Fisherwomen’s plight must be put on priority, demands moot

HYDERABAD: The plight of fisherwomen should be put on priority while designing fisheries policy, because they have lost source of living due to increasing commercialization in fishing, experts pointed out at a dialogue held here on Monday late evening.

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) organised the dialogue with parliamentarians, government officials and civil society to review the issue and suggested priorities for introducing sustainable fishery policy, keeping it in mind that climate change impacts more on coastal communities, their lives and livelihoods.

UN Women National Project coordinator Asim Abro, giving his reaction regarding the policy said the fisherwomen residing at seashore, various fresh water lakes and the river are most vulnerable at the time, when climate change is knocking the corridors of communities livelihoods.

The fisherwomen played key role in fishing from manufacturing nets, travelling to open sea with their males, drying fish at islands and supply water to the vessels crews long ago. But now the women have lost their traditional livelihoods and mostly sitting idle at homes. The fisherwomen are real victims of ups and downs of weather changes and wrong policies of the government.

The problem the PFF identified is the existing law of 1980 of fisheries ordinance that governs the fisheries in Sindh and the proposed Sindh fisheries and aquaculture act 2015 have various loopholes. The proposed act also needs to be harmonized with FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, which Pakistan has signed.

Mustafa Gurgaiz, representing PFF defining the concept said “for separate fisheries policy there is need to review existing law and other regulations and produce a set of recommendations, which may support fishermen community in very effective way.”

He gave overview of earlier discussions and collecting input from communities and designed a comprehensive document to protect the life and livelihoods of the people. PPP MPA Faqirdad Khoso assured the fishermen of marine and inland areas of taking up the matters, including policy draft for putting at Sindh Assembly forum. He quoting officials of Sindh Fisheries Department urged upon PFF campaigners to adopt mechanism to avoid increasing pollution and over fishing by community itself. He said the using harmful nets and other methods may empty the lakes and the sea, which definitely will affect the community, who depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

Mustafa Mirani said almost all fresh water bodies either are dead due to stopping feeding source of water or receiving poisonous factory chemicals, resulting in mass migration of communities, who left their abodes in search f better living to other areas. Only a few fresh waters are alive in Sindh, which also face overburden and communities do not have option for survival.

He acknowledged the government which established model villages and distributed small fishing boats and nets free of cost to deserving fishermen at Manchar Lake. He also said the government officials may know more about fishing and water bodies, way of pollution etc, but indigenous knowledge among community workers, both male and female, show their love to waters and its environment. Hence, their input needs first choice while making decisions by the government.

Dr Allahdad Talpur, who is one of the leading architects of Sindh fisheries policy, said there might be some lacking areas in policy designing and implementations and the coordination should be strengthened within stakeholders to avoid any problem.

PFF has been working across the province of Sindh and has a vast experience about the issues concerning to Fisherfolk. Fisheries play an important role in the national economy but unfortunately we greatly lack the good policies, rules and regulation to manage the resources of fisheries and importantly to facilitate the fishers.

They said recent ecological changes in the area, due to mega projects in the name of development along the Indus delta and Arabian coastal area have put desperate negative impact on natural livelihood resources and those communities accordingly.

Among the speakers include ex-minister Fisheries Zahid Bhurgari,, District forest officer Amjad Ali Shah, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Fahmeeda Jafri, Ishaq Mangrio and others spoke on the occasion.