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The industry of fishing plays a vital role in the lives of millions of people in ASEAN and in the world. It is a main source of food and livelihood for many. It accounts for a significant percentage in global trade of agriculture commodities. Fish and marine products are among the most traded goods globally, with demand and supply both growing substantially since the last decade.
The world’s fish net
ASEAN has been a major producer of fish and other fisheries products. Combined, the 10 ASEAN countries accounted for a quarter of global fish production. Of the world’s top ten largest fish producers, four are from ASEAN - Indonesia, Thailand, Viet Nam, and the Philippines.
Indonesia, the 4th longest coastline country, is the largest producer in Southeast Asia. In 2010, its total fisheries production reached 10.83 million tonnes, up 10.29% compared to previous year’s 9.82 million tonnes of catch. In the same year, Viet Nam and the Philippines both produced 5.2 million tonnes of fish and other fisheries products each.
Recently, Myanmar has joined the ranks of major global producers, owing to its accelerated growth. In 2010, Food and Agriculture Office (FAO) data shows aquaculture production in Myanmar reached 850,959 tonnes, eight times larger than the 98,912-ton production volume in 2000.
More fish on plates
Global demand for the region’s fish produce is rising as other countries depend more on ASEAN’s catch. Australia sources nearly half of its fish demand from ASEAN countries. Studies show Australia’s domestic fish requirement will reach 776,000 tonnes by 2020. Of this volume, 610,000 tonnes will be imported.
One of ASEAN’s major trading partners, Japan, has been the leading importer of seafood in the world. In 2011, Japan’s seafood import reached 2.69 million tonnes, amounting to 1.45 trillion yen. Japan imports shrimp primarily from Viet Nam, Indonesia, and Thailand. Indonesia is also one of the country’s major sources for tuna, third to Taiwan and Korea.
In Thailand, fishery exports for 2010 increased 14% by value compared to 2007. Growth was driven by increased demand from Europe and the United States. Viet Nam’s seafood is also in demand as exports grew from US$ 5 billion in 2010 to US$ 6.2 billion in 2012. The United States is fast rising as a major importer of Viet Nam seafood. It is the primary importer of tuna and the second largest importer of shrimp from Viet Nam. Thailand and Viet Nam are two of the world’s major exporters of fish and fishery products.
The fisheries industry is among ASEAN’s 12 priority integration sectors. A roadmap on the integration of the fisheries was developed focusing on four areas: food safety issues, research and development, human resources development, and information sharing. It seeks to strengthen regional integration through liberalisation and facilitation measures in fisheries trade and investment. A well-implemented roadmap will mean improved transport of fish products across borders.
Beyond fisheries production and trade, however, ASEAN Member States have also been implementing measures aiming to ensure sustainability of fish stocks. Efforts include the establishment of an inter-governmental body that develops modern fishery techniques and promotes responsible technologies and practices for sustainable fishing; conduct of biological studies on commercially-important fish species; conservation and management of aquatic species under international concerns, i.e., marine turtles and sharks; development of a regional Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas; supporting non-government organization initiatives for the seafood resources of Southeast Asia; among others.
The fisheries industries include the marine sub-sector covering both commercial and small-scale fisheries; inland capture fishing which are carried out in rivers, lakes, swamps, and reservoirs; and coastal and freshwater aquaculture.