FAO Warns of Central Asia Fisheries Crisis
Fisheries production in the Central Asian and Caucasus republics has plummeted dramatically in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union and today the region's fishing and aquaculture sectors are in a state of crisis, the Food and Agriculture Organization warned today.
FAO member countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Turkey are meeting in Tajikistan this week to develop an action plan.
Annual inland fisheries and aquaculture production in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan fell from 60 to 72 percent between 1989 and 2006, according to the FAO. Tajikistan's production dropped 94 percent, and Kyrgyzstan's 98 percent, during the same period. Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia saw similar fisheries reductions (92 percent, 81 percent and 98 percent, respectively).
As a result, per-capita fish consumption in the entire region is down to less than 1 kilogram per year, and fish and fisheries products have largely disappeared from the population's diet.
Multiple factors have contributed to the collapse, including: overfishing and poor management; dramatic cuts to investment in research and production facilities; decreased spending on maintenance of fleets and hatcheries; weak management of water bodies and other ecological problems, including river pollution; and a lack of investment in modern processing and marketing facilities and equipment.
A 2007 FAO study noted that privatization of fisheries and aquaculture following the end of the Soviet Union occurred too rapidly and was plagued by corruption, leading to poor management and oversight of the sectors.
The United Nations agency says that poaching is common in the region's inland waters and that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a widespread problem that also affects the aquaculture sector.
The FAO anticipates initial steps in the region may be to establish an intergovernmental fisheries body that would lead efforts to rescue fisheries and aquaculture and promote their future sustainable development.