08/03/2016 Putrajaya, Malaysia
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned that the value and benefits of many coastal and inland fishery and aquaculture systems in Asia and the Pacific will be compromised if the region does not move towards more sustainable “Blue Growth” practices.
The issues were highlighted during a presentation on Blue Growth to the 33rd Session of FAO’s Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, underway in Putrajaya, Malaysia, 7 – 11 March. Ministers and senior government officials from some 46 countries are participating in the biennial event.
FAO recognizes that the rapid growth of aquaculture has greatly contributed to food security and rural livelihoods in Asia where some 90 percent of the world’s aquaculture occurs – but its rapid development has also resulted in significant environmental degradation and it is now facing increasing competition for agricultural space and available freshwater.
“Few fisheries in the greater Asia and Pacific regions are effectively managed,” FAO’s Blue Growth paper points out. This impacts on the livelihoods of fishers and on ecosystems in general. However, the situation is not irreversible, and recent commitments by a number of countries have shown how effective action can reverse the decline of fisheries.
“Climate change, poor planning to develop fisheries and aquaculture sectors, ineffective governance in coastal and inland areas, illegal fishing along with other destructive human activities are contributing to irreversible damage of fishery habitats, ecological systems and biodiversity,” said FAO’s Francis Chopin, who delivered the presentation to Conference. “But there are ways to increase production that are environmentally sustainable and that benefit everyone and that’s what we are discussing,” he added.
FAO’s Blue Growth Initiative – food security, environmental sustainability and improved livelihoods
The FAO Blue Growth Initiative, endorsed by FAO member countries in 2014, aims to secure or restore the potential of oceans, lagoons and inland waters by introducing responsible and sustainable approaches that reconcile economic growth and food security with conservation of aquatic resources.
Fisheries and aquaculture account for a significant contribution to food security and livelihoods of millions of people, supplying an average of 18.6 kilogrammes per capita a year and providing essential micronutrients and 22.4 percent of the population's animal protein. These dependencies are much greater in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and some fish-dependent developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region.”
Asia's marine and inland water fishery and aquaculture production systems have the potential to contribute enormously to sustainable development, according to the report.
In Asia, 48 million people work in fisheries and aquaculture production, representing 87 percent of the global total, according to the FAO paper. The sector provides some 170 million direct and indirect employment opportunities. Asia's fishing fleet makes up 73 percent of the world's total, and the region employs 97 percent of the world's aquaculture farmers. In addition, more than 90 percent of the region's capture fishers are small-scale fishers.
The 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) span much of the tropical and subtropical Pacific Ocean and their exclusive economic zones (EEZs) exceed 27 million square kilometres. Because of their wide geographical range, the PICTs encompass approximately 28 percent of global EEZs, and include some of the most productive tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific Ocean.
Several PICTs are interested in developing the tropical Pacific tuna fishery within the limits set by regional and international agreements. The FAO paper indicates that “there is potential for improved sustainable revenue sharing benefits to PICs from access fees paid by vessels from Distant Water Fishing Nations, trans-shipment fees, export duties and taxes.” In addition, there is associated economic development from Pacific island-owned or joint-venture industrial fishing operations and onshore processing plants as well as the employment opportunities that these create.
The blue growth approach emphasizes improved health of aquatic ecosystems through the development, testing and application of new and innovative use of technologies in control and management of fishing and aquaculture operations. These approaches can minimize damage to aquatic and atmospheric environments and harness the potential benefits of improved habitats to increase biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services. A key pathway to accessing these benefits is through enhanced partnerships between FAO and key regional and subregional organizations to accelerate action and uptake of Blue Growth initiatives.