Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission

Status and potential of offshore resources in South and Southeast Asia

Category Marine Capture Fisheries

Staples, D. (2009). Status and potential of offshore resources in South and Southeast Asia. Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. APFIC ad hoc publication, 29pp.

Fishery development in both South and Southeast Asia can only be categorized as a 'bust and boom' activity, more akin to mining than to the development of a renewable natural resource that, if managed rationally, can provide a very valuable and sustainable contribution to the economy and well-being of countries in the region. In his excellent book 'The closing of the frontier: a history of the marine fisheries in Southeast Asia c. 1850-2000'- John Butcher gives a fascinating account of the rise and fall of industrial fishing in Southeast Asia starting with pearling and then trawling, purse seining, drift netting, trolling and more recently tuna longlining/poling/purse seining. The adoption of these new technologies was associated with a serial depletion of fish stocks forcing fishers to expand their area of fishing and the gears that have been using (often to more destructive methods) just to remain viable.

Many governments maintain that another frontier for this type of development is now emerging in the offshore regions in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and in the high seas of South and Southeast Asia. However, does this new frontier really exist, and even if it does, what happens if this new resource also becomes overexploited? This paper explores these questions and reviews what is known about the fish resources, current fishing activities, and future plans to expand fishing into offshore areas.