The Programme Coordinator of the BOBP discusses the approach and activities of the Programme during its third phase. (Condensed from a presentation at a recent Regional Workshop on Conservation and Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs in Chennai, India).
As we enter the next millennium, there is a need to look beyond conventional methods and approaches to management of dwindling natural resources and a degrading ecosystem that supports their regeneration and renewal. One of these approaches is to re-examine the professional perceptions and attitudes of fisheries planners. Why is it that each time fisheries planners make projections on fish consumption or demand for fish, their projections are invariably higher and higher. It is true that greater output is needed to feed a growing population, but per capita consumption levels must somehow be capped at a certain limit and not exceed it. In Japan, the per capita fish consumption is already well beyond 65 kg/capita/year, yet Japanese planners project higher and higher per capita increment in consumption. Similarly in Malaysia and Singapore, the per capita consumption is projected to increase when the present level is already 40-50 kg/capita per year.
Should not a cap on per capita consumption be considered? The reason is simple. Any consumption, whether of fish or any other food item, should have an upper threshold because any dietary intake in excess of body requirements is not only wasteful but probably injurious to health. It does not contribute nutritionally to human health and well being.
However the present approach to fisheries planning, generates unnecessary pressures on those concerned with fisheries production. They will devise all kinds of fishing technologies to achieve the projected growth in consumption through expanded production. Is there any wonder that our fish stocks are always under tremendous fishing pressure?
Fisheries planners should review the "projection approach to planning". They can work together with nutrition specialists to determine the dietary need for fish (e.g. minimum requirement) to maintain good health. To sustain resources, consumers should curb excessive indulgence-even on fish, which is nutritionally superior to other sources of protein.
What is BOBP? The Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP) is now 18 years old. It has gone through two earlier phases. We are presently in its third phase, which began in 1995 and goes on till the end of this century. The first phase was concerned with increasing productivity and production of the fisheries sector. The second phase dealt with the human factor, paying particular attention to the welfare of the fishing community - improved standards of living and quality of life. The third phase shifted focus from expanded production and extension activities to management of the resources for sustainable production. The people, in particular the fisherfolk community, must be made aware that they cannot continue to take from Nature without at the same time giving back to Nature the means to sustain the renewable resources. Management intervention is therefore the driving force of the present phase.
When BOBP started in 1979, there were only a few million fisherfolk in the region. Today, there are more than seven million, with a total fishing community population of at least 35 million. These fisherfolk,- especially the small-scale, limited-resource fisherfolk, suffer from a low standard of living. Many of their villages lack basic amenities. Their low literacy further inhibits them from obtaining the necessary information and assistance to better their lives.
Increasing population pressures in this region, especially among those living in abject poverty, have exacerbated these problems. The goal of the BOBP third phase, to serve as a catalyst for developing innovative participatory approaches and solutions to small-scale fisheries management, is a timely response to this need.
BOBP's Stakeholder Approach to Management
BOBP faces a situation in fisheries that, at first glance, holds two mutually conflicting demands. On the one hand, there is a definite need to increase the availability of fish as a source of protein to meet the needs of an increasing population and surging export demand. On the other hand, there is a crucial need to conserve the fast-dwindling fish resources of our member countries. BOBP's vision is to resolve these seemingly conflicting demands. It assists countries identify policies, actions and solutions that take a long-term perspective and promote resource sustainability, and also ensure livelihood security for fisherfolk. Thus, the programme meets both demands. This vision is reflected in BOBP's programme goals:
· Sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources through increased management awareness and
· development of management solutions in collaboration with fisherfolk, and government officials,
· not only in management and production but also in planning.
· Equitable access (social and gender) to and use of aquatic resources for livelihood security
· Promotion of integrated coastal area management to ensure sustainable use of coastal resources for future generations.
The third phase builds on the achievements and lessons of the earlier phases. The earlier phases prepared fisherfolk communities for the responsibility of participatory management expected and required by the third phase. Early activities during the third phase have found a fisherfolk population that is more aware of fisheries problems and has ideas to help solve them.
BOBP assists member countries introduce innovative approaches to institutionalize the participation of fisherfolk and other stakeholders to develop and implement workable measures to improve fisheries management. In sum, the third phase will help turn local concerns into action. The components of this third phase are:
· Building awareness and public opinion among fisheries stakeholders on fisheries management needs, benefits, options.
· Building the capacities of local fishing communities and national fisheries agencies to plan and carry out integrated fisheries management.
· Human resources planning and development.
· Providing technical assistance and other identified needs of member countries for implementation.
BOBP achieves this by:
· Working together with countries to identify coastal resources problems (situation analysis and stakeholder consultation and analysis).
· Getting all stakeholders identified to the discussion table.
· Making the fisherfolk's voice matter in fisheries management under the principle of "resource users as resource managers".
· Integrating the roles of women and youth in fisheries management.
· Acting as a catalytic and facilitating agent to help stakeholders come up with informed and comprehensive solution options to problems.
· Providing innovative ways to generate the financial means to implement solutions on a self-financing basis.
