Global fisheries policies


At the WFFP 3rd General Assembly, held at Kenya from 21-28 November 2004, the delegates and all the participants from the member organizations had involved very actively on the drafting the Global Fisheries Policy of World Forum of Fisher Peoples’ in which facilitated by ICSF. </doc31|right>

After series of deliberations at the General Assembly, the members adopted a resolution to hand over the first draft to ICSF for finalize the WFFP Fisheries Policy. ICSF responded very positively and assisted with finalizing the work very efficiently. We are greatful to ICSF team for their cooperation on finalizing the second draft.

Even after finalizing the second draft, it was further discussed among the concerned members, specifically among the members of the Coordination Committee of the WFFP.

At the Coordination Committee meeting held at Hong Kong, in December 2005, the CC members decided to circulate the second draft and get further views for the contents of it. At the same time the CC members decided to finalize all the discussions by April, 2006 and publish it by May 2006.

However, due to series of work, and the tensions among Sri Lanka, as well as some members still wanted to send their inputs to the final draft, WFFP Coordination Secretariat was unable to hit the target of preparation of final draft and publish it.

Now, we have come to a stage of publishing the WFFP Global Fisheries Policy document. As you can see above this is series of work conducted among various constituents of WFFP as well as fisheries experts in the world.

Still, this may not be fit to address the issues, concerns of all the fishing communities or nations in the world. We need to discuss this further to come to a conclusion. However, we see this as an evolving process and need to reflect further based on the dynamics of the context of globalization.

We as WFFP members want to make sure the Global Fisheries Policy of WFFP would be an instrument to face the challenges of the corporate globalization and marginalization of the small producers, specifically artisanal, beach based, fishers, fish vendors, post harvest producers, fisher women and all of fish worker communities, and their families.

The access to sea and coastal land means the life and the livelihood of the fishing communities. Let us stand strongly to protect them with unity through out the world.

We stand for protect the rights of the fishers as World Forum of Fisher Peoples.

We would like to thank all those who involve, to finalize this important instrument.

We extend our gratitude to Sebastian Mathews and Ramya Rajagopalan for their volunteer professional assistance at the General Assembly and acceptance to draft the document. And also all the delegates and participants of member organizations took part to policy drafting deliberations at the GA 3 in Kenya can not be forgotten at this moment.

Specifically, Andrew Johnston of South Africa, Jorge Varela Marquez of Honduras, and Thomas Kocherry of India for their continuous cooperation, inputs and guidance to finalize the WFFP fisheries Policy document would be highly appreciated.

I can not forget all the colleagues at WFFP coordination secretariat who extend their fullest cooperation to finalize this work. Thanks to Samith Roshan, the volunteer assistant of the General Secretary, Geetha Lakmini, the Administrative secrtary & A.L. Shanthikumar, accountant of NAFSO and all the others in the NAFSO secretariat who assisted me to finalize this work.

We remind with great appreciation Fr.Thomas Kocherry, of the WFFP, who pushed the Coordination Secretariat to publish the document with the earliest possible time with his personal involvement.

Comrades, friends of the world,

We appreciate your comments, critiques and further inputs to strengthen this document and make it more acceptable to make different to the lives of the majority marginalized, artisanal, beach based fishers and fish worker communities in the world.

Thanks. This marvelous work is a result of the commitment of yours.

Herman Kumara,

General Secretary,

Coordinating Secretariat,

World Forum of Fisher Peoples’

No. 10, Malwaththa Road, Negombo,

Sri Lanka.

30 August 2006


We are in the context of Capitalistic Globalization, where free movement of capital is taking place for profit making. There is no question of social justice, and distributive justice. Development means profiteering and modernisation at the expense of the vast majority of labour intensive traditional, atrisanal, beach based fishing and fisher people and natural resources of the World particularly of Asia and Africa.

About one-quarter of the marine fish stocks are under-exploited or moderately exploited; about half are fully exploited and producing catches close to their maximum sustainable limits, and one-quarter are overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion and need rebuilding. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) observes that the achievable levels of marine fish production has already been reached worldwide and calls for more rigorous stock recovery plans to rebuild stocks that have been depleted by over fishing and to prevent the decline of those being exploited at or close to their maximum potential.

