Ongoing Study 2


One of the important tasks of the ICSF is to monitor the impact of development programmes on the living and working conditions of fishworkers. This is a formidable task, in which the ICSF Secretariat needs the assistance of the regional networks of supporters and fishworkers’ organizations as well as that committed scientists and administrators with access to the required information.

Impact monitoring is the first step in building up an early warning system through which the ICSF attempts to prevent the implementation of development programmes which are contrary to the interests of fishworkers and the public at large. To achieve this aim, the Secretariat needs up-to-date information on-planned development programmes so that in the event of projects likely to prove damaging, opposition can be organized at local and national as well as international levels


For a couple of years the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been publishing a Survey of External Assistance to the Fisheries Sector in Developing Countries (1). This survey presents consolidated data which shows the amounts and types of external assistance given by major donors, and receiving regions. According to this information external assistance to fisheries has more than doubled in the period 1974-l984 from $US228.8 million to $US482.4 million (in constant $US terms). About 80% of the assistance in 1984 consisted of capital aid (vessels, harbours, infrastructure, etc), while the rest has been spent on technical assistance (training, research, etc.).


The World Bank (WB) and regional development banks (Asian, African and Inter-American Development Ranks) arewith 42% the main investors in fisheries, followed by bilateral donors (38%).

The UN system, including FAO, account for about 7% consisting mostly of technical assistance. FAO’s role in investments is, however, much stronger than indicated by this figure. Many of the investment projects undertaken by the World Bank and regional development banks are prepared with the assistance of the FAO Investment Centre which is a relatively independent unit within FAO. Insiders say that the coordination between the technical units of FAO and the Investment Centre is very poor. The latter sees itself more as an extension of the WB (where the US has the main say) than of FAO (where Third World countries have the majority votethough not the funds!).

..and the EEC

In recent years, the European Economic Community (EEC) has greatly increased its involvement in the fisheries of developing countries and accounted in 1984 for 7% of all assistance, up from less than 1% in 1979. Considering that a large part of bilateral assistance is also provided by EEC countries, the EEC is among the most influential external investors in the fisheries of Third World countries, especially in Africa where the bulk of the presently under-exploited fishery resources are located. This increasing interest on the part of the EEC is not surprising as with the inclusion of Spain and Portugal the EEC has to accommodate a vastly expanded fleet of fishing vessels, which is too large for the fishery resources within EEC waters. In the words of an EEC representative: “Whether fishing survives as an occupation for the Community’s fishermen will now depend on the conclusion of fisheries agreements with Third World countries.

Most of the countries with under-exploited resources are indeed in the Third World, especially North and West Africa.

So-called development assistance is extremely handy when it comes to preparing the groundwork for the conclusion of joint-venture agreements: contacts are established; information on location and abundance of profitable resources is being collected and key decision-makers are financially and ideologically prepared to approve so-called ‘mutually’ beneficial deals. The ones who lose out on the deal are the thousands of artisanal fishing families who have no voice and who-with some development assistance provided here and there-are being made to believe that they are also benefiting.

In those countries where the carrot is not working, the EEC has the stick to hand: denial of access to the resources is met with the denial of access to EEC markets. In this manner, the EEC has designed an effective system to safeguard the interests of EEC fisheries in the name of development aid.


A new actor has recently appeared on the fishery scene of West Africa, namely the United States. So far, US involvement is confined to the provision of minor financial support, but major development programmes are under consideration for implementation by USAID. Contrary to the EEC’s business interests. US involvement is stimulated by geostrategical considerations. The US is highly annoyed by the large presence of fishing fleets from the USSR and from other East European countries off the West African coast and would like to see the influence of the East greatly reduced in this region including the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola.

The role of the fishing fleets from the Eastern bloc in West Africa is quite damaging to the local fishing fleetsespecially the USSR’s, which has won a name for itself by indiscriminately wiping out fishery resources and infringing local laws such as the ban on operating in inshore waters to protect artisanal fisheries. The fleets are also dumping fish on the local markets (to gain foreign ex- ‘change) thereby lowering fish prices to such a level that the local artisanal fishermen have difficulties making ends meet.

The countries from the Eastern bloc are basically following the same system as those from the West in acquiring access agreements with developing countries such as outright pay-offs to corrupt government officials and the provision of capital and technical assistance. The only difference seems to be that the East is even less interested in assisting artisanal fishermen than the West.


Coming back tote FAO review, it does not provide much information on the impact of external assistance. Such impact will depend first and foremost on the kind of investments undertaken in the fishery sector. Are they geared towards the needs of fish workers or are they undertaken to generate maximum profit for a few? Do such investments contribute to the ecologically sound utilization of a fragile renewable resource or are they accelerating the destruction of the coastal and marine eco-system? Are such investments contributing to satisfy the nutritional needs of the under- or malnourished sections of the population or are they enhancing the flow of food from the needy to the affluent? These are some of the questions which need to be answered when assessing the impact of national and externally supported investment programmes on the fishery sector.

