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New fisheries commission for Central Asia and the Caucasus

Creation of the regional fisheries body will mark a turning point for a sector in decline

23 October 2009, Rome - FAO's governing Council has unanimously approved the creation of a new regional fisheries management body for the Central Asia and Caucasus region.

Its mission will be to work regionally to promote the development, conservation, rational management and best utilization of living aquatic resources and the sustainable development of aquaculture in its member countries.

The FAO-affiliated commission will become active as soon as three countries formally accept it at the national level. Potential members include Armenia, Azerbaijan, People's Republic China, Georgia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The first three national-level ratifications are expected to come quickly, and the first preparatory meeting of the Commission is already scheduled to take place in September 2010, in Kyrgyzstan.

FAO's Sub-regional Office for Central Asia in Ankara, Turkey, will act as secretariat until the Commission becomes fully operational.

Response to a crisis

The collapse of the Soviet Union had a tremendous negative effect on fish production in Central Asia and the Caucasus, with fisheries production plummeting dramatically, sometimes but as much as 98 percent (Read this article for more information).

This had a negative impact not only on the livelihoods of families involved in fisheries, but had dietary impacts as well. Fish consumption in the region shrank from five to less than one kilogram per capita per year. (Global average fish consumption today is around 16 kg/pc/yr.)

"Over the past several years there's been a growing awareness that reversing these trends and re-establishing a strong and sustainable fisheries sector in Central Asia and the Caucus will require a joint effort based on strong collaboration between countries in the region," said Mustapha Sinaceur, FAO Sub regional Coordinator for Central Asia.

Talks began in 2008 among concerned governments regarding creating a new commission that would promote transboundary cooperation on fisheries and aquaculture development. FAO helped organize the discussions and provided technical advice and guidance to participating countries.

Fisheries bodies key players

More information on regional fisheries bodies and how they can promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, improve nutrition and food security, and fight poverty is available on the website of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department: http://www.fao.org/fishery/topic/16800/en