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As was seen in Part 1, the information relevant to fisheries management in general and in support of implementation of the Code of Conduct in particular, is complex. The subject area:

In order to improve the dissemination and accessibility of relevant information in developing countries we need a better understanding of what is already available or accessible and the mechanisms which can be used to fill the information gaps in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

This overview of the current situation of fisheries information in developing countries is indicative rather than exhaustive and more information has been gathered in some regions than in others, paying particular attention to Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDC) (FAO, 2004d), where several of the FAO Fisheries Department information activities concentrate their efforts. Examples of these activities are the projects of the Fisheries Information, Data and Statistics (FIDI) unit to make available the ASFA database and to work with a network of fisheries libraries to improve access to the full text documents.

The information covered in this section refers to fisheries and aquaculture in the broadest sense. The focus on information for fisheries management and in support of implementation of the Code is developing in response to the work programmes of the FAO Fisheries Department and the need to improve access to and dissemination of relevant information, in particular in developing countries. Relevant research is not limited to scientific and academic research but includes the broad subject base related to fisheries as well as the research and development work carried out by many different types of fisheries organization.

Part 2.1 gives a selected overview of the creation and publication of information on fisheries and aquaculture in developing countries, mainly to give an indication of the scope and the variety of publishing practices and to highlight the complexities of organizing and managing easy and cost-effective access to this information for all stakeholders. Part 2.2 covers the issues of dissemination and access to the published information produced in developing countries, as well as the mechanisms employed. Part 2.3 covers access to the large body of fisheries information from developed countries, much of which is commercially published. This presents a different set of challenges and opportunities which are no less important for effective research, development and management.

2.1 Creation and publication

Fisheries information is produced in different regions and countries by a wide range of people and organizations. The research and publishing process varies worldwide and noting the difference is important. The research and management communities in developing countries face different issues and difficulties in publishing than do their counterparts in developed countries. Many of the issues were raised at the Regional Workshop on Networking for Improved Access to Fisheries and Aquaculture Information in Africa, which was held in Grahamstown (South Africa), 3-7 November 2003 (FAO, 2004f) and therefore many of the examples cited relate to Africa, although the issues are common to many countries in other regions.

2.1.1 Issues related to publishing in developing countries

Scholarly journals or grey literature

The editorial boards of scholarly and peer-reviewed journals reject the publications of African scientists because of the lack of up to date citations. However, citing current research articles is only possible if the scientists have access to scholarly journals, which has not been the case in many African fisheries institutions. The result is that most African scientists publish in the form of grey literature, such as institutional reports. In some African countries it is estimated that up to 70 percent of fisheries research is published as grey literature, the remainder in conference proceedings or as theses. Only a small percentage finds its way into scholarly journals. Many papers "published" in Africa are in fact produced by international organizations such as FAO or as a result of working group meetings organized by international bodies, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).

In 1995, the ACP-EU Fisheries Research Initiative used the ASFA database to identify publications produced by African fisheries institutions as an indicator of the publication and dissemination of research results. One of the conclusions of this study stated "it is apparent from the brief analysis of the literature that the participation in the global scientific community of the region’s research institutions is modest" (Nauen, 1995).


Even publishing grey literature is not without its difficulties. A common problem in research institutions is the lack of funds to publish regularly. In some cases they are not able to publish and distribute the results of their research at all. One example of a regular series that provides access to much of the research on Nigerian fisheries is the Nigerian Fisheries and Aquatic Science Abstracts. Published by the National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research (New Bussa) since 1988, the two most recent volumes are compiled on the library computer, unable to be printed and distributed due to lack of funds. A similar situation is faced at the Aquaculture and Fisheries Department of Bunda College in Malawi, which has published two issues of Aqua-Fish Technical Report, in 2002 and 2003. The publication has been supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and external funding is essential to continue this series. Its goal stated in the foreword is to add to the existing body of knowledge on aquaculture and fisheries in Malawi so that policies are formulated based on good science.

Information ownership

Given the difficulties of publishing, African researchers often feel the need to protect their research results rather than share them with colleagues. The whole concept of information sharing is based on recognition of the originator. Such acknowledgement is difficult to achieve when there are limited opportunities to publish. Additionally, validating the research results is impossible unless they reach the appropriate audience. The publishing barriers have a cascading effect on the fisheries community’s ability to share, test and use research.

Indigenous and traditional knowledge

Managing knowledge in general and indigenous knowledge in particular has become a valuable input in the management of sustainable development programmes. The growing awareness that indigenous knowledge plays a role in national development is increasing interest in preserving and managing it. The major challenges for libraries vis-à-vis indigenous knowledge relate to collection development, intellectual property rights, access and the preservation media (Ngulube, 2002).

The audience or user community

The publication of commercial journals is determined by economic considerations, i.e. whether there is a profitable market for them. In contrast, much of the fisheries information published in developing countries primarily fulfils the mandate of the originating organization. This poses the challenges of defining the intended audience and how best to communicate the information. The target audience for many fisheries publications includes a wide spectrum of society: managers and policy-makers; researchers, academics and educators; resource users and industry; non-governmental, governmental and international organizations, fishing communities and fishworkers; civil society and last but increasingly not least, the media. The target audience is the key determining factor for how the information is packaged, its language, level and format. The target audience is also a complex and ever-changing aspect of information provision that shapes how information is disseminated and accessed.


The difficulties and cost of publishing in a variety of languages should not be underestimated. For example, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) publishes in Khmer, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese as well as English. These are all official languages however and MRC is aware that to reach all stakeholders there must also be a mechanism for conveying the information in local languages. The role of extension workers in synthesising and communicating information in appropriate forms or the use of radio sometimes offer better options than publishing in local languages.

Packaging information

The importance of publishing information in the most suitable format for the intended audience has long been recognized and in many cases addressed. An area which is receiving increasing attention, but appears to be more difficult to resolve, is how the research community can convey their research findings to policy-makers in a format which enables informed decision making. Similarly, when information is made available to small-scale fishworkers by government agencies, it is often aggregated to a national or regional spatial scale. As a result it often contradicts the fishers’ intuitive and local knowledge of the fisheries, even though they are providers of primary data. (des Clers, 2001).

The consequences of not publishing

This lack of opportunity to publish and the loss of the valuable results of research and development programmes lead to the repetition of much of the same work. The consequences of this are the wasting of time and effort and little of the knowledge gained is passed on to subsequent generations. One of the most serious consequences of the low scientific publication rate and high rejection rate is demoralized scientists, high emigration and a loss to the economic development of the country (Hecht, 2004).

2.1.2 Fisheries publications from developing countries


An exhaustive review would not be feasible, particularly given the difficulties in identifying and regularly obtaining much of the fisheries literature produced in developing countries. The figures and discussion throughout this section therefore refer mainly to serial publications, including scholarly journals, newsletters, trade and industry magazines, yearbooks and annual statistics, institutional technical, annual and working reports. These are publications with a serial title and consecutive numeration to uniquely identify each issue. Many of these titles would be categorized as grey literature. Nevertheless they include unique, important and difficult to obtain information about the fisheries in the respective countries.

Specific publications are not discussed but some of the organizations mentioned participated as case studies and their publications are covered in more detail in Part 3. The publishing process and format, for example print, digital or audio-visual are not covered in detail. However, the physical characteristics of publications will also determine the means of dissemination and access.

In 1998, the extent of the collection of fisheries serials published in developing regions and held by the FAO David Lubin Memorial Library was evaluated. The overall objective of this project was to create a wider awareness of these publications internationally and to make them more accessible. Given the mandate and history of FAO, the Library includes the most comprehensive collection of fisheries serials from developing countries (Pettman and Collins, 1999). A total of 612 unique fisheries serials titles were identified and added to the IAMSLIC Union List of Marine and Aquatic Serials, which facilitates inter-library cooperation and information resources sharing between libraries at international level.

The following breakdown of the 612 fisheries serial titles by region of publication gives an indication of the quantity of serial titles produced and disseminated.

Table 6: Fisheries journals in FAO Library by region of publication


Number of serials



Asia (excluding Japan)


Latin America and Caribbean


South Pacific Islands


Transitional Countries


2.1.3 Some regional and national publishing characteristics

This brief overview examines some regional and country characteristics and differences in the creation and publication of fisheries information. It is intended to give an indication of the scope and the variety of publishing practices. The mechanisms for organizing, managing and disseminating this information are extremely varied. Knowledge of these mechanisms is essential if users are to access the information they need. Several different categories of organization are identified as the most important sources of published fisheries and aquaculture information: regional organizations, national research institutions, government departments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations including societies and professional associations, and donor-funded programmes and projects. The latter include many nationally executed projects in all regions. For our purposes only those regional projects that are publishing extensively have been considered. In addition, the number of trade and industry magazines as well as commercially published journals from developing countries is increasing.

