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Technology can help resolve South Asia’s fishing wars
  |Thursday 10 March 2016|Food Security| Page Views : 510



  Maritime countries in South Asia can resort to science and diplomacy to resolve their international fisheries disputes, says Nalaka Gunawardene.

At the same time, greater regional cooperation can help countries protect their oceanic resources from pirate fishing by vessels coming from outside the region.

The big challenge is to ensure that both big and small fishing vessels respect the United Nations Law of the Sea as well as the laws of nature.

Fish is a renewable resource — but only if harvesting is done allowing sufficient time for stocks to renew. This timeless fisher wisdom is increasingly ignored by mechanically equipped fishing fleets.

Pirate fishing, known technically as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, has become a huge problem worldwide. It threatens the future sustainability of fish stocks and the whole industry by extracting too much, too fast.

One estimate says IUU fishing costs the industry as much as USD23.5 billion per year and accounts for up to 20 per cent of global wild marine catch.

Better management of marine fish stocks is vital for Indian Ocean rim countries. Over-harvesting and rampant waste of fish catches already threaten stocks of key fish species. At stake are the jobs of tens of thousands of fishermen, and the nutrition of hundreds of millions of people in these countries who rely principally on fish for protein.

Indo-Lanka Dispute

Probably the best known fisheries dispute in South Asia involves Indian and Lankan fishers trespassing into the other country's territorial seas.

The two countries keep arresting each other’s vessels crossing over to their side. This scramble for resources has become a thorny political and diplomatic problem.

The dispute dates back to the 1970s, when both countries agreed on a maritime boundary. But for about a quarter century during the Lankancivil war, Indian fishers disregarded the boundary and operated freely in Lankan waters.

After the war ended in 2009, that situation changed. Lankan fishers gradually returned to the northern seas – only to find their fishing grounds heavily encroached. Negotiations and navy patrolling have not yet resolved the crisis.

Lankan Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath told a recent Colombo seminar that Sri Lanka was losing USD 40 million worth of sea catch every month to Indian fishermen. He claimed that some 50,000 families in northern Sri Lanka, who depend on marine fishing, suffer as a result.

Herman Kumara, a Lankan fisher rights activist, has blamed the Indian trawlers for catching fish excessively and also destroying the smaller nets and boats of Lankan fishers.

“We have long used our waters in a sustainable manner but these [Indian] trawlers do not follow this model,” he told India’s Down to Earth magazine in 2013.

Scientists confirm that stocks of some economically valuable fish species are threatened. Among these is yellowfin tuna that makes up around 40 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total fish catch.

While attempts to negotiate better regulation have made slow progress, the situation has worsened. The Sunday Times newspaper in Sri Lanka reported in mid February how Indian fishermen entering the Sri Lankan waters in the Palk Strait between the two countries now use of even more damaging fishing practices. One of them is “pair trawling” where two steel hull boats scrape the sea bottom.

Bigger problem

The Indo-Lanka stand-off is not the only fisheries related dispute in the seas around South Asia.

Indian and Pakistani fishers regularly stray into each other’s territorial waters in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Gujarat. Disputes also arise between fishers of India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s multi-day fishing craft have been implicated for highly damaging or illegal fishing practices in the Maldives. For example, in November 2012, Greenpeace recorded illegal fishing activities by two Lankan tuna and shark boats in the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the adjacent high seas.

International waters of the Indian Ocean are also frequented by trawlers from countries such as France, Spain, China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

The Maldives, where fishing is the second largest industry and the main source of employment, has long complained about mass harvesting of fish stocks by foreign vessels just outside its EEZ. Such vessels use Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) as well as purse seining, an indiscriminate fishing method that leads to a large volume of by-catch.

As Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Sari Tolvanen said in 2012: “Illegal fishing is a massive problem in the Indian Ocean. It is stealing from coastal communities and plunders marine life such as sharks. Boats that repeatedly fail to comply with the rules must be stopped. Our oceans need fewer fishing vessels that are properly controlled if we are to reverse the current overfishing crisis."

Monitoring needed

It is technology adoption that has vastly enhanced fishers’ capabilities. Now, regulators must urgently upgrade their own tech tools to keep a sharp eye on local and foreign fishers.

