14 March 2005 Reconstruction in the countries devastated by December’s Indian Ocean tsunami should restore the livelihoods of fishers and fish farmers but must prevent the plague of over-fishing, a United Nations-backed ministerial meeting has declared.
Adopted over the weekend by a group of 121 fishing ministers and high-level fisheries officials gathered at the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), including representatives from countries affected by the tsunami, the declaration stressed the need to protect the rights of fishers and fish workers and ensure their access to fishing grounds and resources.
At the same time, the ministers said improving the efficiency, sustainability and governance of fisheries was also a priority, and they agreed to cooperate to ensure that reconstruction does not produce a level of fishing capacity in excess of what fishery resources can sustainably support.
The tsunami, which killed more than 200,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean countries, hit the coastal fishing industry particularly hard, inflicting losses of more than half a billion dollars with over 111,000 vessels destroyed or damaged, 36,000 engines lost and 1.7 million units of fishing gear ruined.
The meeting also called for intensified action to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), including the creation within FAO of a comprehensive global record of fishing vessels and supply and refrigerated transport ships to facilitate prevention of illegal fishing.
Participants said they would renew efforts to ensure that all large-scale industrial fishing vessels operating on the high seas be fitted with vessel monitoring systems (VMS) by December 2008. VMS involves putting monitoring units on vessels that transmit data on their location and activities, allowing remote monitoring to strengthen general fisheries management as well as more effectively combat IUU fishing.
FAO has identified IUU fishing as a major impediment to ensuring sustainable world fisheries. Combating it outside countries’ exclusive economic zones on the high seas, where governance is particularly complex, is not easy.