improvements

Another resource-dependent approach that is commonly introduced to augment resource enhancement and management efforts is value addition or improved marketing. Interventions based on this seek to ensure better use of the catch through improved processing and marketing. Reducing post-harvest losses through improved handling and processing can significantly increase the value of fishery products and thus the income of fishers. Adding value to the caught fish through processing and the development of new fish-products has been proven to have the potential of creating substantial additional income for fishing households and communities that engage in such activities. These approaches are often seen as an opportunity for women to generate income and are highly complementary to management approaches that focus on male fishers. Where fisheries are in good condition and fishing pressure is not the principle threat to the fishery, this type of intervention can greatly improve the livelihoods of fishers and find rapid uptake and adoption.

Unfortunately the successful development and marketing of improved fish products may lead to increased fishing effort and thus drive further resource degradation. This can lead to increased pressure on the fishery and even decline, which can critically undermine conservation efforts. This situation is more typical where products find ready markets and the fishery is already under heavy exploitation pressure. It is clear that value chain interventions need to be in initiated with a good understanding of the resource status and likely additional pressure that will result from the intervention. Ideally, there are strong linkages between the resource management component and the marketing/value chain activities. This re-emphasizes the importance of the linkage between community resource management and community wealth creation.

Resource-dependent non-extractive activities

Alternatives to income generation and wealth creation that rely on the extraction of the natural resource base do exist. Good examples of these are tourism-related interventions. The development of tourism within a system of resource conservation, habitat improvement, marine protected areas, offers the potential to capitalize on the value of the natural resource, without directly exploiting it through production. This is a highly attractive approach on the surface and has been quite successful in some areas. However, there are a number of prerequisites for this to be a viable option. Perhaps the first requirement is that there is already a tourism industry to encourage. Location and easy access are critical, accommodation and services are also important, but vary according to the type of tourism being encouraged. Security is also another important concern.

Although there may appear to be many successful examples of tourism and wealth creation in coastal areas, this often hides the reality of who is actually benefiting. Tourism development requires capital and the investors are typically outsiders. The need for tourism services also tends to attract outsiders who have previous experience or who are perhaps more entrepreneurial than the local population. Boat operators who are ex-fishermen may not be independent beneficiaries of the activity. Often they operate within a system where income and profits must be shared with owners or the "licensed operator", typically a wealthier individual who has to cover insurance costs and address local licensing issues.

Tourism development therefore may not actually provide increased income generation to the fishing communities and may actually increase pressure on some resources, putting up prices of food, land and other basic commodities and other essentials. This echoes the questions regarding who are the primary beneficiaries of marine protected areas and how benefits are spread within the community. Increasing demands for luxury seafood items does offer opportunities for fishermen to increase the value of the catch, but this is a resource-dependent extractive activity and therefore does not share the same features as tourism generally as a non extractive activity.

Resource-independent activities

Where the development of resource-dependent livelihood options is clearly not going to be sustained or will actually contribute to the problem rather than alleviate it, a different strategy is required. Resource-independent livelihood options need to be identified to generate additional income, without the further degradation of aquatic resources or the natural resource base. Typically, these falls into the categories of handicrafts and services and often focus on individual households or small (women's) groups who start engaging in such activities. Developing such activities can significantly increase local incomes and contribute to the strengthening of local livelihoods without increasing the pressure on scarce natural resources.

Although not dependent on the natural resource base and therefore environmental sustainability is not an issue, there are still questions of economic sustainability. With the initial investment and business initiative usually coming from some outside agency, these types of small group or household-oriented activities depend on such outside support for their economic success. Capacity building and business skill development, equipment and other necessary investments that are provided by such outside agencies, are often not included in the balance sheets that indicate the profitability of the endeavour. Additionally, the income generated may not be re-invested in the business (e.g. for buying supplies) as the outside support would provide the necessary funding for such expenditure.

Where there are direct interventions to support or promote livelihood diversification of income generation there is a broader consideration of benefit distribution throughout the community. This is not confined to livelihood interventions and is a challenge to any development-related activity. Livelihood activities that target individual households naturally benefit these first; one might like then to ask how other households will derive benefits from these initiatives. If this is not adequately addressed, or benefits are not distributed equitably, this can seriously undermine the initiative through conflicts, jealousies and even deliberate destruction or inference in the activity. Non-beneficiaries may also be driven to activities that undermine broader conservation efforts or other areas of the natural resource base.

To have a broader impact and some assurance of benefit distribution throughout the community, many of these activities focus on small groups, often, but not exclusively, of women. Similar to the questions about people's engagement and motivation to get involved in fisheries comanagement processes, the success of such group-based economic activities to a large extend depends on the benefits each individual member can derive from the group.

