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Practical Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries and Aquaculture

The need to apply an ecosystem approach to fisheries management is now globally accepted. It represents a move away from fisheries management systems that focus only on the sustainable harvest of target species and towards systems and decision-making processes that balance environmental well-being with human and social well-being within improved governance frameworks. This report is from the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) and FAO held a regional consultative workshop held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 1822 May 2009.

Workshop Conclusions and Action Plan

All country representatives agreed that the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) management and the ecosystem approach to aquaculture (EAA) management should be implemented in their countries to manage their fisheries and aquaculture responsibly.

EAF/EAA1 is a means of achieving sustainable development, contributing to food security and human development by maintaining environmental integrity and enhancing social well-being by reducing intra- and inter-sectoral conflict through participatory approaches and stakeholder consultation. EAF/ EAA is a means of bringing people together from a variety of agencies and sectors and is a powerful consultative/dialogue tool.

Application of EAF/EAA implies a balanced approach to addressing ecosystem well-being and thus contributes positively to biodiversity, governance and human well-being, including social development and poverty alleviation. EAF/EAA is very useful in situations where conflict resolution is required.

All countries have EAF/EAA aligned activities and there are many initiatives that are aimed at implementing the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF). Many traditional systems have practices that broadly conform to EAF/EAA principles but are not recognized as “ecosystembased” approaches and there is a lack of appreciation of what is already being done. EAF/EAA is also a useful tool for managing fisheries and aquaculture in inland waters and steps need to be taken to implement this.

EAF/EAA can also be used for addressing the adaptation or resilience of fisheries and aquaculture in the face of climate change impact and effects. It is expected that this could provide funding opportunities for EAF/EAA related work.

Each country has its own context for policy development and resource allocation, therefore implementation of EAF/EAA will differ depending on that context. Many countries note that existing legislation and policy may not explicitly support EAF/EAA and will require amendment or updating.

Mainstreaming EAF/EAA as a national system for management requires strong commitment of government and other relevant stakeholders. The workshop participants agreed that there is a need to improve understanding of EAF/EAA at the policy-making level, noting that short-term planning horizons may constrain a longer-term vision. The involvement of research agencies at national level is important to assist in the initiation of EAF/EAA. Fisheries line agencies have little bargaining power and current resourcing levels may limit broad application of EAF/EAA.

The workshop participants emphasized the need for more effective coordination between sectoral stakeholders, noting that there are few formal mechanisms for consultation, especially when there is a low level of organizational development among fishers and farmers. Stakeholder inclusion was clearly noted as a priority and any planning effort should be built on existing processes and institutional arrangements. The use of local and traditional or indigenous knowledge and local technologies and practices were also emphasized.

EAF/EAA could be started at pilot scale or build on existing systems and might be focused on a specific subsector or issue (e.g. declining fish stocks, cage aquaculture in inland waters). Pilot scale activities should not be undertaken at the expense of national level adoption.

Awareness raising and communication were seen as essential initial steps and resolving the issue of jargon and concepts, particularly in communicating to local level authorities and communities, was seen as a challenge. The need for consistent definitions that can be translated across different languages was noted.

Some examples of ongoing implementation of EAF type activities

Country examples of ongoing initiatives or plans for future action include:

  • awareness raising about EAF/EAA;
  • development of management areas and habitat enhancement;
  • improved dialogue with local level stakeholders;
  • improved interagency coordination;
  • development of EAF/EAA management plans specifically to support EAF/EAA;
  • development of best practice approaches that integrate environmental considerations;
  • governance and human aspects in the management of aquaculture; and
  • initiation of political level processes to improve support for the approach.

Suggestions for country action over a one to three-year time frame

The workshop participants developed a series of recommended actions which member countries could initiate in order to promote EAF/EAA uptake and implementation:

  • Create a country focal point for EAF/EAA.
  • Establish a national task force consisting of fisheries, environment and concerned authorities.
  • Develop an action plan for the implementation of EAF/EAA (at national level).
  • Establish national level pilot schemes, building on existing programmes.
  • Review and adapt fishery policy and legislation to support EAF/EAA explicitly (especially with respect to co-management).
  • Increase (in real terms) and/or reallocate budget for EAF/EAA.
  • Promote public dialogue and communication on EAF/EAA.
  • Improve information/data systems to support EAF/EAA information requirements.