India already tracks vessels longer than 20 metres in length. In 2015, thegovernment decided to install Automatic Information System (AIS) transponders for tracking smaller boats too. These will help track boats up to 50 kilometres from the coast. Eventually, a space-based tracking system is to be adopted for all vessels.

Policing the open seas is fraught with legal and logistical difficulties. Satellites, which grow more versatile by the year, now allow independent surveillance of vessels at sea.

One example is MarInt that uses commercial satellites to continuously monitor the movements of all seagoing vessels. Using algorithms, MarInt can analyze the behaviour of vessels in real time, and identify those that behave suspiciously (e.g. zigzag movement indicating trawling). Already, intelligence agencies and Customs authorities rely on such dataanalysis. Fisheries regulators must sign up.

A website called Global Fishing Watch, launched in November 2014, takes surveillance further. This partnership between SkyTruth, Google and the nonprofit group Oceana, is designed to show all the trackable ocean fishing activity using the data from their AIS transponders.

It allows anyone with an Internet connection to monitor when and where commercial fishing is happening around the globe. The service, currently in prototype stage, will eventually visualise all the global fishing fleets in space and time. When over four million vessels can be tracked and seen online, marine fishing need never again be out of sight or out of public mind.

Increased monitoring needs to be backed up by better law enforcement and greater regional cooperation.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), an inter-governmental body set up in 1996, regulates the catch of 16 tuna and tuna-like fish species. It promotes cooperation among member states to ensure the conservation and wise use of fish stocks. However, some researchers and activists claim IOTC is not doing enough.

“The Indian Ocean is one of the least known and most unregulated oceans in the world,” Barbara Block, a leading US marine biologist at Stanford University, told me in an interview three years ago. “It’s like the Wild West: people are taking whatever resources as they wish!”

That status quo must end fast, before it is too late.

Nalaka Gunawardene


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How China Maintains Strategic Ambiguity in the South China Sea (407)

CIA chief 'outraged' by personal email hack (479)

Processed Meats Classified As Carcinogens By World Health Organization (382)

Indonesia Calls for South China Sea Restraint Amid US-China Tensions. (387)

China's Big Week for European Diplomacy (338)

Will the new deal end conflict in South Sudan? (379)

Major Takeaways from Nawaz Sharif's US Visit (400)

Britain's Tony Blair: Iraq war contributed to rise of IS (410)

Trump: We’d be better off if Hussein and Gadhafi were still in power (444)

Park’s US Visit Highlights Balancing Act With China (389)

Regime and Iranian Forces Launch Multi-Pronged Offensive in Aleppo (450)

Reducing Food Wastage: Not Just Food for Thought (408)

China’s Changing North Korea Policy (468)

Russia's Syria campaign is no panacea (437)

Hybrid War In Afghanistan Takes A New Turn – Analysis (467)

There is no place for malnutrition in the 21st century (522)

The US-China South China Sea Showdown (467)

Has The U.S. Started A Proxy War With Russia In Syria? (476)

The Trouble with Indonesia-Singapore Relations (457)

Australia’s New Terrorism Test. (479)

China: Projecting Power Through Peacekeeping (456)

To end malnutrition, we must step up to the plate with data on what people eat (437)

5 Reasons to Pay Attention to the Global Food Security Act (435)

Britain could ditch human rights laws for troops in battle because of rising compensation culture after Iraq and Afghanistan wars (497)

Is the US Giving Myanmar a Free Pass? (463)

MSF says bombing of Afghan hospital no mistake (393)

If we want to end poverty, we need to be able to measure it properly (469)

Putin's pivot: The Russians are coming to Asia (499)

What Would Reagan Do About China’s Violations of the Law of the Sea? (477)

Time for UN to Shift Its Mission in Yemen (384)

Horses beaten with electric prods, cows left to bleed to death while still conscious and pigs crammed into 'gas cages' in horrifying footage from French abattoir which has prompted animal cruelty probe (542)

Marines Reunite With Dogs They Served With in Middle East After Years Apart (432)

The U.S. Military's 6th Generation Fighter: 5 Ways To Dominate the Sky (479)

Vietnam Between China and the United States: The Next Balancing Test Beckons. (463)

Russia Using Syria As Testing Ground For Its Modern Weaponry (373)

World Food Day and food security (461)

Malnutrition linked to nearly half of deaths among under-fives (498)

