Fisheries and aquaculture: new guidelines and new challenges
by Cornelia NAUEN
From modest beginnings, individual EC Member States and, since
the 1970s the Community, on request primarily of its ACP partners, have become
major donors in fisheries cooperation. Initially this coincided with the
expansion phase of fisheries worldwide after World War II, when natural
resources were far from being fully exploited except in a few areas. Local
problems could, at the time, be overcome by geographical expansion which did,
indeed, happen with development of long-distance fleets facilitated by low fuel
costs. The oil crisis in the early 1970s coincided with changing exploitation
patterns in that more and more stocks became fully exploited and in some areas
signs of economic and/or biological overfishing became apparent.
An analysis of the fisheries sector worldwide suggests that the
situation has changed profoundly since. The new challenges emerge from the fact
that these natural resources are now fully exploited almost everywhere and that
investment which was highly successful during the expansion phase of fisheries
in the 1950s and 1960s, when resources were amply available, would now spell
failure under conditions of full exploitation. The new ocean regime established
through the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea has resulted in virtually
all coastal countries establishing 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) which
have been instrumental in redistributing the wealth of the sea and making
possible the control of user rights vis-is foreigners. But this has not
necessarily solved fierce competition among groups of domestic users (i.e.
small-scale versus industrial fleets).
Too many boats, too few fish
Overexploitation in economic terms means that too many boats are
chasing too few fish. In biological terms it may put the very existence of the
resource at risk, either because too many fish are caught to maintain the size
of biomass the environment could sustain or, even worse, too many fish are
caught at the early stages of their life history before they have had a chance
to reproduce at least once (recruitment overfishing). Indeed, studies have
demonstrated for several countries that a reduction of total fishing effort
and/or changes in exploitation patterns would increase the net benefit of this
primary sector to the national economy. This could be achieved through suitable
policy and management matched with monitoring, control and surveillance.
Against this scenario and across the continents, the Commission
has committed some ECU 320 m to the sector over the years. In 1987 there was a
general perception that some key parameters in the sector had changed or were
changing and that it was time to take a critical look at project performance in
a sectoral perspective rather than on a case by case basis. The task was
assigned to a joint team of ACP and EC experts, on the principle that joint
undertakings could only be assessed and improved together.
It turned out to be a valuable experience which has triggered a
string of other efforts to improve project quality and performance in the light
of the changes in the sector. In between, the team studied both EEC and non-EEC
supported projects to capitalise to a maximum on all existing and documented
experience, assessed several individual projects chosen to represent certain
sub-sector aspects and submitted their findings and recommendations to a meeting
of ACP and EC fisheries experts and evaluators held in April 1989 in Malawi.
This meeting condensed its deliberations on the report into draft Basic
Principles for the sector to serve as future reference material for better
project preparation and implementation. What were the key features of the
criticisms and suggestions for future quality improvement?
Many weaknesses that had given rise to criticism were associated
with insufficient project preparation which later gave rise to difficulties
which could sometimes have been avoided. Insufficient integration into sector
and national plans, where they existed was a further problem, and institutional
support in the country often left much to be desired. A recurrent theme was that
intended beneficiaries were not sufficiently involved in project preparation
resulting in the need for avoidable adjustments later on.
There was a series of cases where commitments in the Financing
Agreement, i.e. on counterpart funds, were not sufficiently respected, leading
to an imbalance in project finance and to difficulties in viability after
external support ceased. Time-overrun was also a common problem and the analysis
suggested that unwieldly administrative procedures on either side of the
administration often added to the problem rather than smoothing things out
Not surprisingly, the role of individuals, whether nationals or
expatriates working in and for a project, was seen as crucial. The common
perception was that good experts could sometimes make the difference between a
good and a mediocre project and that much depended on the commitment of the
individuals concerned and their ability to cooperate with beneficiaries.
The team looked into different subsectors and pointed out
problems relating to industrial fisheries, small-scale fisheries and aquaculture
and their complexities and complementary or conflictual interaction which had
often not been taken fully into account.
Trying to draw the lessons from this constructive criticism, the
Basic Principles attempt to highlight aspects needing more careful consideration
in future projects, particularly in view of the changes in a sector which is now
in a phase of readjustment.
