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Fisheries and aquaculture

Annual fish catch per capita (kg): Asia and the Pacific
Annual aquaculture production per capita (kg): Asia and the Pacific

While regional fish catch has changed little over 30 years, aquaculture production has increased markedly

Note: fish catch includes marine and freshwater catches but excludes crustaceans and molluscs

Source: compiled from Fishstat 2001 and United Nations Population Division 2001

Fish production and aquaculture are practised extensively in the region. Overexploitation of fish stocks and poor aquaculture practices are of concern in Bangladesh (DoE, SACEP and UNEP 2001), India (ESCAP and ADB 2000), Pakistan (ESCAP 1996), Sri Lanka, many Pacific Island countries (PICs) and some other countries. Overexploitation of shrimp resources in coastal waters has reduced exports from capture fisheries and encouraged the growth of aquaculture in almost all countries of the region.

Mangrove clearance for shrimp culture has emerged as a major issue in recent years. It is estimated that more than 60 per cent of Asia's mangroves have already been converted to aquaculture farms (ESCAP and ADB 2000). Besides encroaching on mangroves, aquaculture has led to the release of nutrients, pathogens and potentially hazardous chemicals into marine waters. In India, prawn farms have been constructed in low-lying coastal areas, depriving impoverished farmers of agricultural land, causing salinization of groundwater in coastal villages and polluting waterways with excess nutrients (Subramaniam 1994 in ESCAP and ADB 2000).

A number of countries including Australia, India, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines and Sri Lanka have developed legislation to address problems associated with pollution and overexploitation of fish stocks. Governments have also initiated steps for fisheries management by reducing fishing subsidies and regulating fishing access rights. The South Pacific tuna fishery offers a model of international cooperation for open sea fishing that may prove to be the first sustainable, multinational ocean fishery in the world. Despite these positive initiatives, the pelagic and near-shore fisheries continue to be overexploited by multinational corporations as well as local fishermen, and negotiations are required to ensure that the benefits of sustainable exploitation remain with Pacific communities.