Capital access and credit

An important factor determining the vulnerability of fishing communities that is also important to the success of these livelihood strategies is the availability of capital and access to credit. Fishing communities usually do not have any property that can be used as collateral for loans, and their productive capital consists of the fishing gear and boats they own. Conventional banking institutions are hesitant to provide capital against the unpredictable harvests or assets that can easily be lost and destroyed in a natural disaster or through accidents. This inability to access financial services sustains the fishing communities' dependence on informal sources of credit such as local moneylenders and fish traders; it also prevents investment in alternative activities that would reduce this dependence.

Approaches to address this issue are often based on revolving funds, alternative credit and micro-finance or saving schemes that are centred on a community group. These schemes can provide the necessary basis for investment and allow purchasing services that are needed to build local businesses. Crucial to the success of such alternative credit and finance schemes is the existence of functioning community groups on which these schemes are based. Like comanagement systems for fisheries and aquatic resources discussed earlier, effective community organization is a critical precondition for improving livelihoods and the resilience of fishing communities.

Fishing households often lack the same assets or typical features of agriculture households. This may be one of the factors that defines their poverty. Agriculture households may have land, draught animals, even machinery that can be used as collateral for borrowing. Fishing households often only have a fishing boat as their principal asset for use as collateral. In the poorest fishing households they do not even have this. The standardization of financial services and the prerequisites for borrowing or access to credit may exclude fishing households and deter financial institutions from trying to extend services to this group. There may also be perceptions of the higher risk of fishing households because of the uncertain nature of income and the dangers of the occupation. Financial institutions cite the lack of a savings mentality in fishers and a tendency to live from day to day. Although some of these preconceptions may have some basis, where savings and credit schemes have been successfully introduced the change in this behaviour is evident and should by no means be used as an excuse not to adapt the system to be more appropriate for the livelihoods of fishing households. It does underline the importance of understanding the context of the fishers' livelihoods and the fact that one size fits all rural credit and financial services may not be accessible to this group without some modification.

Conclusion: an ecosystem approach to local economic development

The interdependence of the various options for strengthening fishing communities' livelihoods outlined makes it clear that comprehensive and integrated approaches are needed to positively and sustainably impact vulnerable fishing communities, increase their resilience and capacity to adapt to change and increase their contribution to and benefit from overall national and global development.

Local economic development (LED) is a concept that has been promoted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and some other institutions as a process of local dialogue and participation that seeks to connect people and their resources for better employment and a higher quality of life. The approach follows a participatory and adaptive planning and implementation process that seeks to enable local communities to effectively respond to the challenges of globalization. In the words used above, it is a concept that aims at improving local communities' resilience in the face of economic and environment processes that they cannot control, through mobilizing local resources, local capacity building and employment generation. As such, LED constitutes an integral component of an ecosystem approach to resources management and development. Integrating the participatory mechanisms of LED with the comanagement principles of fisheries and ecosystem management ensures the integration of the human and environmental paradigms as envisioned in the ecosystem approach.

3.2 Ecosystem approach to fisheries

Implementing the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries through an ecosystem approach to fisheries51

Acknowledging the global decline in the world's fishery resources and the need to take action, the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 set a number of ambitious targets for nations and organizations to work towards. One of these important targets was to introduce the ecosystems approach to marine resource assessment and management by 2010.

But what does this mean and how do countries go about meeting this target? To assist its member countries and regional organizations, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has produced a number of technical guidelines outlining how to apply the ecosystem approach to fisheries management.52 These publications emphasize that the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) is a way to implement the concept of sustainable development and show the linkages to the principles contained in the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF). What becomes clear is that EAF does not really introduce new methods for fisheries management, but is more of an outline of a strategy to implement fisheries management in accordance with the CCRF and within the context of sustainable development. If we accept that ecosystem approaches are a framework to implement sustainable development, and in the fisheries context, EAF is the framework to implement CCRF and sustainable development, it follows that we must:

1)understand the basic principles of the CCRF;
2)learn more about how EAF can assist in implementing the CCRF;
3)find practical ways to make this operational;
4)acknowledge the differences and similarities of fisheries in Asia and the Pacific region and decide on institutional changes and reforms that will be needed to bring about EAF; and
5)examine what sorts of regional arrangements would facilitate the implementation of EAF.

Basic principles of the CCRF and ecosystem linkages

The CRRF sets out some important principles for responsible fisheries (see Box 4 for those relating to fishery resources and their management). These principles require that fisheries managers embrace some important concepts. First, they should endorse the concept of sustainable development and promote the maintenance of fishery resources in sufficient quantities for both present and future generations. Second, they need to consider the three dimensions of sustainable development: ecological, economic and social, not just the biological/ecological dimension.