Regional Organizations

The regional organizations and programmes used as examples are those that have significant information and publishing activities. Some publish on behalf of member countries and institutions, while others compile information from member institutions to produce publications on the regional aspects of fisheries. Also of significance are the many regional fisheries bodies and arrangements that are concerned with fisheries management and publish a wealth of information. Some of these are major sources of fisheries publications in their region. These publications are made available to institutions in their respective member countries, internationally and increasingly full-text via the Internet. Further details of these bodies and their publications can be found at (FAO, 2004e).

Three regions in particular can be categorised as concentrating or coordinating much of their publishing and information activity in regional fisheries organizations. Taking into consideration the number of member countries represented, it is obvious that language is an important aspect for both the publishing and accessibility of their information. The following examples indicate the importance of regional organizations in information activities.

South-East Asia has several well-established regional fisheries and aquaculture organizations which publish extensively:

The Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA)

NACA participated as one of the case studies and further details are included in Part 3. NACA publishes extensively on behalf of its members. Its Internet based publishing mechanism, eNACA, employs a multi-media approach to repackage knowledge for distribution in a wide variety of formats to suit the circumstances and capabilities of different audiences. All publications are made available for download, on CD-ROM and in print. Currently eNACA is distributing 12,000 free publications per month via the Internet. Further information can be found at

The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC)

SEAFDEC is an autonomous intergovernmental body established in 1967 to promote fisheries development in Southeast Asia. The Center has a Secretariat and four technical Departments: the Training Department in Thailand, the Marine Fisheries Research Department in Singapore, the Aquaculture Department in the Philippines, and the Marine Fishery Resources Development and Management Department in Malaysia. SEAFDEC is currently made up of ten Member Countries. The various departments produce a large variety of publications on the fisheries and aquaculture of the region, the details of which are brought together on the homepage of the Secretariat at:

The Mekong River Commission (MRC)

MRC was established in 1995 by the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin. There are currently four member countries and regular dialogue with the two upper states of the Mekong River Basin. Details of MRC publications and their availability are online at

South Pacific: Regional organizations feature prominently in fisheries management in the South Pacific islands. They are also prominent in the publishing and dissemination of fisheries information in the region.

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

SPC is a regional technical and development organization working in partnership with its members, other organizations and donors to deliver priority work programmes to member countries and territories. SPC is the only bilingual (English/French) regional organization covering all 22 countries and territories of the Pacific. Its work programmes aim to develop the technical, professional, scientific, research, planning and management capability of Pacific Island people and directly provide information and advice, to enable them to make informed decisions about their future development and well-being. The Marine Resources Programme, including Coastal Fisheries, Oceanic Fisheries and the Regional Maritime Programme all publish extensively on regional issues. The cross-sectoral information activities at SPC, including health, gender, indigenous and traditional knowledge are all important aspects of fisheries. Most of their publications are available full-text online as well as in print. Further information:

Caribbean: Fisheries management tends to be organized on a regional basis and the publications of regional organizations are more widely known than the more fragmented publishing pattern of national institutions.

CARICOM Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has the mandate to promote and facilitate the responsible utilization of the region’s fisheries and other aquatic resources for the economic and social benefits of the current and future population of the region. The CRFM is the core of a complex interactive network of a wide variety of stakeholders in fisheries. Membership in the CRFM is open to all CARICOM countries. Publications are listed on the homepage but few are available online. The Caribbean Fisheries Technical Unit works in collaboration with Fisheries Departments in the region to produce additional publications. Further information at

National research institutions and government departments

In terms of the number of regular series published, national institutions produce by far the majority of fisheries publications. This is particularly the case in Africa and South America, where there are few regional organizations dedicated to fisheries and aquaculture and a lower level of publishing activity at regional level compared with Asia and the South Pacific. The publications of national research institutions and government departments fulfil the mandate of the organization to inform policy- makers and the fisheries sector as a whole.

This overview refers to the regular serial publications of national fisheries research institutions, government departments and a few educational or training institutions. Most of them fall into the grey literature category of: institutional reports, including statistics and annual research or administrative reports; project reports and newsletters. Some scholarly journals are published by national institutions in most regions. The following examples provide an indication of the number of fisheries titles published as well as the difficulties in gathering data.

Africa: The data for Africa was gathered as part of an ongoing collaboration that started in 2002 between FAO, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and a group of fisheries institutions in twelve African countries. One of the components of this collaboration is to improve the dissemination of and access to African fisheries and aquaculture publications. An initial exercise identified one hundred current titles produced regularly in the form of series. Searches of international databases and the Internet retrieved only an additional eight African fisheries series titles. Many more fisheries serial publications are being produced in Africa but tracking them down and maintaining regular access is difficult, even at national level (Kadzamira, Ngwira and Salanje, 2004). A complete list of current African fisheries and aquaculture serials was published in the Report of the 2003 Grahamstown Workshop (FAO, 2004f). Brief details are maintained by FAO in the Directory of Fisheries and Aquaculture Information Resources in Africa, available online at This illustrates that the vast majority are institutional and project reports or newsletters i.e. grey literature. Almost all are available in print format only and they are available at a limited number of locations. The departments of fisheries in several countries have established newsletters targeted at fishworkers and the fisheries sector as a whole. These provide an important channel of communication, particularly on issues of policy and regulations. Unfortunately many of these newsletters are short-lived, presumably due to lack of funding.

South and South-East Asia: There are obviously vast differences between countries such as the People’s Republic of China and India and smaller countries such as Cambodia and Lao PDR, both in terms of fisheries research programmes and the number of publications produced. However, national institutions are producing the most important publications in terms of relevant fisheries content in all of these countries. For example, the details of more than fifty Chinese journals related to fisheries shows that the majority are published by research institutions, societies and colleges (NOAA Libraries, 2004). A bibliometric analysis of fisheries research in the People’s Republic of China between 1994 and 1999 used data from three abstracting databases and three citation indexes. During the six years China published 2035 papers (roughly 4.5 to 5 percent of the world output). More than 95 percent of China’s papers were journal articles and about 78 percent of these appeared in 143 domestic journals. Less than one-eighth of the journal articles published by Chinese researchers were published in journals indexed in Science Citation Index, regarded as the high impact journals. Fisheries research institutes and fishery colleges are the major contributors of the Chinese research output in this area. (Arunachalam and Balaji, 2001).

Similarly, India is a prolific publishing country with more than twenty fisheries research institutions plus a number of societies, fishworker and other non governmental organizations that together produce more than forty regular serial titles. A study analysed India’s contribution to world literature on fisheries science by mapping fisheries and aquaculture research as reflected in the literature over a six year period (Balaji and Arunachalam, 2000). They analysed six databases for the years 1994-1999 and found that about 460 papers, roughly 5.5 percent of the world output, were from India each year. Eighty two percent of these papers were journal articles, close to 70 percent of them appearing in 113 Indian journals. Less than a third of the journal articles were published in journals indexed in Science Citation Index. About 61 percent of publications are contributed by government laboratories and over 25 percent by academic institutions. Government laboratories publish most of their work in low impact and low visibility journals and academic institutions in journals of medium impact. Balaji and Arunachalam went on to note that although China’s research output and its citation impact are less than those of India, China’s fish production and export earnings are far higher than those of India. The results of their bibliometric comparison led them to comment that probably China is better at bridging the gap between know-how (research) and do-how (technology and creation of employment and wealth) and also that China is strong in extension.

In contrast to these large, populous countries, both Lao PDR and Cambodia have few institutions working in fisheries and consequently they produce relatively few serial titles. However, the publishing pattern is similar inasmuch as national research and governmental institutions are the major producers of fisheries information in both countries. The Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre (LARReC), established in 1999 in Lao PDR is the only fisheries research institution in the country. It publishes two regular series, some of which are available full text via Mekonginfo at Other relevant publications are produced infrequently by NGOs and projects. The Department of Fisheries in Cambodia administers one freshwater and one marine fisheries research institute and publishes a Technical Report series online at An overview of information exchange within the fisheries sector of Cambodia also identified the Khmer language Cambodian Fisheries Newsletter, published quarterly by the Department of Fisheries as well as an Annual Report (Mee et al., 2003).

South America: An overview of institutions and organizations with fisheries related programmes in eight South American countries, Cuba and Ecuador was presented at the IAMSLIC Conference in 2002 (Cosulich and Silvoni, 2003). The paper analyses the results of a survey of the specialized information units of these institutions and discusses their collaboration in information-related activities as well as possibilities for the future. The thirteen South American institutions in their survey are characteristically governmental, including universities and national research institutions. Of the twenty three serial titles produced by the South American institutions surveyed, 50 percent are from national fisheries research institutions. South American institutions with fisheries related programmes are responsible for the publication of a large number of fisheries serial titles e.g. FAO Fisheries library has 59 current serial titles from this region. The library of Instituto Nacional de Investigacion y Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP) in Argentina recorded 55 current serial titles with the following breakdown: 11 published in Argentina, 15 in Brazil, 4 in Colombia, 8 in Chile, 2 in Ecuador, 6 in Peru, 8 in Uruguay and 1 in Venezuela. Very few of these are so far being published in digital format via the Internet.

