UN: Dramatic drops in Central Asia's fisheries sector

Rome, Dushanbe, Tajikistan - Fisheries production in the Central Asian and Caucasus republics has "plummeted dramatically" in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a UN food agency said Monday.

The crisis is topping the agenda when nine member nations of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) began meeting in Tajikistan on Monday

The Rome-based FAO estimates that between 1989 and 2006 annual inland fisheries and aquaculture production in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan fell from between 60 to 72 per cent.

Tajikistan's production dropped 94 per cent, and Kyrgyzstan's 98 per cent, during the same period.

Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia saw similar reductions in fisheries outputs - 92, 81, and 98 per cent respectively.

As a result, fish consumption in the entire region is down -- to less than 1 kilogram per capita per year.

A combination of factors are to blame for the current crisis according to a FAO 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 pollution of rivers; and, a lack of investment in modern processing and marketing facilities and equipment.

Another FAO study from 2007 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 UN agency says that poaching is common in the region's inland waters.

The meeting Tajikistan which lasts through November 12, aims to tackle the crisis by bolstering regional cooperation.

Proposals include establishing an intergovernmental fisheries body that would lead efforts to rescue fisheries and aquaculture and promote their future sustainable development. (dpa)