BY MARVYN N BENANING
AN ALLIANCE OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN fisheries groups is opposing a plan of the member-states of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) to forge public-private partnerships ostensibly to protect the centre of global marine biodiversity.
The Southeast Asia Fish for Justice (SEAFish) renewed its appeal for officials of the Coral Triangle [Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste] not to establish marine protected areas in the 6-million-square-kilometer waters of the Coral Triangle without consulting millions of fishermen engaged in subsistence fisheries.
Fisheries, agriculture and environment ministers from the six countries are actually seeking financial support from the Asian Development Bank, the key financial backer of the CTI.
SEAFish has 16 member-organisations, 14 of which are non-government organizations and two national fisherfolk federations from within and outside the region.
SEAFish claims that in Southeast Asia, between 25 million and 35 million people are directly engaged in fisheries as a livelihood. Moreover, at least 365 million people depend on fishery products for food and protein intake.
It adds that assessments of the quality of ecosystems that fishery industries rely on show that approximately 55% of the coral reefs in the region are seriously damaged and 75% of formerly existing mangrove habitats have disappeared.
For SEAFish, the four major threats on fishery resources and ecosystems are: rapidly growing populations; diminishing natural resources; increasing trade linkages and the facilitation of extraction and trade of fishery commodities for international markets, and; weak domestic governance systems.
Speaking on behalf of SEAFish, Ruperto Aleroza said the ADB and other agencies involved with CTI should replace its current approach with community-based coastal resource management to ensure the conservation of the marine resources in the Coral Triangle while assuring the participation of small fishers and fish farmers in fisheries management and achieve inclusive growth.