In 2013, FAO launched the Blue Growth Initiative, building upon the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF). Later, in March 2014 at the 32nd FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, member countries endorsed the regional initiative on sustainable intensification of aquaculture for blue growth. The overarching objective of the regional initiative is to strike the right balance between nourishing people and nurturing the planet. An updated version of this initiative, now called the Regional Initiative on Blue Growth (RI-BG) has been endorsed and is expanding its reach to assist member countries.
INFOFISH : As Asia Pacific countries are by no means homogeneous in their economic, sociopolitical and environmental contexts, any plans of action implemented by FAO in trying to achieve the RI-BG goals would presumably have had to be based on a thorough understanding of the context and challenges in each country, including the small island nations of the Pacific. What went into the initial research and exploratory phase, and what were the main findings of the information gathering?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : The development of the Blue Growth Initiative was based on the conversations in plenary and in the margins of the Summit for Sustainable Development held in Rio in 2012. The concept was based on calls at the meeting for capitalising on the potential for aquatic ecosystems (oceans and freshwater) to provide for sustainable growth but also to generate social benefits such as decent work without degrading ecosystems and their services. The concept was further informed by recommendations from our FAO fisheries commissions at regional levels and the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), a statutory body of the FAO Council. These recommendations and discussions aimed to reinforce food security and livelihoods, decent work, reduced food loss and waste, financing and technology transfer in the fisheries sectors.
The Regional Initiative on Blue Growth in Asia and the Pacific (RI-BG) builds on the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries (CCRF). The RI-BG focuses on capture fisheries, aquaculture, ecosystem services, trade and social protection. It advocates ways to balance economic growth, social development, food security and sustainable use of aquatic living resources.
Regarding your inference to the importance in understanding the individual challenges that different countries face, the concept was further refined for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) after the declaration of the SAMO Pathway where FAO, in collaboration with UNDESA and UNOHRLLS, developed the Global Action Programme for Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) using Blue Growth as a means of implementing the ocean and fisheries aspects of this strategy.
Here, at the regional level, there are good and active relations with fisheries departments across Asia and the Pacific. Indeed, FAO acts as the Secretariat of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC). APFIC Consultative Forum Meeting and APFIC Session and Executive Committee meetings are convened every other year, and they serve as the major regional platform for analysing the status and trend of the region’s capture fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity conservation and management. These instruments, and the work that’s carried out, underpin the FAO regional RI-BG and its outputs.
INFOFISH : Still in the planning phase, could you give readers an overview of the strategies (overall as well as countryspecific, where necessary) that were formulated in order to drive the collaborative efforts between FAO and the governments in Asia and the Pacific?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : Our strategy for the RI-BG in this region broadly covers the following areas:
• Support for regional policy and strategy development through regional studies and consultations;
• Support to member country governments to develop national strategy and action plan to promote blue growth through national stakeholder consultations;
• Support for capacity building at regional and country levels;
• Support for the documentation, piloting and scaling of innovative management and production practices, systems and technologies for fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic ecosystem and biodiversity management;
On the implementation of the RI-BG, we have been focusing on the following priority areas:
• Promoting sustainable growth of aquaculture through policies and good practices for farming of fish, shellfish and marine plants in a responsible and sustainable manner with improved efficiency;
• Promoting sustainable capture fisheries – support implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) and related instruments to restore fish stocks, combat IUU and promote good fish production practices and growth in a sustainable manner;
• Promoting gender-sensitive and equitable inclusive fisheries and aquaculture value chain development for sustainable livelihoods;
• Promoting regulatory regimes and approaches to restore vital coastal habitats, biodiversity and eco-system services (including carbon capture, storm and wave defences, tourism-related, etc.); and
• Building resilience of fisheries and aquaculture through effective mitigation of impacts of various risks from natural disasters and socioeconomic uncertainties;
INFOFISH : Reported recently by Indonesia at an FAO Committee of Fisheries meeting was its ‘Lombok Project’, featuring an integrated, upstream and downstream, development programme covering tuna fisheries, aquaculture, marine tourism, salt and pearl industries. FAO Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Indroyono Susilo, who chaired a special session at the meeting, considered Indonesia’s decision to pursue the blue growth concept in marine fisheries as quite strategic. What was the FAO’s role in this project? Is the FAO working with other countries in the region to establish similar integrated projects?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : In 2013, under an MOU between FAO and the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) in Indonesia, FAO supported the Ministry in its development of a concept project for Blue Economy in Lombok Island.
