Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sea intrusion takes over 2.6 million acres of fertile land

KARACHI: The World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) while welcoming the report designed by Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who warned of the threat of ‘ocean-grabbing’ to food security, and urged world governments and international bodies to halt the depletion of fish stocks, and take urgent steps to protect, sustain, and share the benefits of fisheries and marine environments.

Representing the world fisher communities, WFFP and PFF appealed to the Pakistan government to design policy in the light of recommendations designed by the UN Rapporteur on the right to food to avoid food insecurity, as fears of sea intrusion, depletion of mangroves, delta and fresh waters were visible in the country, depriving fishermen of their right to livelihoods. “More than two million people depend on ocean for fishing here. The sea intrusion has taken away more than 2.6 million acres fertile land, which is alarming for
the community.”

PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, who is also the Secretary General of WFFP, urged the Pakistan government to incorporate the recommendations in its Fisheries Policy to adopt mechanism to safeguard our fish reserves.

“Unchecked over exploitation of resources, like fish stock has put hundreds of people to live a vulnerable life there without availability of fish for their family’s consumption,” Shah said.

“‘Ocean-grabbing’ – in the shape of shady access agreements that harm small-scale fishers, unreported catch, incursions into protected waters, and the diversion of resources away from local populations - can be as serious a threat as ‘land-grabbing,’” De Schutter said as he unveiled a new report on fisheries and the right to food.

“Without rapid action to claw back waters from unsustainable practices, fisheries will no longer be able to play a critical role in securing the right to food of millions,” the expert said, noting that “with agricultural systems under increasing pressure, many people are now looking to rivers, lakes and oceans to provide an increasing share of our dietary protein.”

Estimates on the scale of illegal catch range from 10-28 million tones (mt), while some 7.3mt – 10 per cent of global catch – is discarded every year. “It is clear that as fish are becoming less abundant, fishing vessels are tempted to evade rules and conservation strategies,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Many of the world’s waters are fished by distance fleets, De Schutter noted, calling for the Licence and Access Agreements (LAAs). He called for LAAs to include stronger oversight mechanisms to tackle illegal and unreported catch; take full account of the role of fisheries and small-scale fishers in meeting local food needs; strengthen labour rights on fishing vessels; and be concluded only on the basis of human rights impact assessments, to be prepared with the assistance of flag states.

The UN expert called on governments to rethink the models of fisheries that they support, highlighting that small-scale fishers actually catch more fish per gallon of fuel than industrial fleets, and discard fewer fish. “Industrial fishing in far-flung waters may seem like the economic option, but only because fleets are able to pocket major subsidies while externalizing the costs of over-fishing and resource degradation. Future generations will pay the price when the oceans run dry,” he said.

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