Asia’s marine waters are divided into 13 Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs), which together generate about 50% of the global marine fish catch of ~110 million tonnes annually. Here, I carry out a comparative analysis and valuation of these 13 LMEs with a focus on fish values even though marine ecosystem valuation is much broader than the valuation of fisheries. The following indicators were employed: Catch level, landed values, and subsidy intensity. These are key indicators of a fishery because (i) catch is an indicator of the amount of fish available in weight for food security purposes; (ii) landed value is the firsthand value from which wages, profits and economic impact originate; and (iii) fisheries subsidy is a policy instrument, which if used wrongly can lead to overcapacity and overfishing. In the second part of this contribution, I use the East and South China Sea LMEs to further illustrate the value of ocean fisheries and some of the threats they face. To carry out the comparative analysis, I extracted data from the Sea Around Us and Fisheries Economics Research Unit databases at the University of British Columbia. I also rely on the data and analysis of the OceanAsia project supported by the ADM Capital Foundation Ltd of Hong Kong. The analysis suggests that Asian LMEs are crucial in terms of food security, economic and social benefits to tens of millions of people in Asia and around the world; are under strong overfishing pressure; and that action is needed through effective management to stem the overfishing tide in order to ensure that these LMEs continue to sustain the delivery of goods and services through time.
Governance of South China Sea (SCS) fisheries remains weak despite acknowledgement of their widespread overexploitation for the past few decades. This review incorporates unreported fish catches to provide an improved baseline of the current status and societal contribution of SCS marine fisheries, so that the socio-economic and ecological consequences of continued fisheries unsustainability may be understood. Potential fisheries contribution to food and livelihoods include 11-17 million t in fisheries catch and USD 12-22 × 109in fisheries landed value annually in the 2000s, and close to 3 million jobs. However, overfishing has resulted in biodiversity and habitat loss, and altered ecosystem trophic structures to a ‘fished down’ state. The present situation reiterates the urgency for fisheries policies that simultaneously address multiple political, social, economic, and biological dimensions at regional, national, and local scales. Importantly, improved cooperation between SCS nations, particularly in overcoming territorial disputes, is essential for effective regional fisheries governance.