8 guidelines to make small scale fishing more sustainable
MANILA, Philippines – The small scale fishing industry has strong potential to help end world hunger.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), small scale fisheries contribute about half of global fish catches and employ more than 90% of the world’s fisherfolk and fish workers, around half of whom are women.
This makes the sector not only a source of nutritious food but also a provider of income for millions of people around the globe.
However, the industry’s vital role in ensuring food security, poverty eradication, equitable development, and sustainable resource utilization is threatened by a number of problems.
In recent decades, the development of the whole fisheries sector, including commercial fishing and aquaculture, has led to the overexploitation of natural resources.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) noted that municipal fisheries production dropped by 1.96% in 2014.
Small scale fisherfolk often find themselves victims of unequal power relations. Poverty exists in their communities, where residents are hindered from enjoying their full civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. (READ: PH oceans in crisis: The sad state of small fisherfolk)
Thus, the FAO recently released a set of voluntary guidelines that will provide consensus principles and guidance for small scale fisheries, with a focus on developing countries.
The “Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication,” or the SSF Guidelines, aim to enhance the contribution of small scale fisheries to food security, and the recognition of the right to adequate food worldwide. (READ: Want to feed the world? Save oceans first)
They also serve to provide guidance on how to make the municipal fishing sector more economically and ecologically sustainable.
Empowering the sector
The SSF Guidelines prescribe a human rights-based approach, where all fisherfolk, including women and indigenous groups, are empowered to participate in the government's decision-making processes.
All concerned parties should also assume responsibility for the sustainable use of fishery resources.
Some of the highlights of the SSF Guidelines are as follows:
1. Governance of tenure in small scale fisheries and sustainable resource management
All parties must recognize that a responsible governance regarding the tenure of fisheries, lands, and forests applicable to small scale fishing is crucial.
States should enact or develop laws that will provide municipal fishing communities with secure, equitable, and socially and culturally appropriate tenure rights to fishery resources.
Legislation should also involve wise resource management, which include putting an end to destructive fishing methods.
2. Social development and decent work
Small scale fishing communities must be given access to basic services, including schooling, adequate housing, safe drinking water, and sufficient sources of energy.
States should also develop alternative sources of livelihood and ensure crime-free environments for fishing communities.
Occupational health issues and unfair working conditions must be addressed.
3. Post-harvest and trade
States should invest in appropriate infrastructures and services that will help municipal fisherfolk create products that are safe and of good quality.
Governments must also ensure that international trade and export production does not adversely affect local small scale fisheries.
4. Gender equality
States should establish policies that promote the equality of all genders, especially with regard to small scale fishing development strategies. The role that women’s work play in the industry must also be recognized.
Both men and women must have equal chances in recruitment, as well as access to technical services and legal support.
5. Disaster risks and climate change
Governments must identify the vulnerabilities of fishing communities to natural disasters and climate change effects, and provide fisherfolk with such information. Disaster risk mitigation measures must also be implemented.
6. Policy coherence and institutional coordination and collaboration
A comprehensive effort to make the small scale fishing industry more sustainable entails inter-agency plans and initiatives. Proper consultation must be conducted, and governments must ensure that municipal fisherfolk are part of the decision-making processes.
7. Information, research, and communication
Systems on collecting fisheries data must be in place, including gender-specific bioecological, social, cultural, and economic data relevant to decision-making procedures. States must conduct studies that would help in improving small scale fishing.
Government officials must be also be transparent and impartial in making decisions concerning the sector.
8. Capacity development
To include small scale fisherfolk in decision-making processes, states must create legitimate, democratic, and representative structures, where fishing communities can easily voice out their concerns.
Governments must also provide technical training to fisherfolk when appropriate.
According to FAO, the SSF Guidelines must be implemented while keeping in mind existing local, national, and international priorities.
FAO emphasized that the guidelines are “voluntary, global in scope, and with a focus on the needs of developing countries.”
FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said the SSF Guidelines are a fundamental tool in support of FAO’s vision to eradicate hunger and promote sustainable development as outlined in the organization’s new strategic framework.
“They will guide dialogue, policy processes and actions at all levels and help the sector to realize its full contribution to food security and poverty eradication,” he said. – Rappler.com
Fishing village image via Shutterstock