Strengthening regional cooperation for sustainable fisheries development in Southeast Asia
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During the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Conference on Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security for the ASEAN Region Towards 2020 “Fish for the People 2020: Adaptation to a Changing Environment” organized by SEAFDEC and the ASEAN in June 2011, the Ministers and Senior Officials responsible for fisheries of the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Member Countries adopted the “Resolution and Plan of Action on Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security for the ASEAN Region Towards 2020.” A sequel to an instrument adopted during the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Millennium Conference in 2001, this current instrument has also served as policy framework for sustainable development of fisheries and enhancing its contribution to food security and the well-being of peoples in the region. While carrying out various activities in accordance with the provisions stipulated in these series of two instruments that display the Resolution and the Plan of Action, and with technical support from SEAFDEC, countries in the region continue to be confronted with emerging issues that need to be addressed through closer cooperation. The most recent concerns include the stringent measures applied by importing countries both within and outside the region, on fishery export products making sure that these do not come from Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities, and that such fish and fishery products are derived from responsible fishing activities. Therefore, cooperation among relevant national agencies as well as among countries in the region is necessary in order to come up with practical and harmonized approaches that would ensure that the region’s fish and fishery products traded in intra-regional or international markets do not come from IUU fishing thus, enhancing their competitiveness. After five years of promoting the 2011 Resolution and the Plan of Action, SEAFDEC considered that mid-way before reaching 2020 would be an opportune time to conduct an indepth review of the emerging regional issues that hinder fisheries development and the competitiveness of fish and fishery products from the region. This would facilitate identification and adoption of measures particularly those that require regional cooperation and intervention, and securing the countries’ high-level commitment and continued support to address such issues in an efficient manner. Thus, with support from the SEAFDEC Council of Directors during its 47th Meeting and the 23rd Meeting of the ASWGFi in 2015, the “High-level Consultation on Regional Cooperation in Sustainable Fisheries Development Towards the ASEAN Economic Community: Combating IUU Fishing and Enhancing the Competitiveness of ASEAN Fish and Fishery Products” was convened by SEAFDEC on 3 August 2016. During the said Consultation, High-level Officials of the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Member Countries adopted the “Joint ASEAN-SEAFDEC Declaration on Regional Cooperation for Combating IUU Fishing and Enhancing the Competitiveness of ASEAN Fish and Fishery Products.” The Joint Declaration is meant to secure high-level policy support and cooperation from relevant national agencies of the ASEANSEAFDEC Member Countries towards sustainable fisheries development in Southeast Asia, and is also intended to provide a framework that would enable SEAFDEC and relevant agencies and donor organizations to continue their support toward enhancing regional cooperation in sustainable fisheries development as the ASEAN Economic Community undergoes unification.