KARACHI: Protecting food resources and resolving trans-boundary issue related to the marine waters dominated the debate over sustainable fisheries policy, as the participants warned that since the food resources are shrinking fast, there is need to have a policy draft to avoid the loss to natural assets.
This was discussed at a two-day provincial workshop on Wednesday with participation of fishermen community activists hailing from inland and marine waters, farmers, environmentalists, government officials and civil society leaders held at a local hotel.
The participants gave valuable input regarding the sustainability of fish, food and water resources, saying the seafood is main component and presently small scale fishermen are facing hardships to even feed their kids as per their needs.
The event was organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), which produced valuable points to sensitize the government to adopt the draft of fisheries policy, keeping in mind the concerns raised by the community, environmentalists.
Aly Ercelan led the discussion with sharing findings of the draft, designed by the PFF under the guidelines set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). He expressed the hope that the debate at community level and contribution of the stakeholders may help the government to adopt and ensure its implementation to protect the fish stocks at marine and inland waters, which are declining fast and even the fishermen themselves are vulnerable to face hardships in terms of food availability.
Mohammed Moazzam Khan of WWF Pakistan, Shujauddin Qureshi of PILER, Rahima Panhwar of SPO, Shah Jehan Baloch of ActionAid Pakistan, Dr Mohammed Wasim of Oxfam-GB, PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, Ghulam Mujtaba Wadhar, Additional Secretary Sindh Inland Fisheries, Mustafa Gurgaiz, Sindhi folklore writer Ishaq Mangrio, Mahesh Kumar and others took part in the discussion.
Saeed Baloch gave introductory speech with sharing objectives and the learning how the small scale fishermen are vulnerable because of unavailability of policy to protect their right to life and livelihoods.
The workshop also initiated group work to collect recommendations, covering broader aspect of food, natural resources, use of risk-free fishing nets and boats in the waters. The draft pointed out that the policies will promote food sovereignty in a decent living for fishers in the context of national food security.
The government was advised to address occupational health issues and unfair working conditions by ensuring that the necessary legislation is in place and is implemented in accordance with the relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Government should promote investment in appropriate infrastructures and capacity development programmes that enable the small-scale postharvest sector to produce quality products, both for local markets and export.
There are a number of departments, including Sindh Fisheries Department, Marine Fisheries Department, Inland Fisheries, Forest Department, Mercantile Department, Custom, Pakistan Coast Guard, Pakistan Navy, Maritime Security Agency, Karachi Port Trust, Karachi Fish Harbour Authority, Korangi Fish Harbour Authority and Fishermen Cooperative Society, which have showed failure in one or the other way to protect the fish stock through proper management.
Another aspect of weaker systems in fisheries is the poor the implementation of whatever rules exist to manage the sector. The discussion pointed out that the fisheries department is still being run under the Sindh Fisheries Ordinance of 1980 with no clear division of responsibilities among the above mentioned departments, having no road map for the improvement and development of fisheries and fishers and no sustainability inbuilt.
There is a dire need for a paradigm shift in the way fisheries should be regulated and managed. Clear policy in the sector would help in the sustainability of the fish resources and improvement of the livelihood of fishers as well, the draft mentioned.
The workshop aimed to review critically the recommendations of the district level workshops on the fisheries policy held previously to present the policy draft to the high level authorities and experts to get their inputs.
The policy is relevant to fisheries both in marine and inland waters. The provincial government will seek changes, including new legislative provisions, supplement customary norms and regulations. The Sindh Fisheries Policy will not violate any provision of international law, the experts discussed.
Some people raised objections over the status of larger-scale fisheries, deep sea trawlers, promoting aquaculture and suggested to get feedback from other stakeholders, like forest department, Environment protection agencies, researchers, academia and others so the draft may be error-free and acceptable to all.
However, the PFF representatives clarified that they have invited to all the stakeholders to take part in the discussion for the formation of the law, but it seems some of them either are reluctant to give input or opposing the idea on grounds they may know better.