They highlight the need for careful project preparation
formalised in appropriately detailed documents which should not only set out the
technical aspects of a future project, but also all the general socio-economic
context and national sector planning against which the principal intermediary
objectives can be defined. Emphasis is placed on the need to quantify targets as
the only way to achieve accountability.
Where databases are weak, phased approaches are preferable to
immediate large-scale implementation. In the same vein, close coordination and
where possible cooperation with neighbouring projects could shorten the trial
periods and facilitate efficient use of resources.
The major sustainability factors for project appraisal serve as
reference principles to monitor implementation. These are:
- government support to the project by practical measures
- careful consideration of any positive or negative effects on
the environment, including sustainability of resource use and management;
- clear identification of target groups and their involvement in
the production system from catching/production to marketing, taking into account
the structure of fishing communities including general conditions (health,
education etc.), gender division of tasks, social organisation, etc.;
- judicious choice of technologies in compliance with risks
beneficiaries can take and their aspirations;
- strong management and skill development at all required levels
to ensure long-term viability at the level of beneficiaries and, where
necessary, in strengthening competent institutions crucial to project and sector
success; - financial and economic viability (ensurance of maintenance, flow of
spare parts, operational costs etc.).
From the planning stage, appropriate institutional arrangements
need to be examined for different project aspects and support envisaged to the
public and/or private sector accordingly. The lessons from past handling of
revolving and credit funds are manifold, i.e.:
- integration of traditional credit can be extremely effective
at small-scale level;
- choice of production means bought on credit left as far as
possible to beneficiaries will enhance their commitment to reimbursement;
- mobilisation of savings and cooperation with formal credit
institutions where they operate in rural and fishing communities will enhance
the chances of long-term survival of schemes which otherwise risk collapse at
the end of external project funding.
Last but not least, formalisation of all stages of the project,
including definition of appropriate performance indicators, is believed to be a
prerequisite for proper progress reports to ensure timely help if difficulties
arise, or through technical reports for wider distribution to share experience
and capitalise on them.
All this has recently been presented to the Article 193
Committee of the Lomonvention. Its general work and particularly its
continued striving for improved quality of cooperation in all sectors is well
known to readers of The Courier. The Committee has deliberated on these Basic
Principles and the ACP/EEC Council of Ministers adopted them at its most recent
meeting in March 1990 in Fiji.
As readers may imagine, those directly concerned with the sector
have not waited to adopt many of the recommendations of the evaluation report
and the Basic Principles and have sought ways to become more efficient and
effective. One practical step to improve the openness of EC fisheries
cooperation to other countries and donors is through a special EC Fisheries
Cooperation Bulletin which has appeared quarterly in English and French since
Work has also continued on a more substantial follow-up of the
sectoral evaluation and the Basic Principles, not only through regular exchange
between fisheries officers in ACP countries and the Commission, but also with
fisheries advisers of EC Member States. One result of these efforts has been
more detailed draft guidelines on how to prepare fisheries and aquaculture
projects to work upstream of the problems identified. They are a reaction to the
analysis of changes characterising the sector in this decade of adjustment after
the expansion and crisis of the resource and the industry.
That natural resources are becoming increasingly rare is not the
least indicated by the slowing down of annual production increases of about 1%
in the face of population growth outstripping it by far, and overall price
increases of the commodity of around 4-5% per year.
Limitation of natural resources and capture fisheries increases
the chances of aquaculture- and culture-based fisheries becoming economically
feasible where it used not to be. However, the analysis calls for caution in
avoiding the mistakes of the past, where ample assistance focused on
bio-technical aspects, while constraints appear to have dominated on the
socioeconomic side. In other words, successful introduction or strengthening of
various forms of aquaculture hinge on a comprehensive analysis of the total
production system, including people, their social organisation, land and water
tenure systems, production conditions and access to markets and market
The guidelines try to address these challenges and offer a
framework in which to carry out work in a more systematic way and, above all, to
help fulfil a greater share of the sectors substantial potential if it is
properly understood and managed. Should this perhaps invite ACP and donor
administrations to take a second look at their own fisheries department or
service and their working conditions?