Box 4 Main principles of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries relating to fishery resources and their management53

  • Fisheries management should maintain fishery resources for present and future generations.
  • States should prevent overfishing and excess fishing capacity to ensure that fishing effort is commensurate with the productive capacity of the resources.
  • Conservation and management measures should be based on the best scientific evidence (environmental, social and economic) available, also taking into account traditional knowledge.
  • The precautionary approach should be applied — the absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing actions.
  • The rights of fishers and fishworkers, particularly those engaged in artisanal small-scale fisheries, should be protected to ensure a just livelihood as well as preferential access, where appropriate, to traditional fishing grounds.

The principles also cover some important ecosystem concepts (see Box 5 for a summary).

Box 5 Main principles of the CCRF relating to the ecosystem

  • Management measures should not only ensure the conservation of target species but also species belonging to the same ecosystem.
  • States should facilitate consultation and effective participation of all stakeholders.
  • All critical habitats, such as wetlands, mangroves, reefs, lagoons, nursery and spawning areas, should be protected and rehabilitated.
  • States should ensure that their fishery interests are taken into account in the multiple uses of the coastal zones and are integrated into coastal area management.

All of these CCRF principles were agreed when the CCRF was endorsed by all FAO member countries in 1995. In doing so, they set in place the basic building blocks for ensuring healthy fisheries that optimize the social and economic benefits that can be derived from harvesting and processing fish. The challenge since then has been to make this operational. Some descriptions or methodologies of EAF reiterate these principles, but this is not really necessary as they were already quite well-formulated and articulated in the CCRF. More important is that EAF should focus on what needs to be done to make the high-level principles operational and functional.

There are many other principles in the CCRF that are relevant to improving the ecosystem in which the fisheries resources exist, including using selective fishing gear, optimizing energy use, protecting the marine environment,54 protecting the atmosphere, conserving biodiversity55 and reducing adverse environmental impacts of human activities. The CCRF also recognizes the special requirements of developing countries, especially in the areas of financial and technical assistance, technology transfer, training and scientific cooperation and in enhancing their ability to develop their own fisheries as well as to participate in high seas fisheries, including access to such fisheries.

Benefits and costs of implementing the CCRF

Many countries in Asia and the Pacific region are now experiencing the impact of not implementing the CCRF principles over the past few decades. These include:

All these issues come with a huge cost both to governments and societies. Fish resources are inherently valuable, in many cases extremely valuable. The harvesting of fisheries resources is capable of generating substantial amounts of wealth on a sustainable basis. However, the costs of mismanagement are high and it has been estimated that the annual return now wasted at a global level is in excess of US$50 billion. The other side of the loss resulting from lack of management is that governments often have to provide inputs or subsidies to offset or sustain fisheries. One study estimates that world fisheries are currently subsidized by between US$30 billion and US$34 billion per annum per year.56 It seems a simple question for society to ask: Why should governments continue to pay over US$30 billion a year to support fisheries when they could earn at least US$50 billion more in resource rent that could be re-invested in other activities, especially to reduce poverty in fisheries-dependent areas?

Implementing the CCRF through EAF and comanagement

What is the ecosystem approach to fisheries?

An important first step to understanding the ecosystem approach is to understand that the concept of sustainable development has now replaced previous policies that focused only on economic growth. Sustainable development has been defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development as "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."57

Put simply, this can be thought of as a way of finding a balance between ecological well-being and human well-being so that development does not destroy the natural resource base on which it depends. This ensures that activities based on natural resources will be sustained into the future, and not exploited or drained to a point of no return (a typical result of economic growth and production focused development). The phrase "ecosystem approach" was first coined in the early 1980s, but found formal acceptance at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 where it became an underpinning concept of the Convention on Biological Diversity and was later described as "[a] strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way."

Applying the ecosystem approach helps us to reach a balance of the three objectives of the Convention: conservation; sustainable use; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. FAO, in applying this concept of the ecosystem approach to fisheries, defined it as follows:

"An Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries strives to balance diverse societal objectives, by taking account of the knowledge and uncertainties about biotic, abiotic and human components of ecosystems and their interactions and applying an integrated approach to fisheries within ecologically meaningful boundaries." 58

Or more simply put, EAF is a way of managing fisheries that balances the different objectives of society (e.g. ecological and economic objectives), by applying an integrated approach across geographical areas that reflect natural ecosystems. In applying this integrated approach it uses the knowledge and the uncertainties that we have about such systems. All these definitions have several key words and principles that underpin sustainable development and the ecosystem approach. These are:

  1. promoting management to ensure sustainability of development into the future;
  2. achieving an integrated approach (i.e. considering the system as a whole not just one part); and
  3. balancing objectives (both ecological and human).

It is worth noting that the three principles listed above were already contained in the CCRF that was developed in parallel during that time.