Donor-funded regional programmes and projects

Large regional fisheries projects in the past have been implemented by international organizations such as FAO. Traditionally they published extensively on topics relevant to the individual member countries or on regional aspects of fisheries. One example of this type of project is the Bay of Bengal Programme, which during 28 years of implementation produced more than 220 publications on the fisheries of the region. Similarly, the South China Sea Fisheries Development and Coordinating Programme between 1973 and 1985 produced over 180 publications. Projects provided opportunities which did not otherwise exist for local research and development workers to publish. Many of these publications contain unique information and are still in demand.

More often nowadays, ongoing regional programmes, funded by a mixture of bilateral, national and intergovernmental agencies, publish their information via Internet-based interactive and participatory web sites. Two of the examples of projects publishing fisheries and aquaculture information via the Internet are based in Asia and the third in Africa:

Support to Regional Aquatic Resources Management (STREAM). The regional STREAM Initiative aims to offer support to the livelihoods of poor peoples who manage aquatic resources. STREAM is hosted in Bangkok by the Secretariat of the Network of Aquaculture Centres for Asia-Pacific and plans to cover up to 15 Asia Pacific countries. The STREAM Virtual Library provides access to a wealth of publications by theme, by country, and by serial title.

Mekonginfo is an interactive system for sharing information and knowledge about participatory natural resource management in the Lower Mekong Basin. Mekonginfo provides a variety of information services, in addition to over 4,000 documents in full-text, including a free Web hosting service. Mekonginfo is currently hosted by the Mekong River Commission.

Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP) based in Cotonou, Bénin. SFLP is a partnership between the Department for International Development (DFID), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and 25 participating countries in West Africa. The SFLP seeks to address the problem that information is lacking among fisheries communities and decision-makers. The SFLP communication strategy as a support to development activities is reflected in concrete terms through social communication (dialogue, consultation, participatory analysis of situations, decision-making etc), educational communication (sharing experiences and best practices, organisational development, sectoral information, etc.) and institutional communication (creating information flow, informing decision-makers, etc.). To facilitate the sharing of knowledge and the dissemination of lessons derived from SFLP experience, an Internet communication network linking the 25 countries has been put in place. The extensive publications of the project are freely downloadable from the website

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Many small NGOs, particularly at the national level, are actively involved in fisheries and aquaculture. Besides publishing newsletters and reports, they are generally more actively publishing on the Internet than are national institutions in some regions. Publishing relevant information for fishworkers and their associations is a major objective of many NGOs. They also inform the global community by covering the situation at grass roots level. The ICSF is an active information producer and works at international level. Further details of its mandate and information activities are covered in Part 3 and Annex 5 with case studies. The publications of NGOs are important for fisheries and often fill a gap between the impact of global decisions on local communities and their livelihoods.

Societies and Associations

Examples of the scholarly and peer-reviewed publications of professional societies are found at both national and regional level. They provide an opportunity for developing country scientists to publish in widely known and widely distributed journals. In terms of access they are similar to commercial journals but their availability at reasonable rates to members makes them an important source of information in developing countries. At national level, the Journal of Aquatic Sciences published by the Nigerian Association of Aquatic Sciences and the Journal of the Indian Fisheries Association are good examples. Some Conference Proceedings are also regularly published as a series, for example the Fisheries Society of Nigeria, Annual Conference Proceedings.

Even wider coverage is provided at regional level, for example Asian Fisheries Science, published by the Asian Fisheries Society and the newly launched Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science published by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA). Asian Fisheries Science was launched in 1987 in response to the need of fishery professionals in Asia for a reputable journal that they could afford to subscribe to and in which they could report their scientific findings.

India provides an interesting example of the benefits for the publishing process of professional associations and societies. A number of associations are based at the various research institutions, for example the Indian Fisheries Association (Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai), Inland Fisheries Society of India (Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Barrackpore), Society of Fisheries Technologists (Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, Matsyapuri). At the sixth Indian Fisheries Forum held in 2003 there were several suggestions on the need to strengthen the fisheries journals published by the various associations. These covered the need for certain uniform and co-ordinated norms for the benefit of fisheries scientists to strengthen the scientific base of fisheries developmental work in the field (Fishing Chimes, 2003).

Trade and Industry

There are several examples of newsletters and magazines published by the fisheries industry in developing countries, in particular Latin America and Asia. Apart from South Africa, no examples are known from other African countries. They provide up-to-date information on the current fishery situation in the country and bring relevant global information to their readership.

Scholarly Journals

This is the category of commercially published journal, which in developed countries would be published primarily by private for-profit companies. Often in developing countries it is still the professional societies and universities that publish scholarly journals on a commercial basis. As was pointed out earlier these journals are more likely to be regarded as having low impact on the scientific community at large and are often not well known outside the country of publication (Balaji and Arunachalam, 2000). Since the advent of online systems which disseminate the scholarly journals published in developing countries, a whole new spectrum of fisheries related information has become accessible. Examples of these services are given in Part 2.2.2. Many of the journals included in these systems are multidisciplinary, are not well indexed by international fisheries databases and their content was not previously well known by fisheries users.

2.2 Dissemination and accessibility of fisheries publications produced in developing countries

The previous section provided a brief overview of the fisheries publications produced by different types of organization in developing countries. The quantity and diversity of these publications poses challenges for libraries, which have to organize and manage information as a service to users, and for individuals who need easy and cost-effective access to fisheries information. Its accessibility is made more complex because of the issues already mentioned i.e. the subject area is broad and multidisciplinary, it has depth in terms of time and perspective and it encompasses scales from local to global. These factors make it essential for institutions and libraries to cooperate and to share the available information resources.

One of the biggest challenges for information providers in recent years is the impact of decentralization and other changing forms of fisheries governance. In the past, those seeking published fisheries information had an institutional affiliation with an established infrastructure to provide it. Now, the audience has broadened to include smaller local units of governance and the fishing community. This section mainly addresses the dissemination and accessibility of the type of fisheries information provided by libraries i.e. for the formal sector or those working in institutions or organizations. However, the information needs of the informal sector or those with no institutional affiliation should also be addressed if fisheries management is to succeed at local level.

The accessibility of locally produced publications is inseparable from the policies and mechanisms for its dissemination. Dissemination includes the ways in which people are made aware of a publication and sometimes, but not always, details of its availability. This may or may not enable the user to obtain or have access to the full text of the publication, depending on issues such as cost or the availability of the Internet.

2.2.1 Issues related to the dissemination and accessibility of local publications

The audience or user community

Just as the target audience determines the content and packaging of information, it also determines how information is disseminated so it can be discovered and easily accessed. As was already mentioned, the target audience is a complex and ever-changing aspect of information provision. For example, the trend towards decentralization passes responsibility to smaller and diverse units of society that normally do not depend upon the formal structure of organizations and institutions for their information. Similarly, the availability of information via the Internet is changing the way fishworkers seek and use information, as well as the way they approach administrators and managers (K. Koranteng, personal communication, 2004). Knowing the audience is all-important for the providers of information and library services. The primary audience, usually the staff of the parent institution, is relatively easy as close working relationships ensure that the information needs are known. More difficult are the secondary and external users. A Nigerian study to find the differences between scientists and policy-makers in the way that they approached information, found that only 59 percent of information made available to policy-makers suits their needs. Timely information was the most important criterion for this group and information written in simple lucid language the second (Ibeun, 2004). In addition to the shifting audience, the dynamic nature of fisheries means that the information needs also shift. For example, the expanding needs for information in aquaculture for policy-making, planning and management have been attributed to growing concerns over sustainability and the environment (Cho, 2001). Issues related to the changing audience as well as their changing information needs are relevant for the provision of global as well as local information.

Assessment of information needs

There have been many case studies at the individual country and local community level to identify the categories of users and to assess their information needs. Specific information needs can only be assessed at this level as there is neither a global picture nor a universal solution. A study on the information needs, information-seeking behaviour, and the impact of information use on artisanal fishers and extension agents at three major lakes in Uganda highlighted the importance of understanding the kind of information needed to carry out different functions (Ikoja-Odongo and Ocholla, 2003). The methods they favour for accessing information are described, and the role of government departments in fisheries information provision is described. The range of information needed is mainly to resolve specific problems, is very wide and is largely obtained from within the community or via the radio. Information is also obtained from formal sources, although to a much lesser extent, including the Fisheries Department, NGOs, local and other government departments and fisheries associations.

An information access survey carried out by STREAM in Viet Nam noted specific information needs at community level, including technical information, and the preferred means of access. Also noted were the poor level of information sharing and communication between the various agencies and projects in Viet Nam and the fact that research results rarely reach the local pool of knowledge. (Felsing and Nguyen, 2003).

Many of the issues related to information needs and channels of access in these and other country level studies are common. These include:

Several regional studies have also identified information needs e.g. (Southern African Development Community, 2001), although these are necessarily of a more generalized nature and often reflect the need for sharing expertise and information at regional level.