Under the RI-BG, FAO supported the Government of Indonesia in its implementation of the blue growth initiative with three technical (TCP) projects focusing on marine aquaculture zonal development in Lombok. The actions helped to shape the development of a national health management strategy and disease surveillance mechanism for shrimp farming, support for decent work and improved livelihoods of women in seaweed farming.
In summary, when member countries identify these issues as strong priorities, FAO can assist them to develop similar initiatives as part of FAO’s overall support to promoting Blue Growth in the Asia-Pacific region. In the first phase of the Blue Growth Initiative, FAO, in Asia and the Pacific, focused on five priority countries – Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Timor Leste. Today FAO offers its supports through the RIBG to all member country governments in the region through the development and implementation of individual projects to address priority issues as required.
INFOFISH : In the fight against overfishing, FAO has formulated many important global initiatives such as the Port State Measures Agreement, and collaborates with stakeholders such as Global Fishing Watch as well as the EU-funded iMarine e-Infrastructure Initiative for Fisheries Management and the Conservation of Marine Living Resources. What (if any) are some of the comparable leading anti-IUU initiatives undertaken by the FAO which are specific to Asia and the Pacific island nations?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : FAO and member countries recognise that overfishing and IUU fishing threaten fish stocks and the sustainability of the marine environment. FAO initiatives are directed at supporting the development of international instruments, guidelines and tools, and at assisting concerned States in their implementation. Relevant FAO initiatives particularly targeting IUU fishing include FAO’s Global Capacity Development Programme to support the implementation of the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA), complementary international instruments and regional mechanisms to combat IUU fishing, and the Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels (Global Record).
The Global Record is a global initiative that primarily involves State authorities and regional fisheries management organisations in compiling an online, comprehensive and updated repository of vessels involved in fishing operations. The main objective is to provide a useful and powerful tool to deter and eliminate IUU fishing activities, within the framework of legal instruments available, including PSMA, making it more difficult for vessels to operate outside the law. In this region, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand have contributed to the Global Record with their national data.
To date the FAO PSMA has been adhered to by 54 states and one region (the EU) and entered into force on 5 June 2016. Twelve countries in the Asia-Pacific region have deposited instruments of ratification or accession thus far.
Meanwhile, fourteen countries in the South and South East Asia region, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have requested support from FAO for assistance in addressing IUU fishing. In the Pacific, we are working with Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu. This assistance broadly includes guidance on the review, updating and harmonising of national laws to strengthen national strategies and policies. It also provides support in awareness raising, and capacity development of all areas of work in relation to addressing IUU as member countries prepare documents of accession to key global agreements like the PSMA.
INFOFISH : In addition to overexploitation, climate change and severe weather occurrences constitute issues of grave concern for small-scale and artisanal aquafarmers and fishermen in Asia and the Pacific Islands nations. How does FAO assist these communities in terms of disaster preparedness and recovery, as well as in their efforts to enhance food security?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : When disasters strike, and even before they do, FAO works at all levels (global, regional, national and local) with governments and communities to increase the resilience of food and agriculture systems livelihoods from fisheries and crops, to livestock and forestry.
Understanding risks and the disproportionate impact of disasters on smallholders is a prerequisite for our actions. Many threats and shocks are transboundary by nature, demanding efforts to increase resilience to deal with regional impacts. For example, natural hazards can damage terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems across national borders.
So a regional approach to increase the resilience of livelihoods is crucial as eco-systems services, such as water, biodiversity and fertile soil, do not recognise administrative boundaries.
Large eco-systems around river basins such as the Bay of Bengal and Mekong River require collaboration among several countries to ensure sustainable management of the catchment area, including preventing, mitigating, preparing for and responding to shocks.
FAO recently convened the regional conference to support the implementation of the Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. The conference shared the experiences of national governments, regional fisheries/aquaculture bodies and private sector efforts in supporting the fisheries and aquaculture sector to reduce the risks of disasters. It also recommended a strategy and actions to address the constraints and gaps in the region.
FAO supports member country governments to develop and implement major projects including those backed by the Global Environment Facility (the GEF), in order to help build community-based, climate-resilient, fisheries and aquaculture.