Given that the main objective of EAF is the sustainable use of the whole system, not just single species, both ecological well-being (e.g. habitat protection and restoration, pollution reduction and waste management, sustainable harvesting of fishery resources) and human well-being (e.g. improved wealth generation with associated equitable distribution of the wealth and social benefits such as improved livelihoods) need to be considered (Figure 8).

Figure 8 Ecosystem approach to fisheries framework

Parallel evolution of approaches and jargon

The adoption of sustainable develop-ment as a core concept provided a framework for discussion and action that could be embraced by all sectors, including environmentalists, economists, commercial enterprises and small-scale rural activities alike. As a result, many sectors/disciplines have started to look at approaches they could use to implement sustainable development. Because all of these approaches are based on the same concept, they all tend to end up with the same principles. Although the principles are often similar, these approaches often differ in two main respects:

  1. differing interpretations of the balance between ecological well-being or human well-being; and
  2. the number and scope of sectors being considered.

As an example of the first point, ecosystem-based fishery management (EBFM) advocates that ecological integrity is the basis for sustainable development, whereas wealth-based fisheries management (WBFM) argues that management should focus on increasing wealth and that ecological well-being will follow as a result. As an example of the second point, integrated coastal management (ICM) and large marine ecosystem management (LME) both consider all sectors equally (e.g. fisheries, mining, tourism, conservation, environment, industry), unlike EAF, EBFM or WBFM that consider the other sectors through a fisheries lens (i.e. all discussions and dialogue is based on the other sectors' impacts and relationships to the fishery).

From a fisheries institution point of view, EAF may be preferable since it allows prioritization of issues and objectives to be agreed by the stakeholders and can cover EBFM or WBFM, depending on those priorities (see below), but remains focused on the fisheries-relevant aspects.

Meeting the challenges — moving from principles to actions

The theory of EAF as a management mechanism is attractive. It involves a balance between production and conservation and it takes account of sustainability and ensures that different stakeholders' views are listened to as part of decision-making. But, how do we take EAF and the CCRF principles and apply them at a fisheries management level?

To do this, we have to "convert" the high level principles of the CCRF into policy goals, and then develop management objectives and actions to achieve the goals (Figure 9). How to do this is explained in the next section "Formulating objectives through a risk assessment process".

Figure 9 Moving from principles to objectives. Redrawn from FAO (2003)

From principles to policy goals. The principles underpinning EAF cover a broad range of economic, social and ecological considerations of sustainable development. However, many of the characteristics of ecosystems, such as ecosystem health, integrity, resilience, energy flows, are relatively abstract concepts that are not fully understood. Typically, we do not have a full understanding of how these systems work. In other cases, there are principles that are so generic that they cannot really be implemented. This is not a constraint to good EAF, provided these can be turned into higher-level policy goals that make sense, such as:

From policy goals to implementation. These higher-level policy goals then need to be turned into more specific issues, each with its own objective so that actions can be taken to contribute to the goal. Typically, that action will be through applying a management measure. These management measures need to be designed at a practical operational level, and be inclusive for target stocks, habitat, by-catch, protected species, income and social aspirations of the fishers etc. As long as there is a clear linkage between the CCRF principles and the objectives, then the CCRF will be operationalized through implementation of the objectives.

Making EAF participatory through comanagement

Implementing the EAF must balance ecological needs and well-being with socio-economic needs and human well-being. This places a great deal of emphasis on the participation of stakeholders and in particular the relationship between government and resource users. Comanagement is the tool to make EAF more participatory. It describes the spectrum of shared management between the extremes of exclusively community-based management (with full devolution of responsibility to communities/fishers) through to central government management (with full responsibility controlled by government) (Figure 1059). Fisheries comanagement is:

"A partnership approach where government and the fishery resource users share the responsibility and authority for the management of a fishery or fisheries in an area, based on collaboration between themselves and with other stakeholders."60

Figure 10 Comanagement between government and stakeholders

Comanagement is not just a concept that involves the rural poor and local communities. It must incorporate all types of fishing and impacts on the resources. If the management system focuses only on small-scale artisanal fisheries, there is a high risk that even if there is good stewardship of coastal resources by local communities, these same resources could be exploited by larger vessels from other localities (the "outsider" problem). This will inevitably lead to the breakdown of the local management system. This high- lights the need for locally-based management to be supported within a framework that addresses the larger geographical scales and interactions between them. This requires the comanagement to involve stakeholders such boat owners associations too since it often lies beyond the power of local level groups or individuals to take affective action.

Key actors and stakeholders in EAF

The network of stakeholders that needs to be involved in EAF can be complex (Figure 11), both in terms of vertical linkages (national to local), horizontal linkages (between different users of the natural resources) and in terms of geographic coverage or scales.

