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Fishermen's Leaders Speak Out Against Aquaculture

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PAKISTAN - World fishermen's leaders have emphasised the need to initiate a global campaign against commercial aquaculture, which, it says, is destroying water bodies and depriving poor fishermen of their sources of living.

According to The News of Pakistan, aquaculture is a negative practice, destroying fishing grounds all over the world, they observed.

These views were expressed by the participants on the third day of the Fifth World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) General Assembly held in Karachi last week.

Naseegh Jaffar Mogamad of South Africa said that the family of the WFFP wants the global government to introduce sustainable aquaculture instead of promoting commercial interventions, which are destroying natural resources. The firms developing aquaculture in various countries use chemicals in fish feed and catch, destroying natural water resources.

Fishermen in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and other countries have already launched a campaign to save natural resources, opposing the aquaculture there. The Government of Pakistan had also initiated a move to promote aquaculture but could not make it successful. Naseegh Jaffar Mogamad with Herman Kumara of Sri Lanka and Sherry Pictou of Canada was facilitating the sessions. He said that the community-led aquaculture might be favourable to benefit the poor fishermen, who were natural custodians of their water resources.

Mr Mogamad said that the big achievement of the WFFP was to bring the entire fishers organisation together to protect the rights of small scale fishermen.

He said: "All these member organisations represent poor fishers, who are directly involved in the fishing and not a single group of rich people is with us. When we demand aquaculture reforms, it means saving the freshwater bodies, which are being depleted by commercialisation of aquaculture all over the world."

On the occasion, Herman Kumara from Sri Lanka made a presentation on International Instrument on Small Scale Fisheries. He briefed that the FAO Committee on Fisheries approved the development of a new international instrument on small-scale fisheries in February 2011. The instrument, which should be taken as guidelines rather than a plan, will address both inland and marine fisheries and focus on the needs of developing countries. It was emphasised that a responsible and sustainable small-scale artisanal and indigenous fisheries is possible only if these points are addressed in an integrated manner.

Fernando Large Hiccup and Hannah Chevy Marie from Philippines highlighted conversion, privatisation, eco-tourism and reclamation of fisheries land and mining as major problems confronting the fisheries community in the Philippines, according to The News. Mr Hiccup said that the coastal areas are fast being taken over for so-called development work with airport restaurants, recreational spots and casinos being built along the coastal areas. The famous Laguna Lake has seen multiple development projects, posing increasing challenges to the fisheries community and restricting their livelihood options. He informed that the community is well-mobilised and has been fighting for issues through campaigning, mass protests, lobbying with the parliamentarians and filing petitions. Due to strong lobbying of the fisheries community, an $18.7 billion programme along the Laguna Lake was brought to a halt.

Misbahul Munir Aziz from Indonesia described poor working conditions of the Indonesian fishermen who are also struggling against the state that has been increasingly favouring capitalist ventures at the cost of small scale industries. He identified state apathy reflected in unconditional support for privatisation of marine resources and heavily capitalist ventures as well as pursuance of policies that are not beneficial to fishermen at all; arrests of fishermen over accidental border crossing; and climate change as major issues compromising fisheries community's rights and access to resources.

Being a disaster prone country, the challenges for native small-scale fishermen compound in the face of a state that makes no efforts to resolve fisheries community’s issues. He pointed out promotion of education and political awareness, institutionalisation of small capitalisation, involvement of fishermen in government planning, promoting involvement of women fishers, strengthening organisations struggling for fishermen as key areas of intervention and informed that the Indonesia Fisherfolk Union is also working in these areas.

Lala Diop from Senegal made her remarks about women in Senegal. The administration and management of the fisheries community in Senegal is heavily dominated by women. They have organised to raise their issues with local, national governments and at the international level. Major problems they face include infrastructure development, poor civic amenities, access to basic political rights. She shared that efforts are being made to ensure that women are involved at every step of the decision making processes at the state.

Other speakers emphasised the need for solidarity among the fisheries community. Highlighting the issues of women involved in fisheries it was observed that the multi-national character of a forum such as the World Forum of Fisher Peoples lends strength to the platform as a strong representative body of the fisheries community.

The News report concluded that Tahira Ali of PFF spoke on the issue of women in the context of a fisheries sector that is struggling for survival. She stated that environment issues, mangroves cutting and development of mega water projects all continue to contribute to the miseries of the fisheries communities. The situation is forcing migration of communities to areas that offer relatively better income generation opportunities, she added.