2.2.2 Mechanisms for dissemination

Distribution of publications

Distribution is the physical delivery of publications, often confused with dissemination, which is the employment of various mechanisms to create an awareness that the publications exist. In Part 2.1 it was mentioned that the costs involved in the production and distribution of publications can be prohibitive for many institutions. Compounding this problem in some regions, for example many of the countries in Africa, is the lack of an adequate and reliable infrastructure for postal deliveries to be effective. As a result the distribution mechanisms are poor and institutions often rely on meetings and personal visits as the only opportunity. This certainly impedes distribution to countries outside of Africa, but they are often poorly distributed between African countries and in some cases even within the country of publication. For example, there are relatively few fisheries institutions in Malawi producing a small number of publications. The staff of Bunda Library conducted site visits during 2003 and collected 61 fisheries publications which they had not previously been aware of and which were not covered by international fisheries databases. None of the institutions surveyed in Malawi, apart from the academic institutions, has a policy or mechanism to ensure that local publications are easily and readily accessible to other users, either within or outside the country.

Exchange agreements

Institutions maintain exchange agreements with similar institutions in part to mitigate some of the expense of distribution by the availability of external publications relevant to their work. Agreements offer a relatively inexpensive way to develop library collections. Often the fisheries libraries in developing countries are responsible, at least in part, for the publishing programme of their institution as well as for building and maintaining the directory of exchange partners. This arrangement helps to ensure that distribution is targeted and that relevant publications are received in exchange.

The FAO Fisheries Library has exchange agreements with many fisheries institutions in developing countries. While difficult and time-consuming to maintain a current collection, these publications are vital to many FAO Fisheries Department programmes of work. Interestingly, FAO receives many more developing country publications than do other institutions in the same region. There are frequent examples of these publications not being available in other libraries in the same country. The exchange agreements of the institutions participating in the Grahamstown Workshop showed more active programmes with institutions in developed countries than with neighbouring countries. At the same time, the sharing of fisheries information at regional level is given high importance in the objectives of almost all regional programmes and projects.

Local publications in library collections

Notwithstanding the grey nature of most African fisheries publications, the specialized collections of local publications are the most heavily used resources in many institutions. They include the results of fisheries research and development in Africa and provide the most relevant content for the fisheries sector as a whole. Two examples of this type of collection are the Malawi fisheries and aquaculture collection at Bunda College of Agriculture (Lilongwe) and the Nigerian fisheries and aquatic sciences collection at the National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research (New Bussa). Both institutions emphasize the importance of their specialized collections of local publications, which are organized and searchable in-house by means of CDS/ISIS bibliographic databases.

These collections of local fisheries publications are regarded as the most important information resources by their institutions and by external library users, who in many cases travel considerable distances to access them. Nevertheless, even at national level they are difficult to keep up to date and comprehensive because of publishing costs, lack of awareness and inadequate distribution.

Coverage in international databases

As previously mentioned, the fisheries publications produced in developing countries fall largely into the grey literature category, which by definition is difficult to track and obtain. In many cases the problem is compounded by the lack of financial resources to improve their production, dissemination and distribution. This has a definite negative impact on the capture and coverage of this information in international databases, which still provide the main mechanism for dissemination to an international audience.

The ASFA partnership enhances access to local fisheries information through incorporation into this major bibliographic database (FAO, 2004b). The need for improved coverage of African publications, particularly those from francophone Africa, has long been recognized (Kaba, 2004). FAO provides the Secretariat for ASFA, which coordinates the input of records from over fifty input centres around the world. Kaba attributed the poor coverage of African literature in part to the small number of ASFA input centres in sub-Saharan Africa, four in 2003 and only one of those in francophone West Africa. The language of input, predominantly English, is one barrier to participation. Another is the lack of resources necessary to act as an input centre. Kaba suggests that national and subregional networks to enable collaborative input to the database in Africa would provide a means to improve coverage and to build a body of expertise. Since the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) became the first African ASFA partner and input centre in 1996, the coverage of literature produced in Eastern Africa has greatly improved. Commencing in 2004, the participation of Nigeria, Mauritania and Tanzania as ASFA input centres will further increase coverage of African fisheries publications.

The International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology (AGRIS) is another international bibliographic database coordinated by FAO and mandated to cover all the sectors in which FAO works, including fisheries. Some 240 national, international and intergovernmental centres participate in AGRIS and the coverage of fisheries publications by some countries is good. Searching AGRIS for fisheries information from these countries is essential. However, searching AGRIS for the world’s fisheries literature is less comprehensive than ASFA. The overlap between AGRIS and ASFA can be confusing to some information seekers.

In cases where input to fisheries databases is centralized at an institution in a developed country, the coverage of African literature is often better. For example, Kaba indicates that there is generally better coverage of the francophone African fisheries publications in the HORIZON database produced by l’Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD). Le Fonds Documentaire of IRD (FDI), a bibliographic database with links to full text documents, integrates almost all research publications produced since the 1960s in francophone Africa. However, this approach does not integrate the information with the global literature at international level.

Several commercially published databases, such as CABI, include fisheries although they tend not to cover the grey literature published in developing countries. The publisher NISC produces the Aquatic Biology, Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources (ABAFR) database, which includes developing country fisheries literature. The NISC South Africa (NISC SA) partner ensures strong coverage of the African literature in particular. NISC SA evaluated the coverage of African fisheries publications in the ASFA and ABAFR databases in 2002 (Lawrie, Crampton and Hully, 2004). Almost 50 percent of the serial titles identified were not located in either of the databases. Additionally, those serials that are indexed by either ASFA or ABAFR are not always covered in full. From the point of view of international database publishers, the main difficulties in covering these titles are lack of awareness of their existence, lack of current contact information and the disproportionate amount of time and cost involved in trying to obtain them.

Repositories of fisheries and aquaculture publications

The digitization of fisheries publications and the opportunities for dissemination, as well as the challenges for preservation it provides, can overshadow the existing wealth of print resources. The inadequate preservation of fisheries publications in many developing countries and the unavailability of previous research and development findings often results in a continuous repetition of work, a waste of resources and loss of the experience gained from one generation to the next. The national library in many countries acts as a repository for all national publications, although fisheries institutions are often unaware of the advantages of this arrangement, in particular as a means of preservation. A case can be made for regional repositories where the resources for preservation and access at national level are inadequate and where an institution is either mandated or willing to take on the task.

SAIAB Library in South Africa has offered to act as a repository for all print African fisheries and aquaculture publications. A mechanism has already been put in place with several institutions and their current publications are being supplied to SAIAB. In addition to the responsibility of providing access to these publications, SAIAB will provide its own journals on an exchange basis. This arrangement would also ensure better coverage of African fisheries literature in the ABAFR database by means of the collaboration between SAIAB and the publisher NISC SA.

Dissemination and access via Internet

The Internet increases the opportunities for dissemination and the visibility of fisheries publications, although the proportion from developing countries is still relatively small compared with the enormous amount of information from the developed world. Their accessibility by many institutions in developing countries is also limited by the lack, or the inadequate bandwidth, of Internet connectivity.

An indication of the number of fisheries journals which are disseminated via Internet can be found in the FAO Fisheries Library’s online directory of journals at The level of content provided by each journal is variable, from basic availability details, tables of contents and abstracts to those which are available in full text. Out of approximately 400 fisheries and aquatic science journals in the directory, about 20 percent are published in developing countries. This figure includes the journals published by regional and international organizations working in developing countries.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of web based systems and services to disseminate scholarly journals from developing countries. One such service to provide access to African published research and increase worldwide knowledge of indigenous scholarship is African Journals Online (AJOL) AJOL currently covers over 200 journals, including the following core aquatic sciences and fisheries journals:

African Journal of Aquatic Science (South Africa)
Journal of Aquatic Sciences (Nigeria)
Tropical Freshwater Biology (Nigeria)
African Journal of Tropical Hydrobiology and Fisheries (Uganda)

Many of the multidisciplinary journals covered by AJOL also include fisheries and aquatic sciences articles. The contents tables and abstracts are available via Internet with the option to order copies of the full text article, either at no cost for the poorest countries or against payment for the rest.

A system for the dissemination of scientific and technical serial publications from Latin America is the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO), which has established publishing policies, standards and quality criteria. The general goal of the SciELO Project is to contribute to the development of national scientific research by improving and expanding its means of dissemination, publication, and evaluation through the intensive use of electronic publishing. In the short term, the SciELO Project intends to radically increase the national and international visibility, accessibility and credibility of the Latin American and Caribbean scientific publications, through the integrated publishing of national and regional collections of scientific journals on the Internet. In the long term, the project envisions to increase the impact of the scientific literature from these regions. The coverage includes several journals relevant for fisheries but no core fisheries titles. Further information: lang=en

Several systems provide Internet access to journals from developing countries, although the coverage of fisheries journals is not comprehensive. Their stated goal is to make the information available to the international research community world-wide. One example is Bioline International (BI), a not-for-profit electronic publishing service committed to providing open access to quality research journals, including those published in developing countries. BI’s goal of reducing the South to North knowledge gap is crucial to a global understanding of health, biodiversity, the environment, conservation and international development. With peer-reviewed journals from Brazil, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe BI makes the bioscience information generated in these countries available to the international research community world-wide. BI does not cover any core fisheries or aquatic sciences journals but several of the multidisciplinary ones include fisheries subjects e.g. Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management published in Nigeria

Further work is needed to analyse the usage statistics of these systems. Such comparison of the rate of access by developing country scientists compared with access from developed countries would demonstrate the relative value of these systems.