Figure 11 Key players in comanagement and EAF
(after Pomerory & Berkes, 1997)

Effective communication and information exchange is critical for success. Institu-tional arrangements, both in terms of how the players will be organized and the rules and regulations governing their activities must be set up and understood by all. For example, in many cases decentralization of management also allows for (some) decentralization of fiscal authority. This gives the manage-ment agency the authority to collect revenue/recover costs towards a management of the fisheries within its jurisdiction. A local management agency may have the right to employ enforce-ment officers or to pursue offenders through the courts. Equally, disputes between different stakeholders may be more effectively dealt with at a local level, but benefit from technical or scientific advice from a provincial or national agency.

Making EAF operational

Scale of implementation

There are various entry points for the EAF processes. EAF initiatives can be taken at various administrative levels and by different stakeholder groups ranging from:

  1. small/local — a single community or a group of communities wishing to improve the management of inshore fisheries;
  2. provincial/national — a government deciding to adopt EAF widely in its fishery policy; or
  3. large/regional — a group of countries and/or a regional body wanting to develop high-level management of shared stocks at a large marine ecosystem scale.

This range of application requires the EAF to cater for both bottom-up and top-down processes. Ideally, within a region there would be a "nested" structure for fisheries management. Such a structure would include a regional organization or agreement based on fairly large-scale regional seas or identified large marine ecosystems (LMEs) or marine eco-regions (e.g. the Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Sulu-Sulawesi marine eco-region). This would provide the mechanism for development of integrated management plans by a regional advisory council (RAC) and serve as the basis for centralized decision-making. These large regions would be further subdivided into national or bilateral management units. Within countries, the system would be based on local levels, typically based on administrative boundaries where the local districts could serve as the basis for devolved management (there are cases where geographical features may make more sense such as large inter-district water bodies, large bays and rivers, spawning/nursery grounds etc.). The existing LMEs form a natural boundary for such a nested system and LME projects could be more orientated to meeting this ideal.

EAF for inland fisheries

EAF is just as relevant and appropriate for inland fisheries as it is for marine fisheries. In particular, EAF includes considering the impact of habitat changes on fisheries, often an important driver in inland fisheries. Inland fisheries are far more connected to the water regime at watershed and floodplain level and ecosystem–type approaches are well developed for water management. River basin or watershed management approaches exist and water allocation processes and inter-disciplinary dialogues are standard features. It has to be said, however, that fisheries may not receive a particularly high priority with these approaches, as the more visible uses of water for agriculture, irrigation or urban rural water supplies tend to attract more attention. Fisheries are a non-consumptive use of water and are often left out of water planning and decision-making. This is inappropriate because fisheries are extremely sensitive to the flow regimes and connectivity of the water, and are often seriously affected by water management and allocation decisions. There may be good justification for applying EAF with its fisheries focus to planning processes and to strengthen advocacy for fisheries services in larger water and basin planning processes.

EAF can also be applied to aquaculture where there is often a tendency to focus only on the target species being cultured and ignore ecosystem effects created by the production system. The requirement to look more broadly at the factors external to aquaculture can greatly improve the sustainability of aquaculture systems as well as enable aquaculture to argue more effectively for the right to operate. Abstraction of water and the creation of effluent discharges are all related to the broader ecosystem services or supply and absorption of waste. These are not "free environmental goods and services" and increasingly planning and management requires these to be factored into decision-making about aquaculture development.

When applied to inland fisheries, rivers and water bodies and even aquaculture operations, the process of making EAF operational (see next section) can lead to better management of inland fisheries and aquaculture.

Integrating fisheries management with integrated coastal/catchment management (ICM)

It has been mentioned that EAF takes the ecosystem approach and places fisheries at the centre in order to achieve management goals. However, there are other stakeholders in watersheds and coastal areas who are not interested in fisheries considerations. Effective EAF therefore requires coordination, consultation, cooperation and joint decision-making not only between different fisheries operating in the same ecosystem or geographical area, but also between the fisheries management agency and the other sectors that have an impact on fisheries or are affected by fisheries (Figure 12). If the coastal planning system is based on a system of ICM, it makes sense for fishery managers to become more active in the ICM process. This provides a broader sectoral setting for the different stake-holders to get together, and most importantly, work together to attain common goals. It also provides the opportunity for fisheries stakeholders to protect their interests against impacts from development or decision-making in other sectors.

Figure 12 An ideal inter-agency cooperation and consultation system within an ICM framework (redrawn from FAO, 2005)

Such an ICM framework may not exist in the area where EAF is being applied. In these cases it will be up to the fishery agency to reach out and contact agencies that are responsible for other uses of the marine/inland environment. A key agency will always be the environmental agency as it is normally responsible for conserving biodiversity, protecting and rehabilitating habitats and protecting vulnerable species, all of which are important EAF actions. This is particularly important during the planning phase (see next section), after which each agency can continue its day-to-day functions with periodic reviews.

