USAID Oceans Convenes Regional Fisheries Agencies at 3rd Annual July Technical Working Group Meeting
USAID Oceans convened its 3rd Annual Regional Technical Working Group (TWG) Planning Workshop, July 16-18, 2018, in Bangkok, Thailand. The workshop brought together over 100 participants representing Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), and other program partners, US Government agency representatives, and non-governmental organizations.
Held at the timely juncture of USAID Oceans’ program mid-point, the workshop sought to elicit inputs and guidance from TWG members for the development of a set of regional guidelines on the adoption and use of electronic catch documentation and traceability systems that support sustainable fisheries management, human welfare, and leverage public-private partnerships. The workshop also provided USAID Oceans with the opportunity to update TWG members on the project’s progress to date, obtain inputs from participants on regional priorities, and reflect on how USAID Oceans’ legacy can be integrated into each national fisheries agenda.
The workshop was attended not only by regional partners, but also by USAID representatives who shared their enthusiasm over the progress and partnerships formed since the program’s launch in 2015. Remarks were provided by Dr. Heidi Schuttenberg, Coastal Resources and Biodiversity Advisor of USAID’s Office of Forestry and Biodiversity Director in Washington, DC; Dr. Kom Silapajarn, Secretary-General of SEAFDEC; Mr. Richard Goughnour, Acting Mission Director of USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia; and Dr. Chumnarn Pongsri, Deputy Director General of the Department of Fisheries-Thailand.
Dr. Schuttenberg remarked that the Office of Forestry and Biodiversity has programs in more than 40 countries and among all those programs, USAID Oceans “is our own crown jewel.”
“USAID Oceans is working in a region that is the global center of seafood production and marine biodiversity. The region produces more than 50% of the world’s seafood and employs 93% of the fishers and processors involved in the seafood sector. Its fisheries and seafood supply chains are an engine for economic growth and food security. However, as rich the region’s marine resources are, they are not assured.”
Dr. Schuttenberg noted the hope through USAID Oceans, sharing, “I just came back from [USAID Oceans’ learning site] Bitung, [where] we saw how you will now be able to trace the fish from that point of harvest all the way to processing and exporting those fish around the world. It’s already happening, and it’s happening because of partnerships allowing us to achieve that type of scale.”
Dr. Heidi Schuttenberg gives remarks on the progress and achievements of USAID Oceans. Photo Credit: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly
Acting Mission Director of the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, Mr. Richard Goughnour, highlighted growing global interest in USAID Oceans work on traceability. “[USAID is] being approached frequently by private sector groups, including technology providers, startups, and think tanks… that understand the importance of the work you are doing collectively and want to make a contribution.”
Mr. Richard Goughnour, Acting Mission Director of USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, highlights growing global interests in the works of USAID Oceans on traceability. Photo Credit: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly
This year’s TWG Workshop put a large emphasis on the human welfare and gender equity aspects of fisheries. Sessions were organized under the theme of “Surfacing the human dimensions of our work.” A panel session was delivered by Dr. Schuttenberg, CTI-CFF, Cambodia, and the National Network on Women in Fisheries in the Philippines, Inc. (WinFish). It was premised on the idea that the goals of fisheries management are unlikely to happen without thoughtful consideration of the human dimensions.
During the sessions, group discussions were carried out and recommendations were made for priority action areas including capacity building, policy, financial access, and financial assistance targeting issues of human welfare and social justice, labor, and gender.
At the TWG workshop, group sessions were facilitated to elicit inputs and recommendations from the TWG to guide the way forward for the project. Photo Credit: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly
The final day of the TWG Workshop was dedicated to consolidating the TWG’s inputs on USAID Oceans’ Work Plan for Year 4. There were general agreements among the TWG members to pursue the development of practical technical guidance documents on eCDT implementation. As USAID Oceans approached its final two years, John Parks, Chief of Party of USAID Oceans, highlighted that sustainability is a key consideration. He stressed the usefulness of capstone communication products that the program will be developing for countries to use beyond USAID Oceans.
The workshop obtained a number of proposals and feedbacks on the future directions of USAID Oceans and beyond in relation to the human dimensions in fisheries; regional priority actions, and the development and implementation of technical guidance.
The TWG workshop concluded with closing remarks by USAID Oceans’ Program Manager, Dr. Gina Green; SEAFDEC’s Dr. Silapajarn; and USAID’s Dr. Schuttenberg. Dr. Green made an important call to the participants to return home and continue to, “advocate for something very critical and important: sustainable fisheries management. We are developing something new, not just for Southeast Asia but for the world… so please be our champions, be our ambassadors.”
Regional partners and representatives gathered in Bangkok, Thailand for the 3rd Annual TWG workshop.
Full proceedings from the 3rd Annual TWG Workshop are forthcoming.