Coastal development including urban and industrial expansion and aquaculture and industrial activities in the hinterland pose many threats to the health of marine ecosystems when they pollute and degrade critical coastal habitats, according to FAO. These land-based and coastal alterations adversely affect the livelihoods of coastal fishing communities and industries, for example, through a reduction of the sustainable yield of fish stocks, modification of the resource species composition, health and diversity, an increase in ecosystem instability and variability and a reduction of seafood quality and safety.

It has been estimated by FAO that there are about 28 million people dependent on fisheries for employment and income, of which 21 million are in marine capture fisheries. All fishers except about 200,000 employed on large marine fishing vessels work on vessels less than 24 m length overall or 100 gross tons. This includes about 11 million full time fishers. Majority of the world’s full- and part-time fishers are in the artisanal and small-scale fisheries and nearly 6 million of them are believed to be earning an income less than US$1 a day. About 90 per cent of them are in Asia, followed by Africa and South America. While the total number of fishers in developing countries seems to be increasing, their number seems to be declining in developed countries.

As far as the world’s fishing fleet is concerned, after years of expansion, the number of decked vessels has remained stable at around 1.3 million, says FAO. In addition, there are about 2.8 million undocked vessels, of which 65 per cent are not powered. Large marine fishing vessels (above 100 gross tons or 24 m length overall) number about 24,000. About 85 per cent of total decked vessels, 50 per cent of powered undocked vessels and 83 per cent of total non-powered vessels are concentrated in Asia.

In 2002, according to FAO, 38 per cent of world fish production entered international trade in various forms. The share of developing countries was 49 per cent by value and 55 per cent by quantity. Trade in developing countries is gradually evolving from the export of raw material for the processing industry in developed countries to high-value live fish or value-added products. Some developing countries are also importing raw material for further processing and re-export.

Fishing is emerging from an employer of last resort to an “attractive profession” as FAO calls it in the 2004 The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture for migrant agriculture workers to earn a better income in countries like China, which has the largest number of fish workers in the world.

It is also important to look at the Fisheries as a Millennium Declaration as part of the Food Summit to reduce the hunger into half by 2015. In the light of this FAO together with all the Governments worked out a Voluntary Guide lines for Food Security in the World. We have to consider this in the light fish for food security in the context of Globalization, where there is a free flow of money for profiteering at the expense of the vast majority in the World. This all the more important in the context of Tsunami of 2004 and Katrina 2005. Beach based Fishing, small scale, traditional fishing in 13 Afro Asian countries become vital.

2. Rationale for a Global Fisheries Policy

The World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) stands for human dignity, social justice and human rights, for the empowerment of fisher peoples, for food security, sustainable development, social and ecological security, and preferential rights of traditional, artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, inshore fisher peoples to marine living resources in coastal waters, particularly beach based fishing.

WFFP monitors threats to the livelihood of traditional, artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, beach based inshore fisher peoples who do not resort to trawling, and to protect their legitimate interests in conservation of marine living resources, equitable access to fishery resources, protection of coastal zone including wetlands,marine habitat and the well-being of coastal communities. Pollution from chemical industries,and disordered, uncontrolled intensive coastal aquaculture, destruction of mangroves that destroys the nursery ground of fish, wetlands bio diversity construction of upstream dams that reduce the flow of nutrient-rich waters from reaching the coast & interrupts the life cycle of aquatic migratory species; destructive fishing gear like bottom trawling without subscribing to a management plan, and dynamite fishing, are examples of such threats.

We should encourage traditional and improved traditional aqua culture.

WFFP advocates positive recognition of, traditional, artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, beach based, inshore, fisher peoples in the texts of international and regional conventions, agreements, codes, etc, concerning fisheries, biodiversity and coastal and marine ecosystems. WFFP demands their recognition also under national and provincial legislation that are adopted to meet international obligations.

WFFP recognizes that artisanal and small-scale fisheries using selective fishing techniques could sustainable and equitably harvest most of the marine bio diversity fish production in the world. In this context, the WFFP would like to build up the institutional capacity of its members taking into account, the social, economic, ecological and cultural characteristics of traditional, artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, beach based, and inshore fisheries and fisher peoples.