At a more local level, activities and agencies responsible for these different activities are often much better integrated than at the national or even provincial levels where ministries and departments are usually organized along sectoral lines. At the local level, therefore, it is often easier to implement EAF, especially when one local government is concerned with all aspects of the livelihoods of local communities.

The key to EAF — A participatory management system and good planning

EAF cannot be achieved unless a good fisheries management system exists that facilitates the cycle of planning, implementing and monitoring. In general, it will be the fishery agency that will build this capacity and initiate the process in cooperation and consultation with other agencies and major stakeholders, including non-government organizations (NGOs).

Because of the different time scales involved in the process of developing and monitoring a management plan, it may be necessary to have at least two components to the plan, e.g. a higher level strategic plan that states the broad management objectives and measures to achieve them (reviewed on a three to five year cycle), and an annual plan (reviewed through an annual cycle) to cover setting and reviewing specific objectives, indicators and performance measures. Over time, as objectives become more stable, the latter could be formally included in the higher-level plan.

Developing and monitoring EAF through a comanagement plan — six steps

Six steps are required to apply EAF to construct a fisheries comanagement plan (Figure 13).

Steps 1 to 3: Scope the fishery, identify issues and prioritize.

The first step is to identify the fisheries management unit (FMU) that will form the geographical basis for the plan. The final choice of FMU and geographic area for a management plan will depend on a number of practical considerations, but at the very least it should cover all harvesting sub-sectors, both small-scale artisanal and large-scale industrial.

Figure 13 Six steps needed to develop an effective fisheries manage-ment plan (from FAO, 2003)

Box 6 Important tip — Stick with the basics!

It is necessary to get back to basics — first identify the real problem and then fix it. For example, by-catch in itself is not a problem that can be fixed by management. However, one specific issue, for example, the capture of vulnerable and protected species can be addressed by management measures. Over capacity is very difficult to address directly. But breaking it down to more specific issues such as too many boats makes action more directed and feasible.

The next step is for stakeholders to undertake an initial evaluation of issues associated with the fishery. This should cover economic, social and ecological considerations and be guided by the high-level policy goals set at the national or regional level.61

Starting with each broad issue, these are further divided into more specific issues that can be tackled through a management intervention of some sort. This process is likely to result in many potential issues being identified, but there is a practical limit to how many issues a management system can deal with.

One approach to prioritization of specific issues is to conduct a risk assessment. This can be either qualitative and opinion-based, or highly quantitative and data-based. There are many ways to carry out a qualitative risk assessment. One way of doing this would be to score both the likelihood (risk) and consequences of failure (impact) in relation to each issue on a scale of, for example, 1 to 5. High-priority issues to address first are those with a high likelihood of occurrence and high impact.

Steps 4 to 5: Set objectives, indicators and benchmarks (performance measures) and management actions to meet the objectives.

All specific issues should be dealt with in the comanagement plan, but in a manner commensurate with the related risk. High-risk issues are elaborated into detailed objectives. Some medium-risk issues might require identification of a mechanism in the plan for ongoing review and some form of contingency plan. Low risk issues might be noted in the plan, explaining why they are considered low risk.

Box 7 Participatory process for comanagement planning

Identifying issues and finding solutions is best done during a meeting/workshop where all relevant stakeholders are gathered. It is important to get input from as many people as possible. The fewer people involved at this stage increases the chances of some issues being missed and also reduces subsequent ownership of the process. The process can be made very interactive with a few basic media aids or simply draw on paper and clip boards or use pictures.

If the specific issue has been well articulated, it should not be difficult to create an objective on how to address it. Objectives need to state what will be achieved in a general sense e.g. minimize the impact on turtles. The stakeholders will also need to decide on how to assess whether the objective is being achieved. This is done through setting indicators and benchmarks.62

It is common to find that in the process of developing objectives, the conflicting nature of these will become apparent. Resolving these differences lies at the heart of getting the balance right and agreeing on what management is really trying to achieve. For example, is it increasing wealth, rebuilding stocks or providing employment for all and a social safety net? Not all these objectives can be realized.

From the wide range of fisheries and ecosystem management tools that are available, the most appropriate management intervention(s) to meet the specific objective need(s) to be selected. Often the same tool (e.g. setting up an MPA, introducing a capacity reduction programme) can meet several objectives.

Where possible, it is important to try and agree about what might happen if the intervention doesn't work and how to counteract this before it happens. This provides some certainty for all the players and the rules are known and understood. The rules state what management action should be taken under different conditions, as determined by its performance. In a small-scale fishery context these need to be pragmatic (e.g. relating to stricter enforcement if a particular measure is not working etc.).