INFOFISH : In the last five years, we have seen increased focus in international meetings (such as the Vigo Dialogue) on the highly complex issue of decent work, covering labour issues and working conditions of fishworkers in capture fisheries, aquaculture, fish processing and distribution. While incidences of labour abuse in the seafood value chain are a worldwide occurrence, Asia and the Pacific are not short of examples either. How does FAO get the messages out to regional governments and businesses firstly, to recognise the problem, and then to take steps to address labour abuses in line with the spirit of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 188?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : Over several years, a number of reports of appalling working conditions in the fisheries sector have emerged in this region. These range from abuses in processing plants to onboard fishing vessels, where working conditions are difficult to monitor. Migrant workers have been identified as a particularly vulnerable group.
There are strong indications that human trafficking and forced labour on-board fishing vessels are associated with IUU fishing. Fishing vessels often use flags and ports of convenience to circumvent regulatory controls, making some countries feel unable or unwilling to provide protection to fishers and fish workers on those boats. These interlinkages have been recognised by the 31st session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI).
Indeed, FAO is actively working with other organisations too in order to address this serious abuse of labour in the fisheries sector and to see concrete actions taken. This year, FAO and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have been appointed to co-chair the United Nations Global Migration Group (GMG).
FAO, ILO and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have also produced guidelines, conventions and codes in relation to fishing vessel safety. Our organisations have longstanding cooperation in the promotion of labour and safety standards in the fisheries sector including the adoption of safety recommendations on the design, construction, equipment, training and protection of fishing vessels. These recommendations and guidelines are intended to foster coordination and cooperation by maritime, labour and fisheries authorities and other government ministries.
INFOFISH : An FAO survey in the Asia Pacific last year had found considerable gaps in information which would otherwise have allowed for an estimation of the regional progress in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. You were quoted in September 2017 as saying “with the clock ticking down to 2030, we still have nearly half a billion hungry people struggling to survive in our region….. if we aren’t in a position to accurately and confidently collect and analyse the data now, how could we ever claim to have met the goals in 2030?” We hear that FAO has been infusing new urgency into data collection efforts since then, and so now, would you say that you feel more optimistic about the whole process?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : We have to be optimistic, while recognising that the challenges before us are huge. Later this year we will be releasing our updated report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in Asia and the Pacific. This year, FAO will be expanding our regional reporting with the welcome inclusion of assessments by experts from our UN sister agencies WFP, WHO and UNICEF
This is the first time such a regional collaboration on SDG-2 data analysis has been undertaken in this way. So watch this space.
On the issue of strengthening national data collection – and remember FAO gets its data from our member countries – this is something our member countries have been asking us to help them achieve. Let’s also remember there is a global drive to improve statistics. It’s an ongoing process but a lot of effort and consultation has been taking place during the last two years in this region and I’m confident we are making progress.
INFOFISH : Last but not least, the role of women in the fisheries and seafood industry has received increasing attention in the past few years, with stakeholders being reminded to place gender on the agenda in the formulation of policies and programmes. With specific reference to helping to create opportunities for women in positions of authority (as business owners, management staff, R & D, consultants, etc), to what extent does gender play a part in policy making at FAO?
Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan : Women’s participation as equal and productive partners in the fisheries and aquaculture sector has significant impacts on the nutrition and living standards of households in this region. In 2014, women accounted for 19% of all people directly engaged in the primary sector, but when the secondary sector (e.g. processing, trading) is included, women make up about half of the workforce.
Reducing gender inequalities in the agriculture sector clearly holds great promise for FAO’s mandate of reducing hunger, poverty and injustice in the world and so FAO has put in place an official FAO Policy on Gender Equality.
Formulated after an extensive consultation process, the policy provides a framework to guide and assess FAO’s work in this area. It specifies roles and responsibilities for the implementation of policy directives, and delineates a number of objectives and minimum standards for the achievement of an overall goal.
The main goal aims for equality between men and women in sustainable food production and rural development, for the elimination of hunger and poverty.
At FAO we work with countries, other UN agencies, civil society organisations (CSOs) and bilateral and private sector partners to make progress towards achieving these objectives by 2025. An example of this is FAO’s contribution to an ILO report on migration in the fisheries sector in Thailand where many migrant women are employed, often from neighbouring Myanmar. Another example, as already mentioned, is FAO support for decent work and improved livelihoods for women in seaweed farming in Lombok, Indonesia.