Digitization programmes

The opportunities for publishing, as well as improved dissemination and distribution will be much greater when full-text online publishing via the Internet is a realistic possibility for fisheries institutions in developing countries. At present it is mainly the regional fisheries organizations in developing countries, such as NACA and SPC, which are publishing digital documents and disseminating them full text via Internet. Few national fisheries institutions are systematically making available their publications in full-text digital format. Several are planning to do so and one of the hazards for the future seems to be that digitization is being planned with different partners, different formats, different metadata standards and different methodologies for the preservation and archiving of digital publications. Future developments in open archives, digital repositories, metadata harvesters and other necessary tools of the digital age will only be effective if agreed standards are adopted.

Efforts are being made, for example in IAMSLIC and IFLA, for libraries to collaborate now to ensure the adoption of agreed standards, thus avoiding the incompatibility problems which face most library catalogues today. A project started in 2004 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO in cooperation with Limburg University (Belgium) intends to create a digital repository of African fisheries and oceanography publications. The starting point will be digitization of the publications of the IOC focal points in 20 African countries, the ODINAFRICA partners. Further information can be found at

2.2.3 Constraints to accessibility

Most of the issues presented refer to access to information via libraries by those affiliated to government departments, research or educational institutions i.e. the formal sector. Many of the constraints on libraries in developing countries to provide effective access to information are not only faced by the fisheries sector. A recent UN report (United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2003) discussed the value of library services in development and very clearly stated the constraints faced in many developing countries. The report also highlighted the opportunities which libraries provide to harness information and knowledge for the benefit of education, empowerment and economic development.

In order to propose mechanisms for improved access to information it is necessary to have a better understanding of where the constraints originate and why. The focus of the following is on Africa. However, the constraints are common in many developing countries and are not uncommon in developed countries.

Institutional constraints

Funding: Library governance in general is not well defined. A perpetual problem of libraries is finding the correct niche so that the library budget is measured alongside the information needed for effective research and development. Too often the library is grouped with administration in the institutional structure and its costs are seen as purely administrative. Libraries in this scenario are competing with, for example, scientists for scarce financial resources and the competition is seldom on an equal footing. The result is that the library budget is inadequate, and in some cases non existent, for the acquisition of publications and access to information. The differences between countries as well as the cultural differences in how libraries are valued also need to be taken into account.

Qualified staff: Some governmental institutions do not have an established post which requires a qualified professional to head information services. Many of the constraints identified at the Grahamstown Workshop were attributed to the lack of real government support for an information infrastructure, policy and development at national level. This is seen as the main reason for the lack of adequately qualified staff in many fisheries and other governmental research institution libraries. The provision of specialized subject-based library services requires staff qualified at least to graduate and preferably to post-graduate level. They should be motivated, have career prospects and have the support of the institutional hierarchy.

Inadequate library collections: The situation reported by many national fisheries institutions indicates that basic library collections are inadequate to support growing fisheries research and management programmes. In addition to the very low library budgets for the purchase of information resources, the lack of adequate methods for the dissemination and distribution of national publications means that even these collections are far from complete and current. In the absence of adequate distribution, or at least a system of alerting people to the existence of publications, there is obviously low awareness of them. Cases where the library staff has to travel long distances to the various publishers of relevant information in their country are not uncommon. Apart from the inefficiency of this arrangement it is also dependent on the availability of funds. For example in Malawi only the two academic institutions out of the seven fisheries related organizations surveyed have a policy or mechanism to ensure that local publications are easily and readily accessible to other users. This applies to users in Malawi as well as to those outside the country. As a result, most publications are kept in individual offices and are not organized or catalogued in any way. (Kadzamira, Ngwira and Salanje, 2004). At the same time students and researchers in some countries are forced to travel long distances to libraries in order to obtain the information they need. The research grants in some institutions include travel to other countries in order to obtain information. Donor programmes such as those of the International Foundation for Science give grantees an amount to cover the purchase of information during their research. None of these examples contributes to the availability of information in the long term, either at institutional or national level. Consequently many libraries in developing countries rely almost entirely on donations and free distribution of the publications of international organizations.

National constraints

Government support for an information infrastructure and development at national level is of primary importance. Many developing countries are disadvantaged by an inadequate information infrastructure and by the lack of a functional national information policy to guide development. The success of national library and information networks depends upon some degree of coordination and agreement on the norms and standards to be adopted. In developing countries this role would normally be performed by government. The lack of effective inter-library cooperation at national level in many countries contributes to even weaker access to information in resource-poor situations. For example, fisheries libraries rely heavily on national socio-economic, trade, environmental and other information related to the particular country. In the absence of a national system to foster information exchange, access is severely limited. Rosenberg questions the relevance of information resource sharing in Africa and concludes that the underlying problems which have caused the decline in information services must be solved before libraries can benefit from networking (Rosenberg, 1993). Most of these problems have to be solved at national level.

The cost of publishing in multiple languages is a constraint in many countries. Limitations exist even taking into consideration only the official languages. For example India has thirteen official languages and the barriers to information access are well illustrated in a country like Uganda, which has fifty-six local languages. Users are also confronted with the problem that most information systems do not cater for multiple languages in their search and retrieval functions.

2.2.4 Existing strategies to improve access at national level

Information resource sharing and networking

The information on the fisheries in a specific locality or a specific country is normally the most important resource for the sector as a whole in that country. Organizing, managing and disseminating this information is one of the most important functions of the libraries of national institutions concerned with fisheries. Ensuring that this information is accessible by all at the level where livelihoods are concerned and fisheries management is implemented is a major challenge. The maintenance of local collections and their dissemination to all stakeholders is more effective where libraries collaborate at the national level. This ensures that locally generated information is used and consequently validated. The broad subject base of fisheries makes it essential that libraries provide a wide range of information. However, inadequate budgets and institutional missions often preclude a multidisciplinary collection. Inter-library cooperation at the national level is therefore essential to provide access to the breadth of fisheries-related information, including environmental and general science, socio-economics, legislation and information on national markets and trade. To facilitate the exchange of information, fisheries libraries should adopt national standards in the development of their own information systems. This is particularly true where human and financial resources are limited and the country cannot yet support technological diversity. Compatibility applies to national metadata standards and library software as well as digitization standards. However, in order to share information resources at regional and international level, libraries must also adopt specialized subject metadata standards. For example, taxonomic and geographic terminologies are very important in fisheries. Standards must be adopted which allow information to be disseminated and shared across systems.

Few fisheries libraries in Africa are members of national library networks that are well developed, formal networks with stated objectives, benefits and obligations. Two examples of the latter type of network in Africa are the Ghana Agricultural Information Network System (GAINS) and SABINET Online in South Africa The fisheries institutions in both countries participate in these networks and are able to access a much wider range of information at national level, in particular the non core but important related subject areas. South Africa has the most comprehensive collections of fisheries literature in Africa and the most well developed library network for sharing resources. However, many other countries in Africa do not have such well established library networks, at least from the point of view of the fisheries libraries. The study on Fisheries information needs in Asia noted that on the whole fisheries information centres and libraries in Asia operated independently or in isolation (Cho, 1995). A recent example of library networking at national level is in Viet Nam with the Fisheries Information Centre at the Ministry of Fisheries as coordinator. Participants include the four fisheries and aquaculture research institutes, national universities and vocational schools with fisheries programmes. A shared fisheries library database is being established to facilitate resources sharing. (Felsing and Nguyen, 2003).

The need for a very broad range of diverse information resources strengthens the case for participation in library networks at national level. In cases where national inter-library arrangements exist and are able to satisfy peripheral subject requests, the availability of fisheries literature is often limited via these channels. This is particularly the case in those countries which have only one or at most two fisheries institutions. In most African countries, the fisheries institutions do not have access to the global fisheries information and documentation they need at national level and depend upon regional and international cooperation to obtain it.

2.3 Access to global fisheries information in developing countries


Access to the large volume of information published mainly in developed countries and available either on a commercial or an exchange basis is critical to fisheries science and responsible management. The availability in many developing countries is limited because of the high costs or the requirements of exchange agreements. Many fisheries meetings have reported that the lack of access to timely and relevant information is a major constraint to the development and management of fisheries and aquaculture. However, there is little reference to what those information needs are or how they can best be met. For example, there is little published on the information resources that are available locally and to what extent these are being used to satisfy information needs at national level. It is essential that we understand the existing mechanisms and how they can be improved before trying to fill information gaps, particularly when financial resources are limited. Information costs are high, not just the one-time acquisition or access transaction, but ensuring long-term access for future generations also involves the costs of organization and preservation. Cost effective mechanisms need to be explored so that information needs can be satisfied over the long term.