Step 6: Monitor, assess and review

The comanagement plan must also specify regular reviews in which the success of the management measures in attaining the objectives is appraised. These reviews will benefit from data that has been collected by an effective and well-directed monitoring programme and analyzed by appropriate technical experts. Such a review should be carried out under guidance from a designated stakeholder group, to which regular reports should be made.

Both short-term and long-term reviews should be conducted. Short-term reviews, for example as part of an annual cycle, should report on indicators measured during, for example, the assessments of the status of key stocks, changes in catch composition, assessments of impacts of the fishery on habitats, changes in employment and demography and profit. Importantly, reviews will cover both ecological and social well-being benefits and impacts created (Figure 14).63

Longer-term reviews should also be conducted on a regular basis (three to five years). These reviews should include consideration of the full management arrangements such as:

Longer-term reviews may provide evidence that an objective set earlier (e.g. recovery to a certain species abundance level by a particular date) is no longer appropriate.

Management reports based on the reviews

Short-term reviews should be summarized in an annual report that is easy to read and digested and that links with the fishery comanagement plan. In general the report will contain:

Figure 14 Kite diagram showing ecological, economic and social dimensions. Redrawn from FAO, 1999.

Obviously, the report should include all the agreed high priority ecological, social and economic objectives and be a "triple bottom line" report. There are a number of tools available to summarize the results. One method is to use indicator "traffic lights" — green if performance is satisfactory, red if not satisfactory and orange to indicate that things are not progressing very well and caution is needed. Another commonly used system is a kite diagram (Figure 14).

EAF in the context of Asia-Pacific fisheries

Uniqueness of Asian fisheries

Asia's capture fisheries make up about 50 percent of the global production. Although there are often strong claims made about the differences of Asian fisheries (e.g. their multi-gear/multi-species nature etc.), in essence all fisheries have similar characteristics, similar issues and similar challenges. The main difference is that the challenges are generally greater in Asian fisheries because the once highly productive fisheries have spiralled so deeply into decline that it will be a difficult task to restore them.

The issues facing Asian fisheries in both inland and marine environments stem from two main policy drivers: "increased production" and "open-access". For many countries, following World War II, there was a drive to increase the production of capture fisheries. This is the same policy that has also driven agriculture development (often the same Ministry and Minister), without critically appraising its relevance to a fish resource that has natural limits on productivity. Production increases were mainly achieved through "modernization" (increased catching power and efficiency) based on the introduction of new technology: fishing gear, vessels, motors and fish-finding devices. The uptake of the new technology was often accompanied by subsidies to facilitate their use in the form of soft-loans, tax incentives, fuel subsidies etc.

This policy combination of "increased production" and "open access" has been a recipe for disaster for Asian fisheries as in most cases this as been implemented without any plan to actually control or limit the expansion. As a result, there has been massive fishing pressure on nearshore resources and increasing competition between the artisanal small–scale sector and the higher powered more commercial vessels. Asian coastal fisheries present a major source of livelihood for the millions of people dependent on fisheries. As the quality of fisheries has declined and with few alternatives to supplement their incomes, this decline is being manifested in boats lying idle along the coasts and ports, high unemployment, lower profits, longer fishing trips (with increased safety risks), and migrations of fishers to find work either in their own countries or overseas. Inland fisheries have seen similar changes, not through competition within the sector, but through decline in the environmental services which sustained inland fisheries.

Key changes to policies

The most significant reform that is needed is a paradigm shift in policy from "production increase" to "benefits (social and economic) increase" and from "open access" to "limited access". Many of the more developed countries of the region (e.g. Japan, Republic of Korea) are already moving in this direction and are capturing the wealth that the harvest and selling of a natural resource such as fish can bring. Other countries (e.g. China and Cambodia) are also tackling the twin evil of "production increase" and "open access" by reduction of fishing effort through dramatic reduction in fishing vessels in the case of China and introducing community-based rights systems in Cambodia. Several other countries are taking hesitant first steps towards capacity reduction, but the rate of progress seems frustratingly slow.

Adopting an EAF approach to the overall management of fisheries is an effective way to change policies, especially in those countries where the "increase production at all costs" paradigm is still firmly entrenched. Any consultative process that looks towards better protection of the environment and a focus on increasing the social and economic benefits of fishing would quickly show the failure of current policies and the need to change. Because this would come both from the grassroots and from the policy makers, it would be much more easily accepted by politicians and senior bureaucrats. Starting an EAF process at any level is not difficult, although it will require people-orientated and participatory assessment skills not normally found in a fishery officer who is more likely to have been educated in the biological and other sciences.

