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Spain Funds Thai Development

THAILAND - Driven largely by awareness of marine resource depletion and vulnerability of their coastal communities, six countries around the Bay of Bengal signed on to a Spanish grant of $19.5 million aimed at improving livelihoods and the future of millions of small-scale fishers.

The Spanish grant will allow the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to implement over the next four years a Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme in six participating countries.

This is a very important fisheries programme in Asia, as a vast number of people will benefit from the assistance, remarked the Ambassador of Spain to Thailand, Ignacio Sagaz, during the signing ceremony earlier this week.

There are an estimated seven million fishers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam, of which approximately 80 per cent are small-scale fishers. The total number of people directly or indirectly employed in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in these countries is on the order of 25 million.

Coastal fisheries make a significant contribution to food security and animal protein intake in particular, foreign exchange earnings, employment and poverty alleviation.

"We see mounting constraints including rising Asian populations, greater numbers of fishing vessels, fishing gear and fishing pressure, declining and threatened aquatic stocks, and environmental degradation. These issues trigger conflicts both within the fishery sector and between other sectors for use of finite resources, both within countries and even between them", remarked He Changchui, Asia-Pacific chief of FAO.

Moreover, recent events in the region including flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons have caused havoc demonstrating the vulnerability of small-scale fisher communities and their livelihoods, Dr He added.

The assistance has been designed to assist government responses to complex political issues.

"The project symbolises Spain's commitment to the UN Millennium Development goals for the eradication of poverty and hunger," stressed Mr Sagaz.

The FAO programme manager, Jose Parajua, indicated that past national polices and plans for small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in the region have focused primarily on increasing production, exports and value addition, and resource management.

The Spanish funded programme will address poverty issues and the promotion of alternative livelihoods to reduce dependence on fishing and encouraging fishers to exit the sector - both resulting in reduced fishing pressure on limited resources.

The main stakeholders and target beneficiaries are coastal fishers, processors, traders and their families, their organisations and their communities, including the local authorities; and government organisations and institutions responsible for the administration, management and development of the coastal fisheries at local, district/province and national levels. Also a wide coalition of regional organisations and non-governmental groups will be closely involved.

"Spain wishes to further expand its presence and cooperation in Asia, and is glad to be associated with FAO for providing assistance to the fishery sector, since Spain is recognised as a world leader in the fishing industry," concluded the Spanish Ambassador.

the Fish Site Editor

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