FAO and the GEF

Partnering for Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment

Strategies for trawl fisheries bycatch management in Southeast Asia

The Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia is one of the world's most biologically diverse, economically productive, and vulnerable marine zones. Fisheries in the region are key to food security, coastal livelihoods, and the economies of the countries whose waters comprise the Triangle itself. Population growth and accelerating economic development are driving the demand for fish for human consumption, export and aquaculture feed. This, in turn, puts greater pressure on marine ecosystems. Bycatch and discards across the region’s trawl fisheries are an increasing concern. Yet, it is poorly monitored and inadequately managed, negatively impacting fishery resources, habitats and ecosystems in the region.

About the project

The Strategies for Fisheries Bycatch Management project in the Coral Triangle (REBYC-II CTI ) sought to reduce the impact of bycatch, discards and fishing on biodiversity and the environment, while facilitating effective public and private sector partnerships for improved trawl and bycatch management. The project promoted practices that support fishery-dependent incomes and sustainable livelihoods across the intervention areas.

Good practices for the project's success 

Promote sustainable approaches that safeguard natural resources and protect livelihoods 

One key outcome of the project was the promotion and widespread adoption of the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) among stakeholders at national and local levels. This methodology champions a holistic approach based on understanding the links between ecosystems and stakeholders that are directly or indirectly linked to fisheries for their livelihoods, balancing priorities and trade-offs. The impact of EAFM training across the intervention area was transformational, as demonstrated by the institutionalization of EAFM as a fisheries management tool by the Philippines and its increasing adoption by the other countries. In addition, EAFM was introduced as a mandatory course in undergraduate and graduate fisheries programmes at a state university.

Ensure country ownership and stakeholder participation to maximise positive outcomes

Creating opportunities to engage directly with stakeholders and beneficiaries can help raise awareness and increase buy-in and ownership. The REBYC-II CTI project secured a high level of ownership among project participants and partners at national and local levels in the five participating countries. Stakeholders and beneficiaries, including fisher-folk and fishing communities, institutions, private sector organisations and academia, were directly involved in project activities. As a result, sustainable approaches such as EAFM were mainstreamed into local and national policy; the International Guidelines on Bycatch Management and Reduction of Discards were officially recognized in all project countries; and public-private partnerships were established, driving the adoption of socially, economically and environmentally sustainable fishing practices.

Extend positive impacts through scalability and replicability

In order to sustain the continued benefits of EAFM, the project established an effective institutional framework and created prospects for long-term impacts from governments through planned bilateral initiatives in the region. The project generated valuable lessons and experiences from the pilot sites, particularly the Philippines’ Samar Sea site, which has become a model for trawl fisheries management, EAFM adoption and public-private partnerships. Sharing these lessons and experiences can strengthen the scalability of a project’s activities and establish a strong basis for replicating the process.