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UN Agency to Tackle Fisheries Crisis in Central Asia

GENERAL - The dramatic decline in fisheries production within the Central Asian and Caucasus regions is being tackled today at a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meeting in Tajikistan.

Fisheries production in Armenia has dropped 81 per cent since 1989

With the region’s fishing and aquaculture sectors currently in a state of crisis, nine FAO member countries have begun formulating a coordinated response that will likely involve establishing an intergovernmental fisheries body.

According to the chief of FAO’s International Institutes and Liaison Service, Ndiaga Gueye, regional collaboration has been missing in Central Asia for almost two decades.

“In situations like in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the individual countries lack the capacity to develop their sectors on their own,” said Mr. Gueye. “But examples from other regions… show that regional collaboration can be highly effective and provide a real boost to efforts to support sustainable development and management of the sector.”

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, plummeting production and consumption has been experienced throughout the region, with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan’s production dropping by 94 and 98 per cent respectively.

Between 1989 and 2006, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia saw massive reductions in fisheries outputs, with production falling from between 81 and 98 per cent. Aquaculture production in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also experienced dramatic declines.

A background report prepared by FAO for this week’s meeting has attributed a number of issues to the collapse, including over-fishing, poor management, dramatic cuts to investment in research and production facilities, decreased spending on maintenance of fleets and hatcheries and weak management of water bodies and other ecological problems.

A previous FAO study from last year suggested that the privatization of fisheries and aquaculture following the end of the Soviet Union occurred too rapidly and was plagued by corruption, leading to poor management and oversight of the sectors.

The meeting of the FAO member countries from Central Asia and the Caucasus is set to conclude on today.