Tsunami: Losses in fisheries and aquaculture climb to $520 million

Tsunami: Losses in fisheries and aquaculture climb to $520 million


Updated damage assessments are shedding new light on the scope of material losses suffered by fisherfolk in southern Asia as a result of the December 2004 tsunami - and the financial costs that will be involved in rehabilitating the affected region's all-important fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

"The current estimate for direct losses in the fisheries sector is now around US$520 million," Jeremy Turner, head of FAO's Fishery Technology Service, said today. According to FAO's latest information:

  • 111,073 fishing vessels were destroyed or damaged, with an estimated replacement cost of US$161 million;
  • 36,235 engines were lost or damaged beyond repair, with replacement costs projected at US$73 million;
  • 1.7 million units of fishing gear (nets, tackle, and similar equipment) were destroyed, with an estimated replacement cost of US$86 million.
  • Cost of repairs of other damages to the fisheries sector, such as to aquaculture operations, fishing industry infrastructure and harbours are estimated to be in excess of US$ 200 million.

These figures refer to only those seven countries most affected by the tsunami: India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Immediate assistance includes planning advice, repairs to boats, provision of nets

FAO has fielded 22 fisheries specialists to the affected countries, and 11 more will soon be dispatched to join them. The teams include master fishermen, naval architects, boat builders, ice-plant and cold room specialists, marine biologists, aquaculturists and fisheries planners.

They are working with national governments to assess damages to fisheries and aquaculture and are providing advice and immediate assistance, including facilitating repairs to damaged boats and replacement of lost nets.

The first priority is to repair boats that can be repaired. In Sri Lanka FAO's team is distributing resin, fibreglass and tools to repair teams fielded by CEYNOR, a semi-governmental corporation with which FAO is cooperating, as well as to private builders who are also doing repair work. So far FAO has purchased more than 12 tonnes of fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) repair materials sufficient to repair over 300 boats and has procured 20 sets of tools and equipment for use by the repair teams.

FAO is also purchasing and distributing ropes and nets. This fishing gear has been commissioned from local netmakers, who are working at 150% of their normal output capacity. Some 500 fishers have benefited so far, and further orders are being placed with regional and international companies to benefit 5 000 fishermen on the south and southwestern coasts of Sri Lanka. Additional purchases are now also being initiated as damage assessments for northern provinces are completed.

The technical specifications of the fishing gear are being identified in close collaboration with local fishermen to assure that the net- and other gear-types are appropriate to local needs and customs.

Broad collaboration involved

This activity complements work being carried out by non-governmental organizations, who in Sri Lanka have coordinated with the national Fisheries Ministry to fund the construction of replacement craft via local builders.

Rehabilitation efforts are being coordinated by the Sri Lanka government with an inter-agency task force, to which FAO belongs, assisting with implementation. Also, FAO's Regional Office for the Asia-Pacific has established a relief consortium with fisheries and aquaculture organizations in the tsunami-affected region to pool resources and provide countries with additional support.

Long process of recovery underway

FAO is also working with governments to plan the long-term recovery of fisheries and aquaculture, including creation of multi-year technical assistance and planning programmes and continued delivery of replacement fishing vessels and equipment.

"We're looking at things in terms of phases. The immediate phase involves rapid relief work and that work is being carried out admirably by local authorities, our sister UN organizations, and others," Mr Turner said. "As regards fisheries and aquaculture, FAO is providing immediate inputs and advice, but is also working with governments to help them chart out a long-term, far-sighted recovery effort."

Getting rehabilitation right

To help that effort, FAO has produced a framework strategy for the rehabilitation of fisheries and aquaculture in the tsunami zone which it hopes will help contribute to sustainable and responsible fishing in the region as the sector gets back on its feet.

"We should not re-create one of the major problems within fisheries prior to the tsunami: over-capacity in the coastal fisheries," said Mr Turner. "To simplify, that means too many boats, too much fishing effort. We must ensure that we do not surpass the level of fishing capacity that was there before the disaster."

The framework provides recommendations on a number of other issues, including: making sure that leadership of fisheries and aquaculture rehabilitation comes from the governments and fishing communities in the affected countries; relies on local craftsmen and suppliers as much as possible, and; respects local needs and sensibilities and focuses on people and their livelihoods.

Fishers in the region affected by the tsunami use gear that is specialised to match local fish stocks, sea conditions and customs, and FAO is stressing that it is important that any equipment brought in or donated from overseas match those requirements.

Share this page