2.3.1 Issues related to the accessibility of global information

The value of information and libraries

Many of the issues and constraints related to access to local fisheries information also apply to global information. For example, the physical location of information, the gaps in information, the time and costs involved in gathering information are equally relevant. These issues are invariably related to economic factors and the concept of information value is not well documented in the fisheries literature. There is rarely any calculation of the cost of duplicating research or of loss of livelihood, or even life, as a result of the lack of information. Whereas commercial publishers are well aware of the costs and the "value" of information in terms of profits, there is little evidence of an equivalent awareness of the value of information in fisheries research programmes or institutional budgets. This is possibly because of the difficulty of measuring the impact of information on an individual or an institution, not to mention society in general.

Studies have been carried out which contribute to an understanding of the value of libraries in various sectors and situations. For example, The Value of Library Services in Development which was published in 2003 suggests that a return on investment analysis should be used in demonstrating the monetary value of libraries to their parent organizations and communities. The funding of libraries should be viewed as profitable investments in development and as the provision of public goods which help in the efficient use of scarce financial resources (United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2003).

Internet connectivity

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in its World Telecommunication Development Report 2003 states that as we enter the new millennium, almost every country in the world has a direct connection to the Internet. ITU goes on to point out that, although this is an impressive achievement, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) penetration levels vary among and within countries, creating a digital divide between those with high and those with low access levels. Measuring access level as a simple per capita function is convenient and useful for comparing general differences between countries but it can be misleading about the situation within countries.

In addition to global comparisons and statistics on Internet access, there are many studies on the situation in individual countries or regions, although for our purposes only the status in fisheries institutions is of interest. For example, an Information Access Survey (IAS) in Cambodia was carried out by the Support to Regional Aquatic Resources Management (STREAM) programme in 2002. The purpose of the IAS was to identify and recommend means of communication that are appropriate to aquatic resources management stakeholders, focusing in particular on poor rural communities (Mee, et al., 2003). The findings of this report are common to many developing countries i.e. the Internet remains an urban phenomenon and is expensive. It is not widely available to government offices and many research institutions, particularly outside the capital city, and NGOs are more likely to have access to both e-mail and the Internet than are fisheries researchers and managers. However, the level of Internet access in many fisheries organizations, institutions and communities in developing countries is improving. For example, the Internet connection at Bunda College of Agriculture improved from a 14KB dial-up line to a 64KB radio link in 2004. However, the actual problems of low bandwidth and high cost have still to be resolved.

Fisheries institutions in many developing countries are slowly progressing towards full and more reliable Internet access. In the interim and until access is affordable, substantial numbers in the fisheries sector rely on print and other media. Their information needs must also be taken into consideration for as long as is necessary.

Multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary information

As has already been stated, fisheries rely upon a broad subject base of information. However, inadequate budgets and institutional missions often preclude a multidisciplinary library collection. In addition, the lack of overlap between many of the disciplines involved in fisheries means that the core literature must be supplemented from related areas such as oceanography, environment, economics, rural development and sociology. According to a recent article, the lack of resolution of many fisheries management problems is attributed in part to the insularity of the different disciplines (Pontecorvo, 2003). He suggests that there is little interaction between fisheries biologists, economists and oceanographers because of the disciplinary language barrier and the need to protect a political position.

Whatever the reasons, providing access to the full spectrum of fisheries information is too costly for most individual institutions. Inter-library cooperation for the sharing of information resources, and therefore costs, is more well-established in the developed world than it is in many developing countries. These arrangements can take many forms, including shared acquisition or access consortia and shared or interoperable catalogues to facilitate speedy access to each other’s collections.

The audience

The audience considered in this section is the formal sector of researchers, educators and managers affiliated to institutions and organizations that normally obtain information via libraries. The situation from country to country is very different in terms of scale. Several case studies identifying the relevant organizations and the information used were presented at the Grahamstown Workshop (FAO, 2004f). For example, Malawi identified seven institutions with fisheries programmes and carried out an in-depth survey of users, the publications produced and the information needed (Kadzamira, Ngwira and Salanje, 2004). By comparison, this level of analysis was not possible for Nigeria which identified over 40 institutions with fisheries programmes and a further 36 State Departments of Fisheries (Ibeun, 2004).

In addition to the staff of the institutions, categorized as the primary library users, the other groups identified were students, NGOs and increasingly the private sector. Few libraries identified civil society as a primary audience.

Assessment of global information needs

Specific fisheries information needs in developing countries in terms of scientific and other scholarly literature is not well documented. An exception is the study in Nigeria on the information sources used by Nigerian fisheries scientists and policy-makers (Ibeun, 2004). Having ascertained that journals are the most frequently consulted source of information, effort was made to identify the core journal titles. One hundred and eight relevant journal titles were identified and the twenty five most frequently consulted journals were checked against library holdings. Researchers consult what is available in the library or what they can obtain directly from authors or colleagues. The article concludes that gaps in the collection and the lack of current subscriptions means that Nigerian fisheries and aquaculture scientists are not exposed to current issues in fisheries internationally and are therefore not part of the global information village.

Other assessments have tended to concentrate on the type of information needed e.g. policy or science; or on the type of user e.g. fisheries resource user or policy-maker. A comprehensive study on the fisheries information needs and opportunities in Asia in 1995 suggested that existing efforts are relatively successful in organizing and disseminating published scientific and technical literature, but they are not effective in meeting the information needs of the key actors in aquatic resource management (administrators, managers, policy-makers and planners, coastal communities, and aid and development agencies). The same study noted that only a few national fisheries libraries in Southeast Asia had access to international information sources such as ASFA, AGRIS and other bibliographic or full text databases. Of the twelve national fisheries libraries in six countries that the author visited only one had an ASFA subscription. This was explained by the fact that information providers in Southeast Asia do not actively use international information sources. The key reasons given were: (1) the information sources and services are not well known to many information providers; (2) access to the sources is not convenient; (3) language and professional barriers make it difficult to effectively use international sources and services; and (4) materials found in the international sources are not relevant to the needs of their users (Cho, 1995). This situation has changed dramatically, particularly in those countries with reliable and affordable Internet access. There is increasing demand and increasing availability of fisheries databases such as ASFA and full text journals via AGORA in many Southeast Asian countries. Many of the key reasons for lack of access in 1995 are much less relevant today.

Several regional projects and initiatives have identified information needs in connection with capacity building and the strengthening of regional collaboration in the management of fishery resources. The Regional Fisheries Information Project (RFIS) of the Fisheries and Marine Resources Sector Coordinating Unit of SADC (Southern African Development Community) was implemented between 2001 and 2003. Information needs assessments concentrated more on statistical data, information technology and the Internet-based exchange of information than on the broader needs for scientific and related information. However, the project stated that the expressed information needs for effective fisheries management cover both data and information. The project objectives included support to the information requirements of regional organizations promoting the management of shared marine resources and to support the development of regional human capacity in this area. Reports covering the project outputs are available at: Another example is the ACP-EU Fisheries Research Initiative, which promoted interdisciplinary research and emphasized strengthening regional and subregional cooperation through the promotion of joint information systems as a pre-requisite for regional fisheries management programmes. Access to further information and some of the Initiative reports can be found at

In connection with implementation of the Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) service, a survey was carried out to ascertain which journals are available and which are needed by the research and academic communities in eligible countries. The responses from fisheries-related institutions indicated that journal subscriptions which were held in the 1980s and 1990s were in most cases discontinued due to lack of funds. The fisheries journals most frequently cited as relevant are shown in Table 7.

Table 7: Fisheries journals cited as the most important in the AGORA survey

Journal title

Journal title

African J.Aquatic Sciences

Fisheries Management and Ecology


Fisheries Oceanography


Fisheries Research

Aquaculture Nutrition

Fishery Bulletin

Aquaculture Research

ICES J. Marine Sci.

Aquatic Conservation:Mar.and Fresh.Eco.

Journal of Exp.Mar.Biol.and Ecol.

Aquatic Living Resources

Journal of Fish Biology

Bamidgeh: Israeli J.Aquaculture

Journal of Fish Diseases

Botanica Marina

Journal of Plankton Research

Bulletin of Marine Science

Journal of the World Aquaculture Soc.

Canadian J.Fish andAquatic Sci.


Coastal Engineering

Limnology and Oceanography

Coastal Management

Marine and Freshwater Research

Conservation Biology

Marine Biology

Coral Reefs

Marine Ecology Progress Series

Deep Sea Research

Marine Pollution Bulletin

Ecology of Freshwater Fish

North American J.Fisheries Management

Environmental Biology of Fishes

Océanologica Acta

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Sciences

Progress in Oceanography

Fish and Fisheries

Wetlands Ecology and Management

Africa: During the past three years FAO has been working with a small group of African fisheries libraries to identify specific information needs and to propose ways of improving access, including information resources sharing activities. This activity is building upon another FAO project which started in 1999 to provide African fisheries institutions in LIFDCs with the ASFA database, initially on CD-ROM and ASFA Online where Internet access is available. This initiative is having a positive impact on the information capacity of recipient institutions. They have reported that the database is proving useful in their research and development activities and that the bibliographic data and abstracts enable them to identify essential publications.

