By Megan Moews
What is an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM)? Why would you want or need to implement an EAFM? How would you implement one? These questions were posed and discussed during a successful 2-day training workshop on an EAFM held for leaders, executives, and decision makers (LEAD) last month in Dili, Timor-Leste. Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Development Mission Asia (RDMA) as a key component of the U.S. Coral Triangle Initiative (USCTI), Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP), NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, and the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), Dr. Rusty Brainard, Megan Moews, and Max Sudnovsky of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), with Rui Pinto and Candice Mohan of CTSP, led this workshop to help build the capacity of this new country to manage fisheries using a more holistic ecosystem approach. This workshop is the second in a series of EAFM LEAD workshops in the Coral Triangle region, the first of which was held in December in Malaysia.
The workshop in Timor-Leste was attended on March 5–6 by representatives from numerous components of the government of Timor-Leste, including the honorable Rafael Gonçalves, who is the Secretary of State for Fisheries, National Director of Fisheries Augusto Fernandes and other important staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Sr. Almeida Xavier of the National Directorate of Forestry, Commander Silva and Lt. Loe from the naval component of the Defense Forces of Timor-Leste, and Profs. Karen Edyvane and Lince Dessy da Fonseca of the National University of Timor-Leste.
At the beginning of the workshop, each of the participants was asked to share his or her thoughts on the issues, concerns, and threats facing fisheries and coastal resource management in Timor-Leste. Then, we provided background presentations about the why, what, and how of an EAFM primarily to motivate discussions among the participants. Much to our pleasure and thanks to Pinto’s outstanding communication skills, participants actively engaged in thoughtful and inspirational discussions about how they could move toward an EAFM in this young country. Most noteworthy was a clear and passionate expression of the need to work across the different ministries. The Secretary of State of Fisheries proposed a cabinet-level meeting among the ministers to discuss EAFM. Others applauded this idea and suggested the formation of a multiministry EAFM Task Force and the establishment of regular cross-ministerial coordination meetings to be held every 2 months.
The need to build and develop human capacity to manage fisheries using an EAFM also was discussed. Participants noted that this need could be met through both vocational training at the Maritime College for existing staff and fishers and academic training in fisheries at the University. They discussed incorporation into these training efforts the Essential EAFM curricula being jointly developed by NOAA, CTSP, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project (BoBLME).
Participants valued case studies of efforts that have and have not worked in fisheries management, including successes in EAFM and lessons learned from the Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) Project in the Philippines and the U.S. Fishery Management Council process. These case studies provided examples of steady, long-term movement toward an EAFM at both small community and large national scales.
Despite numerous, real fisheries management challenges and current capacity limitations in Timor-Leste, workshop participants left the room optimistic about their prospects for moving forward together and realistic about the long-term process required for a transition toward an EAFM.
We express our heartfelt gratitude to Mohan, Pinto, Cláudia Pereira, and Imaculada Gusmao, of the CTSP, for the tremendous assistance they provided in making arrangements for the workshop and translating all of the materials, and for Pinto’s theatrical and impressive translations during the workshop (including some impressive note-taking prowess and drawings). We couldn’t have done it without you! We also thank USAID RDMA and USAID Timor-Leste Mission for their encouragement and support of these types of efforts aimed at capacity building in sustainable management of coastal resources and fisheries to improve food security, livelihoods, and economic growth in the region. In addition, we thank our EAFM colleagues from NOAA and CTSP, who’ve been working with us to develop the EAFM LEAD course. Finally, and most important, we would like to thank all of the participants from Timor-Leste for sharing their energy, enthusiasm, and passion during the workshop. It was truly a pleasure working with everyone!