Many of us are aware that a great number of development programmes did more harm than good for the fishworkers in general and for small-scale rural fishing families in particular.

External assistance and national development schemes have concentrated on the introduction of capital intensive fishing technologies geared towards export production. Support to artisanal fishing communities consisted more often of lip-service than of allocation of sufficient financial, technical and manpower resources.


After FAO’s 1984 World Fisheries Conference there was some hope that more resources would be provided for artisanal and small-scale fisheries. Preliminary data indicate that this hope has been frustrated lip-service continues to prevail. Concessionary aid to fisheries in developing countries is declining and with it assistance to small-scale fisheries. The bulk of external assistance is still going into large-scale fisheries, which employ not more than one tenth of all fishermen world-wide.

The millions of small-scale fishermen receive less than onefifth (about $US 100 million) of all assistance. With an estimated number of about 15 million small-scale fishermen and at least 60 million family members, external assistance per capita works out to just above 1 $US. This is very little, but certainly a highly profitable investment for the suppliers of fishing gear, engines, vessels, etc. from the industrialized countries.


It’s hardly surprising to read the following declaration of aims for technical assistance from the department responsible for Japanese Overseas Fisheries Development Cooperation:

to develop the unexploited fishery resources of developing countries for Japanese utilization through economic cooperation;

to facilitate fishing agreements favourable to Japan by offering developing countries technical assistance for the

development of their fisheries;

to allocate governmental technical assistance to developing countries so as to facilitate Japanese Private sector investments.


The only major change observed in investment patterns is that more money is being invested in aquaculture, and shrimp culture in particular. However, this new emphasis is a result of old, familiar reasons: earning of foreign exchange and profits for the few.

Shrimps are turning out to be the ‘cattle of the sea’. They are highly inefficient converters of protein requiring large amounts of feed in intensive forms of farming. So-called trash-fish, which in many instances is or could be used for direct human consumption, is one of the main ingredients in the preparation of such feed. Again, the poorest consumers are deprived of a cheap source of animal protein to provide a luxury dish for the rich.

The culture of shrimps also raises serious ecological concerns. First, trash-fish has hitherto been the often undesired by-catch of trawling. The advent of shrimp farming has brought about the promotion of highly destructive trawling with extremely small mesh sizesspecifically orientated towards the capture of trash-fish which in turn further aggravates over-exploitation of fishery resources in inshore areas. Second, large areas of mangroves are being converted into shrimp ponds among the mast valuable resources for the living of coastal rural people, providing fuel, fodder and employment, mangroves are also important breeding and nursery grounds for many aquatic species.

Spontaneity and of being in touch with the real issues. It proved beyond doubt that initiatives at local levelwhen brought together with enthusiasm and commitment produce a synergic effect.


Multi-lateral and bilateral agencies rarely evaluate the impact of their development programmes; and if they do so, the reports are not meant for the public at large as the content is often too embarrassing for the agency or the government concerned. One important demand of the ICSF is therefore that more attention be given to the monitoring and evaluation of development programmes and that the results of such evaluations be made accessible to, interested members of the public.

The little evaluation work that has been done by multilateral and bilateral agencies indicates that the overall performance of fisheries projects has been poor and generally worse than projects implemented in other sectors such as agriculture. The bad performance has various causes, including the introduction of inappropriate fishing vessels and gear, over-investment in industrialized vessels leading to over-exploitation of fishery resources and the mis-management and diversion of funds by implementing agencies.

The only criterion applied by international agencies for evaluating their investment projects is the internal rate of return. This criterion takes no account of who benefits from a given project and whose interests may be threatened by it. Such evaluation reports therefore fail to assess, for example, the impact of a programme to expand exportorientated industrial fisheries on artisanal fishermen or on local consumers of fish.

For effective monitoring and evaluation of fisheries projects; the ICSF needs the assistance of supporters and fishworkers organizations, and of the readers of SAMUDRA REPORT in general.

For this purpose, the ICSF Secretariat has given below a list of questions for those of you who are aware of the planning or implementation of fisheries projects which are likely to be damaging to the interests of fishworkers. Upon receipt of the replies, the Secretariat will approach the respective agency to obtain further information and clarification and, if needed, will attempt to halt such projects through the organization of public opposition on local, national and international levels.

In the forthcoming issues of SAMUDRA REPORT we shall report on the information collected in this manner and on the steps taken by the ICSF Secretariat to prevent programmes and projects contrary to the interests of fishworkers.