However, many institutions also reported that they have difficulty in locating and then obtaining copies of the necessary documents, in print or digital formats. This appears to be a fairly widespread problem for fisheries and aquaculture institutions in Africa and has been identified as a major constraint to research in particular. To try and alleviate this problem and find ways to improve access to fisheries and aquaculture information and documentation, FAO Fisheries Department initiated a small project in collaboration with SAIAB. The SAIAB Library has a comprehensive collection, historical as well as current, including over 600 current periodicals in the aquatic sciences. The main objective of the collaboration was to work with a core group of fisheries libraries, to collect more specific data on the information needed and to propose mechanisms for improving access to fisheries publications. In order to collect better data, the SAIAB Library provides documents (print or digital) to the participating institutions or the requests are re-directed to alternative sources, including online resources, obviously bearing in mind any copyright restrictions.

SAIAB’s role in coordinating the flow of requests and queries, i.e. acting as the hub of the network, is based on the excellent resources of its Library and the willingness of SAIAB to explore ways of making these resources available for the benefit of fisheries institutions in other African countries. As part of the National Research Foundation, SAIAB is one of the partners in the Africa Interaction Programme which aims to expand scientific cooperation between scientists in South Africa and their counterparts in the rest of Africa.

The overall objectives of the project are to enhance the information capabilities of fisheries institutions and to strengthen the links between fisheries libraries through South-South and North-South collaboration. It focused on three separate but related areas of activity, mainly because of the different levels of complexity. These areas were document request and delivery; information resources sharing and improved dissemination of African fisheries publications. The diversity of the participating institutions did not make a significant difference in terms of the information required. The need for information in the same sources was found to be the most important element in the collaboration. Whether the institution is freshwater or marine, research or academic, Francophone or Anglophone, in southern, western or eastern Africa is less relevant than their needs for global fisheries information.

Even during the first year of network activity, it became obvious that the institutions need a much broader and deeper subject base of information than merely the current core aquatic science journals (FAO, 2004f). During 2002 a total of 504 documents were requested, including articles from 248 different periodical titles, of which only 107 fell into the aquatic sciences category i.e. regarded as core journals. The dates of publication requested showed a definite need for older as well as current literature. Almost 25 percent were for pre 1980 articles, 35 percent were published in the 1980s, 32 percent in the 1990s and less than 8 percent from 2000 onwards. The most frequently requested titles were commercially published journals, often expensive and probably not held by any fisheries libraries in most African countries.

During 2003 the statistics show requests for 195 different journal titles and publication years dating back to the 1940s. Compared with 2002, a much greater proportion of requests were for more recent material. This could be explained by the fact that the libraries had a backlog of requests for older articles which they had previously been unable to obtain. Also, the impact of using ASFA or ABAFR for the identification of more recent material was beginning to emerge.

In both years, there were few requests for journals published in Africa, although in 2003 some titles began to appear in the statistics. One example is the Global Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences, published in Nigeria. A possible explanation is that these journals are often interdisciplinary and, although they include fisheries articles, they are not adequately monitored by the international databases ASFA and ABAFR. The extremely wide range of journal titles requested and the large number of articles published before 1990 also indicate that even when we achieve full Internet connectivity and online access to full-text current documents, many of the requests will still have to be satisfied from print collections.

Table 8: Most frequently requested journals by number of requests







Journal of Fish Biology






Journal of Fish Biology




Environmental Biology of Fishes


Transactions of the American Fish. Soc.


Global Journal of Pure and Applied Science


Canadian J. of Fisheries and Aquatic Sci.




Indian Journal of Fisheries




Zeit. Mikros. Anatom. Fors.


Canadian J. of Fisheries and Aquatic Sci.


Journal of Aquatic Animal Health




Marine Policy


North American Journal of Aquaculture


Archiv fur Hydrobiologie


Aquaculture Research


Fish and Shellfish Immunology


Bangladesh Journal of Training and Dev.


Journal of Applied Ichthyology


Economic Affairs (Calcutta)




Fisheries Research


Acta Anatomica


Journal of Aquatic Plant Management


Bulletin of Marine Science


Journal of the Helminth.Soc.Washington


Diseases of Aquatic Organisms


Journal of Zoology


Folia Parasitologica


Netherlands Journal of Sea Research


Indian Journal of Helminthology


North American J. of Fisheries Management


Journal of Food Technology


Onderstepoort J. of Veterinary Research


Table 9: Total requests by year of publication







No date


No date










































In both years there were a fairly high percentage of requests which could not be met (40 percent in 2002 and 31 percent in 2003). Two reasons explain most of the unfulfilled requests:

Libraries were encouraged to reduce their requests to SAIAB for peripheral subjects and requests for journals published in Africa were directed to an institution in the country of publication wherever possible. The subject areas of the journals requested could be broadly classified into five main groups, namely:

The need for diverse information resources across many subject areas strengthens the case for participation in library networks at national level, in particular for the peripheral and related subject areas. Such cooperation expands access to information while sharing the cost and avoiding duplication of resources and effort.

2.3.2 Existing strategies to provide access to global fisheries information

Full text online journals

Internet access to full text digital information provides a huge opportunity for the international fisheries community. Internet also offers potential for the publication and dissemination of information generated in developing countries. Already in 2003, fisheries libraries in Ghana, Malawi and Uganda were able to access full text journals thanks to the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP). The Library Support Programmes of INASP include training, capacity building and improved access to information. However, the fisheries libraries in many countries are outside of the mainstream and are unaware of the larger multidisciplinary initiatives available in their country. There is a need for awareness-raising and some degree of training or hands-on experience with the multitude of new services becoming available.

Since the launch of AGORA at FAO in 2003, over 350 institutions in 53 countries have registered to use the service. AGORA provides access to over 500 scholarly journals in the broad agricultural and environmental sciences. Fisheries institutions are well represented amongst those registered and core fisheries and aquatic science journals are ca. 12 percent of the total. Registering with these services is the first step but it must be followed up by activities of awareness raising, user-training and regular updating on the availability of new journals and new systems. Those libraries without adequate Internet access to be able to benefit from AGORA and other full text services must depend to an even greater degree on collaboration with other libraries. The commercial publishers have strictly adhered to eligibility criteria for free online journal access, which normally depend upon national income levels.

Table 10: Fisheries and aquatic science journals available via AGORA

Ambio (BioOne)

Journal of Animal Ecology (Blackwell)

Aquacultural Engineering (Elsevier)

Journal of Applied Ichthyology (Blackwell)

Aquaculture (Elsevier)

Journal of Applied Phycology (Kluwer)

Aquaculture International (Kluwer)

Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and
Recovery (Kluwer Academic)

Aquaculture Nutrition (Blackwell Publishing)

Aquaculture Research (Blackwell Publishing)

Journal of Crustacean Biology (BioOne)

Aquatic Botany (Elsevier)

Journal of Exp.Mar.Biol.and Ecol. (Elsevier)

Aquatic Conservation (John Wiley and Sons)

Journal of Fish Biology (Blackwell)

Aquatic Ecology (Kluwer)

Journal of Fish Diseases (Blackwell)

Aquatic Toxicology (Elsevier)

Journal of Marine Systems (Elsevier)

Biological Invasions (Kluwer)

Journal of Molluscan Studies (Oxford U. P.)

BioScience (BioOne)

Journal of Oceanography (Kluwer)

Continental Shelf Research (Elsevier)

Journal of Paleolimnology (Kluwer)

Copeia (BioOne)

Journal of Plankton Research (Oxford U.P.)

Deep Sea Research (Elsevier)

Journal of Sea Research (Elsevier)

Dynamics Atmospheres and Oceans (Elsevier)

Lakes and Reservoirs (Blackwell Publishing)

Ecology of Freshwater Fish (Blackwell)

Marine and Freshwater Research (CSIRO)

Environmental Biology of Fishes (Kluwer)

Marine Ecology (Blackwell Publishing)

Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science (Elsevier)

Marine Environmental Research (Elsevier)

Fish and Fisheries (Blackwell Publishing)

Marine Policy (Elsevier)

Fish and Shelfish Immunology (Elsevier)

Marine Pollution Bulletin (Elsevier)

Fish Physiology and Biochemistry (Kluwer)

Northeastern Naturalist (BioOne)

Fisheries Management and Ecology(Blackwell)

Ocean and Coastal Management (Elsevier)

Fisheries Oceanography (Blackwell Publ.)