Communication and awareness raising are important

There is general agreement that communication and awareness raising related to EAF/EAA are important but require:

  • development of EAF/EAA materials in local languages and their dissemination;
  • capacity building in the region on the application of EAF/EAA, including monitoring and evaluation;
  • community level meetings, training courses and workshops;
  • education of political/local government decision-makers;
  • sensitization of fisheries staff to EAF/EAA;
  • inclusion of EAF/EAA approaches into curricula related to fisheries and environment subjects in schools, high schools and colleges; and
  • general public awareness raising.

Some issues which would respond well to EAF/EAA

A number of issues would benefit from EAF/EAA:

  • resolving conflicts between large- and small-scale fishers;
  • regulating fishing capacity according to sustainable harvesting;
  • post-harvest improvements;
  • improving enforcement or implementation of existing regulations;
  • application of gap analysis programme (GAP) and best management practice (BMP) to national aquaculture;
  • interactions between fisheries and aquaculture;
  • addressing concerns related to transboundary waters, and shared (by nations) water bodies, watersheds;
  • addressing pollution impacts on fisheries and aquaculture sectors; and
  • keeping aquaculture development within carrying capacity.

Ongoing or planned action by APFIC partner organizations in support of EAF

Regional organizations have different networks that can be used and they can considerably increase positive impacts when they cooperate.

Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO) will carry out a comprehensive scoping study to assess the status of EAF application and suggest priorities to the member countries for implementation.

Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) will assist countries in the region to develop strategic action programmes and the facilitation of a mechanism for developing a task force for EAF in the countries of the Bay of Bengal.

Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) will promote awareness-raising materials and make existing information more available, e.g. contact points in countries (use of national languages). Implement EAF-related programmes (e.g. fishery refugia programme and Andaman Sea linkage with BOBLME. SEAFDEC will also promote and facilitate a regional agreement through ASEAN (fisheries consultative forum).

International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) will assists fishers’ representation through consultative workshops/meetings (e.g. promotion of use of traditional knowledge).

Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) will promote integration of fisheries management into coastal environmental management in member countries and support the spatial planning of coastal areas (report to COBSEA intergovernmental meeting, November 2009).

Partnership in Environment Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) will raise awareness on EAF through educational materials and integrate fisheries into the Manila Bay integrated coastal management (ICM) initiative. There will be greater emphasis on fisheries in the triennial PEMSEA congress.

WorldFish Center2 will document governance modalities in the region for small-scale fisheries and small-scale aquaculture, including performance indicators. WorldFish will work with countries to share information materials for awareness building on EAF/EAA. Will carry out vulnerability assessments to climate change in the region on fisheries and aquaculture.

Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) will document what is going on in the region in relation to EAA and facilitate capacity building in conjunction with other partners. NACA will continue to assess vulnerabilities and adaptations of small-scale farmers.

FAO will further develop tools for promoting awareness and application of EAF/EAA including new technical guidelines and a toolbox. FAO will look to support some country level processes to initiate EAF/EAA. FAO may provide technical support to countries upon request from members, but notes the need for high-level prioritization. FAO will continue collaborative activities with regional partners.

Specific workshop recommendations to FAO/APFIC

  • APFIC is requested to assist in the development of a uniform reporting mechanism that would satisfy different reporting needs against a range of international conventions and instruments, e.g. CCRF, Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), climate change, UN fish stocks agreement, Millennium Development Goals (MDG);
  • provide resource material on simple messages of EAF/EAA, building on existing in-country material;
  • provide reference material on successful case studies;
  • nominate a focal point in APFIC to provide technical advice;
  • facilitate the establishment of EAF/EAA resource person network;
  • facilitate interagency dialogue within nations;
  • further develop EAF/EAA approaches for inland fisheries;
  • address issues related to the application of EAF/EAA on the interface/interdependence of coastal fisheries and small-scale marine aquaculture development in the region;
  • promote interagency dialogue with other international organizations with an interest in fisheries and aquaculture, e.g. CBD; and
  • create an EAF/EAA section on the APFIC Web site.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

September 2009

the Fish Site Editor

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