APSSTN UPDATE: Careful consideration urged in plans to develop an ASEAN Fisheries Improvement Projects Protocol
Evidence of the growing interest in FIPs can be found in the new “ASEAN Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) Protocol” process now underway and led by the ASEAN-US MARKET project following a recommendation by the ASEAN Public-Private Taskforce for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The Taskforce’s specific aim is to “to define a regional FIP protocol/standard that reflects the realities facing fisheries in ASEAN while simultaneously meeting the key elements of credibility for the definition and management of the standards, as well as address the key environmental impacts and social issues.” This objective is partly driven by the ASEAN push to harmonize standards and protocols across ASEAN countries for fisheries and aquaculture by 2015, when the ASEAN Economic Community is slated to be formed.
The Asia Pacific Sustainable Seafood and Trade Network (APSSTN) established by the WWF Coral Triangle Programme in 2012 has been invited to join the Steering Committee responsible for overseeing this ongoing process. Our participation in this process is aimed at ensuring that any “new” protocol for FIPs meets the realities of ASEAN fisheries while not diminishing or lowering the bar for what is considered a “credible” fisheries improvement project while allowing fisheries and their supply chains to gain the benefits of a market rewards system.
In relation to the need for a “protocol”, the APSSTN recognizes that a consistent and integrated FIP protocol may offer benefits for the region, and has been working to improve the current model for FIPs so that it may be more appropriately applied to those fisheries where MSC certification is particularly unrealistic in a reasonable time frame from governance, compliance and cost perspectives. Thus we look forward to contributing to the process of improving the “protocol” aspect of FIPs.
In response to the possibility of a “new standard” being applied at the ASEAN level, the APSSTN has strongly communicated our view that such a standard is not only unnecessary and costly but also seriously detrimental to the long-term sustainability of fisheries in the region.
Moreover, any standard that does not meet the rigorous nature of existing schemes such as the MSC would not be recognized outside of the ASEAN geography and have little or no market influence.
At the 1st Stakeholders Meeting held on December 13th, 2013 in Bangkok, we expressed the viewpoint, that any new standard would be ill-conceived and the scope of the project should be focused on developing a protocol for how FIPs are developed and applied in ASEAN fisheries. Other issues raised by us at this meeting included:
- Developing local/regional capacity to design and implement FIPs thereby lowering establishment and verification costs;
- Utilize the ASEAN harmonization process to address regional governance issues around transboundary stocks –a major challenge to achieving improvements in existing FIPs
- Use the protocol to address social issues, currently not included in existing Standards