The third phase of BOBP centres on the following general strategic principles and activities:
· Reduction of excess or surplus fishing capacity to a level that can sustain fisheries resources, including development of alternative income-generating activities for fisherfolk to reduce their dependence on the sea and attract them out of fisheries.
· Creating awareness to instill in resource users a pride of ownership in the ideas and concepts of management.
· Re-examination of fishing technologies to determine whether those in use deplete living resources and impair resource habitat.
· Promotion of action-oriented projects that produce measurable positive effects and impact.
· Implementation of programme activities that reflect the opinions of the public involved in fisheries and coastal communities.
· Assumption of greater responsibility and leadership by BOBP's national counterparts in project implementation.
· Encouraging governments to allocate human and financial resources for fisheries management.
· Coordination of national and regional information systems and exchanges.
· Integration of the environmental impacts of fishing practices and vice-versa into fisheries management decisions.
· Coordination and consultation in fisheries management decisions among national agencies with jurisdiction in the coastal zone.
· Establishment of a regional forum or mechanism to reduce fishing conflicts between member countries and minimize arrests of fisherfolk caught fishing illegally in the national waters of BOBP member and non-member countries.
National Activities in Management and Early Impact
The Bangladesh Government had identified two highly stressed fisheries for BOBP's assistance in the context of conserving coastal fish resources and ensuring the sustainability of coastal fisheries. BOBP is assisting the Government to facilitate and enable improved management of the estuarine set bagnet (ESBN) and push net (PN) fisheries in selected coastal areas of Bangladesh, through awareness building, strengthening the institutional capacity of the agencies concerned and provision of technical assistance. As poverty is widespread and endemic in coastal areas, efforts to attract fisherfolk out of overcrowded fisheries must be accompanied by other gainful means of employment or income-generating opportunities. Both GOs and NGOs are working with BOBP to address this basic requirement. As an example, the Programme has arranged for selected women fisherfolk to be trained in the production of boneless hilsa (Hilsa illisha) for export as each year about 25% of the hilsa run is lost because of the lack of market absorption capacity within the country. Management options such as gear substitution or outright ban, closed season or area are being looked into. This work is being contracted out to an active grassroots NGO which has previously worked in the communities.
The Union Government collaborates with BOBP to address integrated coastal fisheries management in two states (Tamil Nadu and Orissa) and integrated coastal aquaculture in two other states (Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal).
Stakeholder identification and consultation and stakeholder perception analysis were carried out systematically, and on an extensive scale. Preferred communication channels to reach them were also studied. A manual on stakeholder consultation and analysis has been prepared for widespread application. Preliminary results of the stakeholder analysis showed that fishermen would like to go further offshore to fish using different gear such as troll, gill net and linguine which hitherto have not been tried out in offshore waters. As a result, limited training on commercial exploratory fishing, emphasizing design and methods, were carried out in the two states.
Guidelines for sustainable coastal aquaculture, in particular for shrimp, are being prepared with both scientific and stakeholder inputs. These guidelines emphasize water quality management, feed and feeding, group or cluster farming. The use of common effluent treatment ponds and common water reservoirs is being explored to minimize pollution and disease outbreak from haphazard discharge of pond effluent.
The Government of Indonesia is interested to evolve model fishing villages to undertake community-based fisheries management. The specific aims at present are to facilitate and enable improved management of mariculture, anchovy lift-net fishery and small-scale fisheries in the Tapian Nauli Bay area of North Sumatra Province, with BOBP support. The Government is intensifying public outreach programmes to spread awareness on the benefits of management, strengthen the local institutional capacity of concerned agencies and provide technical assistance. Long used to open access fishing, the fisherfolk are resisting efforts at managing their fisheries. They are not as receptive to new innovations in management as their counterparts in other countries. They are not confident about the proposed management measures in their area, given that enforcement is still weak. Indonesian fisheries managers are trying to change fisherfolk's ingrained perceptions and attitudes by demonstrating to them that fisheries management works, and leads to rewards - improved catch rates, better prices, higher incomes.
As a pilot exercise in developing and testing methodologies and approaches, the Malaysian Government intends to focus on a marine protected area cum marine park that has been established in a chain of four uninhabited islands - Pulau Payar, Pulau Segantang, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Kaca near Langkawi island off the coast of Kedah and Perlis. The DOFM/BOBP project enables and facilitates sustainable coastal zone management. The management intervention is paying off, as fisheries in the area are recovering. For example, before the establishment of the marine protected area and park, anchovy fishing was limited to 3-4 months each year. Today, anchovy fishing is possible round the year. The park is also drawing growing numbers of visitors and generating valuable employment opportunities for local area fisherfolk as tour guides, boat operators and divers. In 1996 alone, there was a total of 90,307 visitors. This number is projected to grow. The fishing population is declining because fishermen are moving out of fisheries and into factories, resorts, hotels and the construction industry.