Key institutional changes. The main institutional change is for a ministry/department to take the lead in changing fisheries policies and management throughout Asia. This will require commitment to change and the passion to lead others through this change. Although in many political contexts this will mean taking risks, the fallout from taking these risks will be outweighed by the benefits. The status quo is not an option.

Legal requirements. Internationally, the instruments for EAF are mainly contained in voluntary instruments including:

As a result, few fisheries organizations and national policies and legislation actually make explicit recognition of EAF, although this is now changing. At the national level, EAF may require that existing legal instruments and practices that interact or impact with fisheries need to be considered, and adjustments made where necessary. In the future, it may be necessary to regulate the inter-sectoral interactions through primary legislation, e.g. laws controlling coastline development.

However, EAF processes can begin with existing legislation in most cases. Getting stakeholders together and agreeing on issues and management actions is not a complicated legal practice. As policies evolve and the need for better enforcement evolves, legislation can be change to meet the new policies.

Regional arrangements for EAF — A role for APFIC?

At the regional level, APFIC could provide support to:64

  1. launch a media campaign that provides a high level of awareness of the issues in current fisheries and the fact that APFIC Members are intending to address them;
  2. facilitate the building of subregional fishery alliances among countries who share the same regional sea, using existing mechanisms such as SEAFDEC and LME projects (these exist for the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand, Sulu-Sulawesi Sea, Yellow Sea, and probably soon, the Bay of Bengal;
  3. use the subregional alliance to set broad policy goals for their subregions and use them as a way of assisting all participating countries to move forward;
  4. assist in building the capacity of staff in fishery agencies at all levels in terms of: (i) raising understanding of the causes and consequences of current fishery issues; (ii) improving familiarity with EAF as a solution; and, especially for district staff, (iii) helping them become more competent to facilitate the EAF process, especially in using participatory tools (e.g. hierarchical tree process);
  5. assist countries to develop national and provincial (state) strategic fisheries management plans. Note: this would necessitate resolving conflicting objectives, something that has not been attempted in the past (this would involve determining first whether the fisheries in the subregion are being managed to promote wealth generation for a limited number of participants that will flow on to others, or, being managed to provide increased regional employment, or, being managed to reduce poverty of fishery-dependent communities (i.e. pro-poor policies and management etc.);
  6. provide support through the numerous activities that are being undertaken at the local level (including the many comanagement pilot projects that are already being funded) to facilitate better planning and EAF implementation at the local level; and
  7. set up a regional reporting system based on key indicators of progress that feeds back into APFIC's annual flagship publication, Status and potential of fisheries and aquaculture in Asia and the Pacific (note: the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency is currently looking at ways to implement EAF and could be an important partner to Asian activities).

50 Prepared by Theo Ebbers.
51 Prepared by Derek Staples and Simon Funge-Smith.
52 FAO. 2003. Fisheries Management – 2: The ecosystem approach to fisheries. FAO technical guideline for responsible fisheries 4, suppl. 2. Rome. A simpler version was released in 2005, see FAO. 2005. Putting into practice the ecosystem approach to fisheries. Rome.
53 These principles are paraphrases of the original clauses in the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, 1995: FAO, Rome Italy.
54 e.g. MARPOL 73/78.
55 See the Convention on Biological Diversity.
56 Sumaila, U.R. & Pauly, D. 2006. Executive Summary. In Sumaila, U.R. & Pauly, D. (eds.). Catching more bait: a bottom-up re-estimation of global fisheries subsidies. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 14(6), 2 pp. Fisheries Centre, the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
57 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. Chapter 2: Towards Sustainable Development. Available from
58 FAO. 2003. Fisheries management – 2. The ecosystem approach to fisheries. Fisheries Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries 4. Suppl. 2. FAO. Rome.
59 Redrawn from Pomerory, R. & Berkes, F. 1997. Two to tango: the role of government in fisheries comanagement. Marine Policy. Vol. 21(5), 465–480 pp.
60 FAO. 2005. Report of the Regional workshop on mainstreaming fisheries comanagement held in Siem Reap, Cambodia from 9 to 12 August 2005. RAP Publication 2005/23. Bangkok. 48 pp.
61 Several useful frameworks and tools for guiding this process have been developed (see FAO, 2003 cited earlier, for example).
62 Indicators need to be linked to objectives and benchmarks so that they form a valid means of assessing management performance. Some indicators may increase over time and some may decrease, but whether this trend is good or bad will depend on what the managers are trying to achieve and the nature of the agreed benchmark.
63 Redrawn from FAO. 1999. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries: Indicators for sustainable development of marine capture fisheries. Rome.
64 Note: Many of these actions at the different scales could be carried out in parallel, but ideally with strong linkages.

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