Kuala Lumpur – Part of a package of major reforms for the fishery sector, fourteen Asian countries agree to cut trawling and push net fishing as a first step for reversing the production of low value trash fish and ‘fishing down the food chain’, an FAO statement said today.
Over the years, catches of larger more vulnerable fish species (grouper, snapper, …) have declined while the proportion of smaller fish – lower down the food chain – has increased, particularly in heavily fished coastal systems such as the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the Gulf of Thailand.
Concluding the 29th session of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission in Kuala Lumpur today, the attending countries agreed to reduce capacity for harvesting trash fish by trimming down on trawling boats and push nets.
“The bold agreement reached by the members of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) is the outcome of two years of intense consultations between countries, our partners from international and regional organizations, and civil society”, noted Ndiaga Gueye, heading FAO’s unit dealing with international institutions and liaison services.
In addition, it was agreed to promote the transformation of low value trash fish – species with little or no commercial value – into food for human consumption through better processing and post harvest handling, and to reduce fish meal content in aquaculture feed.
“Policy makers and development partners concur with scientists that the trend in the production of low value trash fish – used mainly to feed the growing aquaculture sector – needs to be reversed”, added Derek Staples, senior fishery officer at FAO’s regional office in Bangkok.
The present state of fisheries, combined with the recognized needs of millions of fishers and fish consumers of the world, calls for a drastic reform of fisheries and aquaculture – a process which the APFIC members initiated several years back. Consequently, a first set of recommendations to reshape fisheries policies was adopted at the present meeting of the Commission.
Other policy changes agreed to are the principle of ‘co-management” or including stakeholders in the planning and implementation of fisheries management, through more equal sharing of authority and responsibility for the management of fisheries, and involving a partnership between government and local communities.
Looking at the future, the commission members agreed to intensify cooperation for two emerging issues – managing fishing capacity and improving the region’s access to trade markets through improved fish quality and safety standards.
In closing the meeting, the chairperson – Malaysian director-general of fisheries Dato Junaidi bin Che Ayub, called for affirmative action to be undertaken by each country to implement these voluntary reforms within a reasonable short time span and, where needed, with the required investments and technical support from regional partners and donors.
The 29th session of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission was attended by Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Also in attendance as observers were the Bay of Bengal Programme/Intergovernmental Organization (BOBP-IGO), the Intergovernmental Organization for Marketing Information and Technical Advisory Services for Fishery Products in the Asia-Pacific Region (INFOFISH), the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Partnership in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Centre (SEAFDEC), the WorldFish Centre, the Asian Fisheries Society (AFS), and the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF).
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