In the Maldives, the Government is trying to enable the development of a model for participatory community-based, integrated reef resources management (IRRM). A pilot exercise focuses on Vaavu, Meemu, Faafu and Dhaalu atolls, through awareness building and consultation, strengthening the institutional capacity of concerned agencies and technical assistance. The Maldivian fishing community is very receptive to innovative management ideas as they fully understand the need for management and benefits to sustain the resources. An atoll community learning center is being set up to be the nucleus of such management intervention. A unique feature of the Maldives IRRM model is the active involvement of school children in its work. As awareness and community bonding are high, due in part to the nature of the island population, fisherfolk compliance with management measure is not problematic, in the Maldives. A Fisheries Advisory Committee, set up as a result of the MRS/BOBP Workshop on Integrated Reef Resources Management, provides policy guidelines and directs IRRM work in the country.
The government is very anxious to conserve critical aquatic habitats such as coral reefs, lagoons, mangroves, sea grass beds, coastal, estuarine and reverie systems, and ensure that resources utilization from such habitats is sustainable. In this context, the Government with the help of BOBP has embarked on improved management of the ornamental fish sector of Sri Lanka. The tools are awareness building, strengthening the institutional capacity of concerned agencies and technical assistance. Ornamental fish identification guides, manuals and posters have been produced to assist customs officials to control and regulate the export of such fish, and educate divers about the ornamental fish that are endangered, or whose export is banned. Trade exhibitions and workshops on ornamental fish are regularly organised to educate the public about the value of this sub-sector to the national economy and the need for sustainable development.
Phang Nga Bay is a microcosm of Thai fisheries. The Thai Government is keen on developing community-based management approaches by setting up marine protected areas, deploying village-based artificial reefs, and better enforcement through higher public awareness and participation. All this is being tried out in Phang Nga Bay. Regular bimonthly public hearings are steadily bonding the different communities and bringing them together to solve their problems in their own way. For example, community spawning cages have been installed in strategic locations. Fisherfolk will place gravid female crabs in these cages and let them spawn, then sell the spent crabs. Community bonds are so strong that trawlers and push netters are now kept out of the Bay. In fact, trawl owners are financing the construction and installation of artificial reefs at the entrance of the Bay to ensure that their master fishermen or fishing boat captains do not encroach into Bay waters, A combination of extension activities and close monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) from DOF patrol boats, has had its effect on push net operators - many of them have now given up this gear and substituted it with other gear such as gill net. The Department of Fisheries is demonstrating and handing out gill nets to these fisherfolk.
Why BOBP is unique
How is BOBP unique? While other organizations are pursuing new interests in the light of new trends in environmental management and resource sustainability, BOBP remains committed to its founding role in food production and poverty alleviation. Not only is it the only regional co-operative effort in the Bay of Bengal that facilitates coordination among countries on common small-scale fisheries issues and problems; but foremost for BOBP is its larger role in continuing to highlight the strategic importance of food production for the region's poor, whose livelihood relies heavily on the region's coastal and marine resources. While BOBP has continuously learned from and applied the latest trends and findings in fisheries, environmental and marine resources sciences, as well as policy analysis, to its programme and activities, it has steadfastly maintained its role and obligations to coastal fishing communities.
Effective cost-cutting strategies and measures are built into BOBP's objectives and management strategy. For instance, the programme emphasizes the application of solutions founded on a broad base of knowledge from a cross-section of stakeholders.
Tapping the experiences and expertise of all stakeholders and disciplines makes possible solutions that are holistic and efficient in design. Further, the acceptance of plans and solutions for implementation is achieved through consultation and consensus. When consensus-building proves difficult, a negotiation tack is taken to work out a settlement which all stakeholders are comfortable with. The latter may not be entirely satisfactory to each and every stakeholder group but is something they can live with. Such solutions are not only more meaningful but are also enduring.
Besides by encouraging participatory co-management, the government can transfer costs incurred in fisheries enforcement to the fishing communities themselves. The money saved can help protect and rehabilitate the resource habitat.
Small but imaginative funding is required for implementing the third phase, largely as seed money to initiate projects that will become self-financing over the long-term. The governments of member countries and donor agencies are co-funding individual projects that directly reach their ultimate beneficiaries, the small-scale fisherfolk. In fact, BOBP third phase projects have strong support for implementation from the fishing communities that were involved from the beginning in the problem-solving process. This ensures that the likelihood of success is high.
The Governments of each member country are prioritizing projects in coastal fisheries management for implementation with:
· Advisory inputs from BOBP.
· BOBP assistance in developing greater local capacity.
· Effective utilization of local capacity.
BOBP has advanced incrementally through successive programme generations, incorporating achievements and lessons learned into solid building blocks for its current phase. To kick-start implementation work during its third phase, the importance of co-funding by the governments of member countries and donor agencies, to make national execution possible, cannot be over-emphasized. This partnership has steadily borne fruit in the member countries.
Lastly, BOBP attaches great importance to information packaging and dissemination. It publishes a popular quarterly newsletter, Bay of Bengal News; it brings out working papers, technical reports, manuals and guides. It has organized video films and audio-visual materials on fisheries and its management. It communicates with fisherfolk communities through comic books, instruction books in local languages, radio programmes, art competitions and street plays. It maintains a well-equipped library to support research and provides a reference service for those who seek fisheries information about the Bay of Bengal region and beyond.