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'Soft' assistance now key for Fisheries and aquaculture recovery

ASIA & INDONESIA - The Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004 hit fisheries and aquaculture the hardest-hit of all, with large numbers of boats, fishing gear, aquaculture ponds and support installations damaged or destroyed. However, the recovery has been phenomenal.

FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department has played a leading role in helping fishers and fish farmers in the region get back on their feet, building and repairing boats, providing replacement fishing gear, and clearing and rehabilitating damaged fish farms.

Now, as the immediate impact of the disaster is fading, the UN agency remains engaged in affected countries, helping fishing communities and national authorities transition from short-term recovery to looking at long-term issues like fisheries resources management, safety at sea and sustainable development.

A new phase of rehabilitation

"Now that many fishers and aquaculturists are back to work, we're trying to address the underlying vulnerability and unsustainability of their livelihoods that characterized many areas prior to the tsunami," says Lahsen Ababouch of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, who coordinates the agency's post-tsunami assistance in the areas of fisheries and aquaculture.

"This means doing things better. For example, working with national authorities we've helped establish boat construction standards appropriate to local conditions, published construction manuals, and have helped train boatbuilders in best practices. New boats will last longer and be safer," he explains.

"In a similar vein, we're working with governments and communities to provide training and technical advice that will strengthen their capacity to better manage fisheries and aquaculture and plan their future development."

Signs of recovery in Lampulo Fishing Port, Banda Aceh.

Noting that FAO has provided a good deal of material assistance, Ababouch argues that the UN agency's most valuable contribution to tsunami rehabilitation is in the area of providing technical training and policy advice, rather than in delivering goods and making repairs. "Think of the first as software and the second as hardware," he says. "It's the software that makes everything else work."

Assisting tsunami affected countries with this “software assistance”, through commissioning institutional reviews and capacity assessments of fisheries management institutions in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives, is one of the core tasks of FAO's “Coordination and Technical Support Unit (CTSU) to Tsunami Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Fisheries and Aquaculture”, established through Swedish funding in 2006 . The objective of the CTSU is to establish sustainable livelihoods in coastal communities and reduce their vulnerability to future natural disasters.

The CTSU will continue to provide this type of assistance well into 2008, as countries recognize capacity building needs and strive to implement improved strategies for resources management. To this effect the CTSU also lends support through the design of targeted, country-specific or regional cooperation projects for longer-term recovery and sustainable development.

For a full report got to: www.FAONews