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A better future for coastal fishers in South and Southeast Asia

Spanish support aims at improving livelihoods of millions of small-scale fishers

Photo: ©FAO/E. Amalore
Indian fisherman from the Bay of Bengal area.

9 December 2009, Bangkok/Madrid - Driven largely by awareness of marine resource depletion and vulnerability of their coastal communities, six

south and south-east Asian countries today signed on to a Spanish grant of US$19.5 million aimed at improving livelihoods and the future of millions of small-scale fishers.

The Spanish grant will allow FAO to implement over the next four years a Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme in six participating countries.

This is the most important programme in fisheries Spain is supporting in Asia in terms of the vast number of people to benefit from the assistance, remarked the Ambassador of Spain to Thailand, Ignacio Sagaz, during the signing ceremony today.

There are an estimated 7 million fishers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam, of which approximately 80 percent are small-scale fishers. The total number of people directly or indirectly employed in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in these countries is on the order of 25 million.

Coastal fisheries make a significant contribution to food security and animal protein intake in particular, foreign exchange earnings, employment and poverty alleviation.

"We see mounting constraints including rising Asian populations, greater numbers of fishing vessels, fishing gear and fishing pressure, declining and threatened aquatic stocks, and environmental degradation. These issues trigger conflicts both within the fishery sector and between other sectors for use of finite resources, both within countries and even between them", remarked He Changchui, Asia-Pacific chief of FAO.

Moreover, recent events in the region including flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons have caused havoc demonstrating the vulnerability of small-scale fisher communities and their livelihoods, Dr He added.

The assistance has been designed to assist government responses to complex political issues.

"The project symbolizes Spain's commitment to the UN Millennium Development goals for the eradication of poverty and hunger," stressed Mr Sagaz.

The FAO programme manager, Jose Parajua, indicated that past national polices and plans for small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in the region have focused primarily on increasing production, exports and value addition, and resource management.

The Spanish funded programme will address poverty issues and the promotion of alternative livelihoods to reduce dependence on fishing and encouraging fishers to exit the sector - both resulting in reduced fishing pressure on limited resources.

The main stakeholders and target beneficiaries are coastal fishers, processors, traders and their families, their organizations and their communities, including the local authorities; and government organizations and institutions responsible for the administration, management and development of the coastal fisheries at local, district/province and national levels. Also a wide coalition of regional organizations and non-governmental groups will be closely involved.

"Spain wishes to further expand its presence and cooperation in Asia, and is glad to be associated with FAO for providing assistance to the fishery sector, since Spain is recognized as a world leader in the fishing industry," concluded the Spanish Ambassador.