U.S. military wants to develop a ‘vampire’ drone that vanishes in the daylight (502)

What South Africa leaving the International Criminal Court would mean... (470)

Refugees and Neighbors: Rohingya in Bangladesh. (492)

US troops deployed to Cameroon for Boko Haram fight (448)

Carter says U.S. will sail, fly and operate wherever whenever (443)

China Enforcing Quasi-ADIZ in South China Sea: Philippine Justice. (474)

Sri Lanka Tamil prisoners on hunger strike demand release (432)

Expanding social protection offers a faster track to ending hunger – UN report (455)

Police told to record hate crimes against Muslims separately: Cameron wants figures to be published (442)

Seafood hit by climate change, Australian study finds (475)

Catalonia, A New State Within Europe? (489)

Myanmar’s Cease-Fire Deal Comes Up Short. (398)

Saudi Arabia just replenished Syrian rebels with one of the most effective weapons against the Assad regime (459)

ISIS and the Dangers of Black Market Oil (640)

Food prices lower for longer (370)

US Boosting ASEAN Capacity Amid South China Sea Tensions. (502)

'Australian Islamic State Fighters Doubled Last Year' (473)

Russia’s Goals, Tactics, And Strategy In Syria War (453)

Hundreds of thousands of migrants will be deported from the EU within weeks under secret plans intended to deter irregular migration (491)

Arsenic found in many American red wines but health risks depend on total diet (440)

Malaysia to Host New Conference to Tackle Islamic State Challenge. (495)

Does China Approve of Russia’s Airstrikes in Syria? (452)

CAN WE ERADICATE POVERTY AND SAVE OUR PLANET? (446)

US-Russia Proxy War In Syria Who s On Russia s Side? (500)

Taliban in Kunduz ISIS in Nangarhar: Fiefdoms of Conflict in Afghanistan (447)

FOOD SECURITY THE END OF A GOLDEN AGE (473)

What Does China Think of the TPP? (486)

Capitulation In Kunduz: Implications For Region (466)

Why We Need South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Patrols. (437)

What are the risks of Russian military involvement in Syria? (479)

How China Is Changing the UN (478)

Central Asia and the ISIS Phantom (378)

Obama-Putin meeting and why EU refugee crisis matters for Russia (483)

Strongest Militaries in the World (483)

Twists and Turns in Thailand s Bombing Case. (488)

China s Protracted War in Xinjiang (476)

Powerful El Niño to cause hunger among world s poorest people (385)

Modi Goes West: Taking Stock of the Indian Prime Minister s US Trip (449)

Inside the looming food wastage crisis (461)

Is Russia Going To Become The Next Superpower? (509)

China s Role in the Syria Crisis Revisited (410)

Pakistan and the Taliban: Past as Prologue? (442)

How Russia can deal with ISIS extremism within its own borders (411)

Cambodia and the Australian Asylum Seeker Deal. (438)

There is no planet B (450)

US CIA s Operations in China Take a Step Back in Wake of OPM Breach (409)

Afghanistan Can t Afford to Lose Kunduz to the Taliban (477)

Australia s New Defence Minister. (489)

The Taliban Take Kunduz: An Eyewitness Account (442)

Southeast Asia s Piracy Headache. (428)

Russia U.S. Ties Putin And Obama Meet (448)

China-US Cyber Agreements Has Beijing Outmaneuvered Washington? (428)

Nepal Tests India s Much Touted Neighborhood Diplomacy (391)

Efforts in Syria against ISIS won t bring US Russia closer together (438)

How do we protect global food supplies from extreme weather? (473)

PUTIN goes to WAR against ISIS: Stop dithering and FIGHT Russian leader tells West (447)

What ASEAN Can Teach the World About Surviving a Financial Crisis. (471)

What to Read on Xi Jinping s US Visit (420)

Thailand s Military Junta is Clueless about Economic Policy. (466)

What Will The Xi-Obama Summit Really Deliver? (433)

India s Defense FDI Limit Will Hinder Technology Transfer: US Official (493)

The Truth About US Freedom of Navigation Patrols in the South China Sea. (510)

Russian-German relations A renewed dialogue? (482)

Tolerance levels & more (478)

China Myanmar Talk Border Security at Military Consultation (490)

