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Small-scale fisheries in the region are widely practiced but are commonly undervalued, contributing primarily to local consumption and markets, and receiving much less attention than the very valuable international fisheries common in many of the middle and distant waters of small island states in particular. The impacts of foreign fishing are often very important, with policy challenges in securing adequate license revenue, adding value locally, and avoiding potential conflict with local fishing activities.

In larger nation states, the context for small scale fisheries varies widely, from traditional and relatively undefined and unregulated coastal fisheries in less developed economies towards highly regulated fishing, increasingly based on quota management and allocation of transferable rights, effectively privatizing access. Throughout the region issues of transport and distribution are critical in connecting catches with high value markets. The region is also characterized by its ecological importance, with a number of highly sensitive and globally valued ecosystems and habitats, for which there is increasing international support for protection and conservation.

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