Physical Oceanography (Kluwer Academic)

Fisheries Research (Elsevier)

Progress in Oceanography (Elsevier)

Fisheries Science (Blackwell Publishing)

Reviews in Fish Biol. and Fisheries (Kluwer)

Freshwater Biology (Blackwell Publishing)

River Research and Applications (John Wiley)

Global and Planetary Change (Elsevier)

Society of Wetland Scientists Bull. (BioOne)

Harmful Algae (Elsevier)

Southeastern Naturalist (BioOne)

Hydrobiologia (Kluwer Academic)

Water, Air and Soil Pollution (Kluwer)

ICES Journal of Marine Science (Elsevier)

Wetlands (BioOne)

International Review of Hydrobiol.(Wiley)

Wetlands Ecology and Management (Kluwer)

Access to full text commercial journals is only one piece of the digital cake. Because of the nature of fisheries research, development and management and the involvement of government institutions, professional associations and NGOs, there is a preponderance of grey literature. Many of these publications are available online free of charge via the Internet. FAO maintains a list of these journals, currently about 150 titles, at INASP also maintains a Directory of Free and Open Access Online Resources which includes databases and some journals, although few core fisheries resources

An initiative to enable scientists in institutions or countries with unreliable, inadequate or costly Internet access to retrieve the scholarly journal articles they need is the electronic Journals Delivery Service (International Center for Theoretical Physics, 2004). eJDS is part of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)/Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Donation Programme. It facilitates access to current scientific literature free of charge via e-mail

Open access and open source

UNESCO’s communication and information sector programme encourages the use of free and open source software (FOSS). In the digital age, software is essential for knowledge management and sharing. UNESCO has therefore accumulated significant experience in facilitating the development of some key software tools for processing information. These software tools are distributed free-of-charge and the objective is to empower the users by giving them access to some key technology for development and knowledge sharing, that most of them otherwise could not afford. The development model is based upon international cooperation and the software tools are continuously enriched, modified and updated with the cooperation of a community of experts from different countries. The most popular UNESCO software tools are CDS/ISIS, Greenstone and IDAMS

In addition to the free full-text grey literature, several of the open access initiatives to provide scholarly journals include fisheries related journals. Open access journals are defined as journals that use a funding model that does not charge readers or their institutions for access. An example is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), based at Lund University Libraries, Sweden. This service covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. DOAJ aims to cover all subjects and languages and currently has over 1 300 journals in the directory. Of these several are fisheries related but at present only four core fisheries and aquaculture journals are covered.

International Organizations

Organizations of the United Nations system in general supply relevant publications and information to national institutions in member countries. Fisheries related information originates in many UN agencies in addition to FAO, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Some international organizations also implement programmes to improve information capacity e.g. the FAO projects to provide the ASFA or ABAFR databases and AGORA to national fisheries institutions in eligible developing countries.

Library consortia

Libraries everywhere are forming consortia to jointly fund the acquisition or access to information resources, in particular electronic and full text resources. There are many examples of recently established library consortia in developing countries. The Aquaculture and Fisheries Department of Bunda College benefits as a member of the recently established Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO) by having access to additional information resources. The lessons learned and experience gained in the establishment of this consortium will be useful for other libraries considering taking this step (Ngwira, 2004).

Library networking at regional level

Fisheries resources and their management, in addition to the vital role played at local level and in the national economy, are also often regional in nature. One only has to look at the examples of the African Great Lakes, the Mekong River, the Eastern North Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mediterranean Sea to realize that without regional cooperation and the sharing of information there is little hope for the responsible management and development of fisheries. The many regional fisheries organizations, in addition to the regional fishery management bodies, are evidence of the importance of the "regionality" of fisheries. These same organizations and bodies also offer opportunities for sharing information resources. It is important that the experience, the lessons learned and the research results of national institutions are shared between countries in the region in order to strengthen this regional collaboration. Providing access to the broad fisheries information base is only possible if libraries cooperate at regional level.

Some examples of former and current regional networking efforts are:

Southeast Asia: The 1995 study on Fisheries information needs in Asia noted that on the whole fisheries information centres and libraries in Asia operated independently or in isolation. Several information networks which had been established in Asia with donor funding, especially in the 1980s, rapidly declined or ceased to function altogether once the funding terminated. For example, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Information System (SEAFIS) commenced in 1984 under the coordination of SEAFDEC (Cho, 1995). The SEAFIS objectives were to facilitate the exchange of information between national fisheries institutions; provide access to current fisheries documents; expand the collection of non-conventional literature; and train staff of national centres in modern information handling methods. The reason for the demise of SEAFIS is given by the funding agency as the lack of regional focus and the dominance of one of the national partner systems (IDRC, 1999). There is still little evidence of collaboration or networking between libraries at regional level in Asia. Notably, Asia does not yet have a regional group of IAMSLIC. Regional organizations such as NACA and MRC have improved the dissemination of information and visibility of partner institutions. How the partner institutions obtain the local, regional and international information they need in order to carry out research and development does not appear as part of the mission of these regional organizations.

Africa: The Ocean Data and Information Networks of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO are made up of the IOC focal point institutions in various regions. The most well-developed of these is ODINAFRICA, based at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Mombasa), which originated in 1989 as the Regional Co-operation in Scientific Information Exchange - Western Indian Ocean (RECOSCIX-WIO) project. The benefits for the respective libraries of this project have included the provision of computers, library software and extensive training. Further information about the current information activities of ODINAFRICA can be found at A more recent collaboration between FAO, SAIAB and libraries of several national fisheries institutions is working to promote information resources sharing and assess the requirements for a longer-term regional network. Data and information has been collected over a three year period to determine more specifically the information needs and current mechanisms used to provide access. More effort is needed in Africa to assess existing collections, systems, capacities and the potential of a network. The main contribution so far by network participants has been in the sharing of information and expertise, their eagerness to provide better information services to their institutions and their willingness to collaborate with other libraries inside and outside the region.

Constraints to regional network development

The many examples of regional networks which have not survived once the external funding source is no longer available should provide us with lessons for the future.

Human and institutional factors: Regardless of the technological developments in information management and access, the individual and institutional ability and commitment to sharing information resources are the most important elements. Libraries all over the world are renowned for operating on the basis of cooperation and the sharing of resources. However, some kind of formal or informal agreement is necessary in any kind of networking arrangement. An agreed modus operandi is probably even more necessary in the context of few resource-rich libraries and very many resource-poor partners. The following requirements are considered essential:

The areas of constraint considered most in need of attention are:

The need for standard methodologies for information exchange: A comparison of the various methodologies for cataloguing, classification and indexing as well as the library software used by African fisheries libraries was presented at the Grahamstown Workshop (FAO, 2004f). There is very little standardization in terms of database structure or metadata. The most commonly used cataloguing software in developing country libraries is one of the versions of CDS/ISIS which is developed and distributed free of charge by UNESCO. Several fisheries libraries are using the ASFIS methodologies for classification and indexing of their collections, i.e. the indexing techniques developed by the ASFA partnership for creation of the database. The use of agreed standards would improve indexing and enhance information exchange. Without external funding there is little possibility to change current systems.

Library networking at international level

Last but not least are the international aspects of fisheries, including not only the fisheries resources themselves, but fisheries agreements, legislation, management bodies, trade, and the very ecosystems of which the resources are a part. To enable us to have access to and share the relevant information resources internationally, the very broad "aquatic community" must develop common standards for the systems and tools necessary for their management.

There are many initiatives in the development of fisheries information systems and tools at international level. Two examples of these from international organizations are:

FAO: The ASFA partnership contributes to information capacity by providing training, enabling the sharing of expertise and providing access to global fisheries information. The ASFA project makes the database freely available, currently to more than forty national institutions in LIFDCs. Access to AGORA is an FAO coordinated project that provides libraries in the poorest countries with free access to over 500 full text journals, including major fisheries journals (FAO, 2004a).

UNESCO: One of the two major concentrations of UNESCO’s communication and information programme is "fostering equitable access to information and knowledge for development" (UNESCO, 2003). Part of this focus concerns greater participation in global information networks with an action being to increase the capacity of libraries. As an active supporter of open source software, UNESCO continues to develop, disseminate and promote information management tools, including the Greenstone Digital Library software and the CDS/ISIS bibliographic software, including the recently released Integrated Library system WEBLIS.

Future developments in open archives, digital repositories, metadata harvesters and other necessary tools of the digital age will only be effective if agreed standards are adopted. International organizations play their part in this effort, as do professional associations such as:

International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) is promoting digitization standards and offering training in developing countries. Some countries will adopt national standards for digitization and fisheries institutions would benefit from participating in these initiatives. UNESCO recently contracted with IFLA and the International Council on Archives to produce comprehensive guidelines to digitizing collections (International Federation of Library Associations, 2002).

IAMSLIC provides a forum to discuss and encourage participation in the use of technology to enhance access to aquatic science and fisheries information. Its activities include:

Bearing in mind that the systems and tools developed by IAMSLIC are done so using the expertise of its members on a voluntary basis, the following activities are ambitious. However, fisheries libraries, particularly in developing countries, would benefit by entering the discussion and contributing towards these developments:

The current development of digital repositories and harvesters expand the capability of libraries in all parts of the world to share local, regional and international information. A brief overview of the IAMSLIC framework for improved sharing of aquatic science information is given in Annex 6.

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