December’s devastating Indian Ocean tsunami inflicted a loss of more than half a billion dollars on the fishing sector of the seven worst-affected countries, with over 111,000 vessels destroyed or damaged, 36,000 engines lost and 1.7 million units of fishing gear ruined, according to latest United Nations figures released today.
As it mobilizes to help the recovery, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has produced a framework strategy for the rehabilitation of fisheries and aquaculture which it hopes will help contribute to sustainable and responsible fishing in the region as the sector gets back on its feet.
“We should not recreate one of the major problems within fisheries prior to the tsunami: over-capacity in the coastal fisheries,” FAO Fishery Technology Service head Jeremy Turner said today. “To simplify, that means too many boats, too much fishing effort. We must ensure that we do not surpass the level of fishing capacity that was there before the disaster.”
The agency has fielded 22 specialists to the affected countries – India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand – and 11 more will soon join them, including master fishermen, naval architects, boat builders, ice-plant and cold room specialists, marine biologists, aquaculturists and fisheries planners.
FAO is also working with governments to plan the long-term recovery of fisheries and aquaculture, including the creation of multi-year technical assistance and planning programmes and continued delivery of replacement fishing vessels and equipment.
“We’re looking at things in terms of phases. The immediate phase involves rapid relief work and that work is being carried out admirably by local authorities, our sister UN organizations, and others,” Mr. Turner said. “As regards fisheries and aquaculture, FAO is providing immediate inputs and advice, but is also working with governments to help them chart out a long-term, far-sighted recovery effort.”
The latest FAO assessment shows direct losses in the fisheries sector at some $520 million with 111,073 fishing vessels destroyed or damaged at an estimated replacement cost of $161 million; 36,235 engines lost or damaged beyond repair at a replacement cost of $73 million; 1.7 million units of fishing gear (nets, tackle, and similar equipment) destroyed at a replacement cost of $86 million; and damage to aquaculture operations, fishing industry infrastructure and harbours estimated in excess of $200 million.