By Supin Wongbusarakum
The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) offered a regional training course called “Essential Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) and Extension Methodologies” on Sept. 15–29, in Samut Prakarn, Thailand. Trainees from the majority of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, including Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia) participated in this training. Most of the participants were fisheries officers. Dr. Rusty Brainard and Dr. Supin Wongbusarakum from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) served as resource experts for the course, offering guidance and advice to both participants and trainers throughout the training course.
In the first week, the SEAFDEC trainer team—including the hard working and angelic Ms. Panitnard Taladon (Training and Extension Section Head), attention capturer Mr. Isara Chanrajchakit (Fishery Gear Technology Section Head), king of energizer Mr. Krit Phusirimongkol (Training and Extension Officer), new delightful trainer Ms. Siriporn Pangsorn (Fishing Ground Information Scientist), and several other SEAFDEC staff members—provided basic knowledge on the EAFM process and how it can assist in decision making for responsible and sustainable fisheries. The main objective of the first part of this course was for the participants to understand the concept of an EAFM and related steps and to acquire skills and knowledge to develop, implement, and monitor an EAFM plan to better manage capture fisheries. The course was composed of lectures and small group exercises on the 17 training modules that make up the Essential EAFM course.
In the second week, the course focused on communication and facilitation skills, the concept and methods of fisheries extension, and participatory rural appraisal (PRA) methods. Guest lecturers for these topics were Dr. Surapol Chandrapatya (Senior Expert of the National Extension and Training Center, Kasetsart University, Thailand) and Mr. Shinya Yoshida (Director General, Department of Fisheries and Forestry, Hokkaido Government, Japan), and Dr. Theo Ebber (Coordinator from the Asian Institute of Technology). Several others served as resource people for the course, including Dr. Jarin Sawanboonchun (Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project EAFM training coordinator), Mr. Bundit Chokesanguan (Course Director and Information and Training Division Head), Mr. Hajime Kawamura (Project Manger and Deputy Chief of the Training Department), Mr. Tsuyoshi Iwata (Technical Coordinator), and Mr. Akira Bamba (Assistant Project Manager).
At the end of the week, the participants visited two fishing communities (Ban Gon Aow and Ban Krachur) in Rayong Province to practice facilitation and PRA methods with local fishers. Focus group discussion, interviewing, problem ranking, and problem tree analysis were used to identify and prioritize core fishery-related problems, causes, and results on the stakeholders.
On Sept. 16, Brainard was invited by the SEAFDEC trainer team to present and lead the discussion on the history of fisheries management (1976–2013) in the United States and the shift toward an EAFM. On Sept. 25, Wongbusarakum led a group of participants from six of the ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia) and members of the SEAFDEC staff to practice their PRA and extension skills in the Ban Krachur community. On Sept. 26, she co-facilitated the discussion on the lessons learned from the field visit and on the applications and benefits of the PRA methods for the EAFM goals, objectives, and action plans. The field visit offered opportunities for participants to learn about issues and problems from the local Thai fishers. Trainees who had little or no experience in extension observed and learned from experienced extension workers as they engaged fishers in the group discussion and facilitated the process of problem identification, analysis, and raking with them. Despite the very brief afternoon visit, participants felt that they learned a lot about critical issues from the fishers through the PRA method of problem tree analysis.
Discussions on the last day of the course showed that participants agreed that an EAFM was a logical process and would be useful for fisheries management in their countries. Many of the participants expressed their appreciation for the course and course materials. An EAFM made them actively think beyond specific fishery problems, more about goals and objectives for human well-being, and about how good governance can help balance ecological well-being with social goals. Despite the fact that English was not the first or second language of all participants, except those from the Philippines, the participants tried hard to overcome the communication barrier, both in understanding the course and in making new friends from other countries. There was a noticeable joy in learning, positive feedback, and heartfelt thanks during the speeches given by participant representatives at the closing ceremony. This atmosphere and their wish to continue EAFM efforts when they return home were good signs for the success of this course.