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Asia Dive News : Aid rush in tsunami region raises fishery risks

A rush to provide boats to fishermen in regions devastated by Asia's tsunami has raised the danger of unsafe vessels and overfishing, a U.N. agency warned on Wednesday 14th.

Head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) tsunami fisheries taskforce said an FAO inspector in Indonesia watched the launch of donated boats that started sinking within 30 minutes.

"Everybody's trying to build boats because they were given money and they were told to build boats and help the fishermen," Lahsen Ababouch told Reuters after speaking at a fisheries conference in Sydney on Wednesday.

"Every carpenter has become a boat builder. The people who were making tables and chairs are now building boats," said Ababouch.

Some villagers had taken engines from donated boats but left the boats on the beach as they were unsafe, he said.

The FAO has estimated 35,000 fishermen died in last December's tsunami, which led to direct losses of about $520 million in the fisheries sector and destroyed about 111,000 vessels. It estimates that it will take some three to five years to rebuild fishing industries in tsunami-hit areas.

With hundreds of organisations donating tsunami aid, the FAO has now turned its focus from on-the-ground emergency assistance to safety, aid co-ordination and strategic advice on rebuilding a sustainable fishing industry.

The FAO warns that too many new boats, or boats that had too much capacity, also raised the danger of overfishing.

"There will be so many boats chasing so few fish and that will lead to the collapse of fish stocks in the region," said Ababouch.

"One of the positive signs is that the players are realising that without proper co-ordination we will do more harm than good," he added.

Source: Reuters