Assessment of demersal fishery in Brunei Darussalam
Overview, context and setting
Within the last decade, the marine ecosystem of Brunei Darussalam is suspected to undergo significant changes, particularly with the rapid shift in the state of the demersal (i.e. sea bottom) stocks from being ‘lightly fished’ in the 1990s to being ‘overexploited’ in the 2000s. Despite its relatively small landings and fishing area covered, Brunei marine ecosystem is considered a valuable reference point – a lightly harvested system within a region known to be chronically overexploited. Brunei’s stable economy which is largely based on oil and gas, small population, and low reliance on coastal resources placed Brunei on a unique position in terms of fishery developments and management challenges. Yet, fisheries research progress in Brunei is relatively slow compared to the neighbouring countries, and the impact of fisheries in Brunei waters remains poorly understood.
Brunei Darussalam: Environmental setting
Authors from the Reef At Risk in Southeast Asia (RRSEA) project estimated the coral reef and coralline areas in Brunei waters to cover roughly 200 km2, including fringing reefs, patch reefs, and one atoll. There are also several artificial reefs made up of tyres, galvanised pipes, concrete piles and redundant oil platforms which have been placed at several sites parallel to the coastline. At present, there are seven offshore oil and gas fields in operation, with connecting pipelines between the fields. Over 50% of Brunei’s gross domestic product (GDP) is contributed by the oil and gas industry, so any fisheries and environmental development program must ensure safety and unhampered operation of the sector’s offshore installations.
FIG 1. Location of Brunei Darussalam and the fishing zones used for management purposes.
Fisheries management in Brunei and research to date
Routine trawl survey and hydroacoustic survey are the two main techniques employed by the DOF in their stock assessments, in addition to a regular catch and effort data analysis. Although reports of some of these analyses were used in DOF’s management processes, too much of the data being collected remains unpublished. Furthermore, relatively limited technical capacity and scientific knowledge in the country meant that Brunei is constantly seeking help from international organizations in executing comprehensive assessments and monitoring programs. To date, most of the fisheries research carried out in Brunei waters were executed by international organizations investigating on South China Sea on a whole. These researches, however, tend to generalise and apply the results of low density sampling to large areas.