Amid Ongoing India-Pakistan Clashes Is Diplomacy Possible? (405)

The BRICS and the West Partners or rivals? (481)

Good News Global Food Policy Report Strikes Optimistic Tone (411)

How Washington Can Manage Sustainable Strategic Competition With China (472)

How Do Indians Feel About Narendra Modi s Handling of Foreign Policy? (476)

Will Putin Exchange Donbass for Syria? (364)

Britain s Labor Party could be ready to change the nation s Russia policy (461)

China South America and Regional Integration (433)

The paradox of the Minsk Agreements (493)

Hidden hunger is a global killer (479)

The Chinese Cyber Threat in the South China Sea (451)

The Real Significance of the Japan-Vietnam Strategic Partnership. (376)

India and Sri Lanka Vow to Increase Security and Economic Cooperation (436)

China or Iran Who Is the Bigger Threat to U.S. Airpower? (477)

West vs. Russia Media War Heating Up (406)

Becoming the Zero Hunger generation Achieving food security for all (455)

Qatari troops join fight against Houthi rebels (332)

Evaluating the US-India Strategic Agenda (432)

Marine life plummets and food security at risk (472)

China Iran Predict Closer Ties Thanks to Nuclear Deal (444)

Iran Nuclear Deal Lands In the Middle of 2016 Debate (375)

Myanmar Shan Villagers and the Salween Dam Fight. (467)

Anti-Submarine Operations in the Indian Ocean (476)

Improving Women s Rights A Step Toward Global Food Security (376)

Europe s security situation significantly worsened last year (382)

US China Hold Cyber Talks Before Xi s Visit (438)

What new social unrest in Kiev means for Washington and Moscow (257)

Nepal: Terai Agitation And The Constitution Making Proces (458)

Investors Are Grabbing a Japan-Size Chunk of the Developing World for Food and Water (451)

Can the US Marines Help Build Indonesia s Amphibious Capabilities? (284)

India-Egypt Relationship: Looking for a new Momentum (388)

Amid Shifting Geopolitical Dynamics India Plays Hard Ball in Afghanistan (415)

Europe s refugee crisis explained (447)

Philippines Australia to Hold Joint Military Exercises. (440)

The Refugee Crisis Isn t a European Problem (474)

Trash or treasure? Repurposing would-be wasted food to feed the hungry and create jobs (494)

Cambodia s Montagnard Problem. (463)

Australia to Bomb Syria? (386)

Is India s APEC Membership on the Table at this Year s Summit? (382)

The solution to this refugee crisis? A revised EU treaty (467)

India and Food Safety (480)

What Thailand s Rejected Constitution Means. (454)

Without ensuring universal access to water there can be no food security (457)

Russia And China Expanding And Cooperating Militarily (407)

Australia Wants to Join India US and Japan in Naval Exercises- Defense Minister (480)

The Problems Foreign Powers Find In The Balkans (461)

Singapore s Impressive Food Security (468)

Afghanistan s Looming Crisis (450)

Exclusive Who s Really Behind Thailand s Erawan Shrine Bomb Blast? (512)

From a Unipolar to a Bipolar Superpower System The Future of the Global Power Dynamic (499)

A Balancing Act;Food for the Hungry Fuel for Your Car (446)

Russia Has a China Problem Too (394)

NATO vs. Russia War Could Begin Today Or Tomorrow (482)

India and Seychelles Strengthen Ties Around Maritime Security Economic Cooperation (470)

Thailand s Navy to Get Boost with New Patrol Vessels. (473)

Global Food Security and the Missed Message of Milan s Expo 2015 (463)

What Now for China s Afghanistan Strategy? (477)

Adrift in ASEAN Tackling Southeast Asia s Migration Challenge. (384)

Putin Says Russia-China Relations At Historic Peak (465)

Australia s Disastrous Asylum Seeker Deal. (464)

A Cold Summer for China and Russia? (397)

Peace is back off the agenda (442)

Iran Nuclear Deal Gains Momentum With Endorsements of Four House Democrats (465)

Philippines Asks for US Military Assistance in South China Sea. (514)

Russia Exploits Obama’s Weaknesses To Destroy US Global Dominance (467)

Growing doubts over GMO safety a scientist s experience (475)

Rethinking the Obama-Xi Summit (494)

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