PRESS RELEASE: USAID Celebrates Accomplishments in Combating Illegal Fishing and Promoting Sustainable Fisheries in the Asia-Pacific Region

USAID’s technology partner installs an upgraded transponder on a small-scale fishing vessel in the Philippines. Credit: USAID Oceans/L Bader

BANGKOK, THAILAND, April 16, 2020—In February, public and private sector leaders in the seafood industry gathered in Manila, Philippines, and Jakarta, Indonesia, to celebrate the accomplishments of the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership’s work in Southeast Asia. The two closeout events highlighted the significant work of partners from ASEAN member states and the regional seafood industry to promote resource conservation and maritime security.

Since May 2015, USAID has collaborated with key stakeholders across the region to promote sustainable fisheries management and conserve marine biodiversity, leveraging nearly $4 million through partnerships at the local, national, and regional level. To achieve these goals, USAID designed and implemented electronic catch documentation and traceability technologies; strengthened human and institutional capacity to conserve marine biodiversity through sustainable fisheries management plans; and enhanced public-private partnerships to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud. 

February’s events were an opportunity for USAID to share experiences and lessons learned from the last five years of work with site-based public and private sector partners in General Santos City, Philippines, and Bitung, Indonesia—sites selected based on their potential to maximize biodiversity conservation, regional impact, and sustainability. At the project’s end,  Electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability (eCDT) systems tracked more than four  million pounds of legal and sustainable seafood products within the seafood supply chain, representing a value of approximately US$20 million.  Seafood companies exporting high-value tuna were among the first in the world to use eCDT hardware and software to track tuna products throughout the seafood supply chain: from the point of catch, to landing, buying, processing, and export internationally, including to the United States. Using eCDT to verify seafood legality and sustainability prevents illegal seafood from entering the United States and other countries, allows consumers to knowingly purchase legal seafood products, and rewards sustainable and ethical fishing practices.

To extend best practices and technologies throughout the Asia-Pacific region, USAID worked with regional organizations, including the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) and the Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security, as well as national fisheries agencies, particularly in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. These partnerships facilitated the regional expansion of eCDT technologies and systems paired with an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

In addition to verifying the legality of fishing and seafood products, eCDT technologies offer fisheries managers a new source of real-time information about the supply and movement of marine resources. These data allow them to improve their ecological understanding and fisheries management decision-making, while also enhancing food and maritime security in their countries. During the closeout events, USAID and partners celebrated the installation and operation of Fisheries Monitoring Centers in the Philippines and Indonesia that support data-driven decision making. These centers allow managers to compile, analyze, and visualize eCDT data, including fishing vessel position and movement at sea. These centers inform the daily decision making of fisheries and maritime security agencies.

Other key accomplishments celebrated at the closeout events include USAID’s support to ASEAN member states to develop and implement sustainable fisheries management plans to support eCDT implementation, including the first known sub-regional ecosystem approach to fisheries management plan. These plans protect marine habitats totaling an area over 1.5 times the size of the United States. They also help countries more effectively manage transboundary fish stocks and protect seascapes from illegal fishing practices. To further support sustainable fishing and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, in 2019 USAID awarded two grants—to Masyarakat Dan Perikanan Indonesia and Mindanao State University Naawan Foundation for Science and Technology Development, Inc.— to develop innovative digital solutions for using eCDT data to improve fisheries management in Bitung and General Santos City, respectively. As the projects come to a close, these grantees will continue working with national and regional partners to compile eCDT data, conduct real-time analysis, and use analytical results to inform local and national fisheries management decision-making.

USAID’s work has also helped redefine gender norms in the seafood industry. Women make up half of the labor force in Southeast Asia’s seafood supply chain, yet their contributions to the industry often go unacknowledged. Recognizing the role of both men and women within the seafood supply chain ensures that fisheries management is gender responsive. In addition to implementing gender-specific capacity building and communications campaigns, encouraging constructive male engagement and establishing networks of women leaders and gender champions, USAID has advanced policy change for more gender-responsive fisheries governance. Policies proposed under the project make it easier for women to register as fishers in Indonesia, incorporate gender considerations in existing fisheries policies in the Philippines, and build capacities of regional partner organizations, such as SEAFDEC, to implement organizational gender policies.

USAID’s work to strengthen eCDT and promote a sustainable and transparent seafood supply-chain enhances long-term global food security and protects the livelihoods of those that depend on the industry. Through the project, USAID has established a replicable model for advancing sustainable and equitable seafood supply chains, protecting seascapes from illegal fishing practices, assisting ASEAN member states to combat transnational maritime crime, and assuring that global consumers can enjoy safe, legal, sustainable, and slavery-free seafood.

In light of USAID Oceans’ completion, Cristina Velez Srinivasan, Ecosystems Management and Team Lead of USAID’s Regional Environmental Office, stated, “The USAID Oceans project has played an important role in improving natural resource management in the Asia-Pacific region. From developing and managing technologies and systems that capture essential traceability data to advocating for gender-equitable policies and practices in the industry, this work moves us closer to our vision for a free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific region.”

 

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ABOUT USAID OCEANS AND FISHERIES PARTNERSHIP

The USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership was an initiative between USAID and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) that worked to strengthen regional cooperation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; promote sustainable fisheries; and conserve marine biodiversity in the Asia-Pacific region. The backbone of the program was the development and implementation of financially sustainable electronic catch documentation and traceability systems, supported by data-driven fisheries management and initiatives for responsible, equitable seafood supply chains. In addition to SEAFDEC, USAID Oceans’ key regional and national partners included the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security, the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. For more information, visit www.seafdec-oceanspartnership.org.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS

Lauren Bader: Lauren.Bader@oceans-partnership.org