WFFP advocates a global fisheries policy for governance, effective conservation and management of fisheries resources and fish habitats, responsible fishing operations, equitable sharing of resources across exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and fair treatment of fishers across borders, safety and better conditions of work at sea and social security, responsible post harvest practice fish marketing and sustainable fish trade for nutritional security, and wise use of inland, coastal and marine biodiversity. This is all the more important fish as a cheap protein for the Masses.

WFFP recognizes the importance of having policies governing human development issues in coastal areas like potable and safe drinking water, education for children, and sanitation and health facilities for all. It is important that the Governments should see that the basic needs of the fishing communities are met as part of the infra structure. Ports, harbors, estuaries are considered to be common properties and they should not be privatized. Any privatization of water bodies will displace the labor intensive beach based fisheries. All policies should be sought in regard to the social values of fisheries resource use.

WFFP advocates for global fisheries policies oriented to protect the sustainability of fisheries, particularly the species in danger of extinction such as the whales.

3. WFFP Global Fisheries Policy

(i) Guard the rights of fisher peoples

The rights of traditional, artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, inshore, beach based, fishing communities to the fishery resources pertaining to their traditional fishing grounds, and whether or not they use fishing gear, should be specially safeguarded. These rights include the right of these communities to participate in the use, management and conservation of these resources as a common property. The basic needs of the fisher people as a community should be recognized.

The Importance and recognition of equal rights and opportunities for women is vital.

Our attempt is to establish Food Sovereignty in each local community and the nation.
In order to establish food sovereignty, we have to campaign struggle to land, agriculture and aquatic reform.

(ii) Develop management regimes for coastal living and non-living resources

The importance of fisheries management should be recognized, especially regimes that could ideally provide sustainable employment and income for the same, or even lower, level of fishery production.

National fisheries legislation should mainly be for the conservation of marine fisheries resources and for the protection of those who work on board fishing vessels. This could be followed by an integrated legislation for fisheries and aquaculture encompassing both marine and inland waters, where appropriate. Harmonized and sustainable fisheries both in the territorial waters and the EEZ are possible only within a national legislation framework.

In the light of new developments in relation to oil and gas exploration and exploitation, it is important to adopt legislation not only for living resources like fish and other forms of biodiversity, but also to manage exploration and exploitation of non-living resources of the EEZ such as oil reserves. In all these legislation, a human perspective should be maintained.

There is need for effective legislation to prevent marine pollution from fishery and non-fishery sources both in the territorial and national waters.

All fisheries and fish habitat related activities should be combined under a fisheries ministry, where appropriate, including measures to protect mangroves, corals, and marine endangered species such as turtles, dolphins, whales and selected shark species.

The local fishing communities shall manage, control and administer the seas under which they derive their livelihoods in a joint process with the relevant authorities.

(iii) Promote selective and labour-intensive fishing

Promote the use of selective and labour-intensive fishing gear and techniques and phase out, or prohibit, trawling, towards sustainable fisheries and sustainable employment.

(iv) ‘No’ to individual transferable quotas

Output control measures such as vessel-based catch quotas should not lead to the introduction of individual transferable quotas that could result in high grading and concentration of ownership of fisheries resources in the hands of a few. The possibility of arriving at optimum fleet size for different categories of fishing vessels based on total allowable catch (TAC) should be considered instead of output control measures.

As an alternative to the ITQ/INTQ systems there should be defining the RIGHTS of traditional / artisanal/ indigeneous fishers. Definitions have to be clearly spelt out as this may lead towards misinterpretations and different meanings of the rights. Above all, these should be based on equity and social justice.

(v) Regulate or prohibit trawling and other forms of destructive fishing

The destructive power of trawlers should be regulated considering that the fishing power of each trawler is much higher today than ever before. Several trawl gear that are used are designed to be species-, bottom-, and water-column-specific and are far more efficient than conventional trawls.

However, some countries may have their own national policies and appropriate regulations for the responsible trawling, in the deep sea areas where their fishers could catch that type of resource.

Harmful fishing gear like mini trawl and push nets and certain forms of monofilament nets should be prohibited, if necessary.

There should be restrictions on craft-gear-engine combinations in artisanal and small-scale fisheries, if necessary.

(vi) Do not expand fishing capacity in an indiscriminate manner

The existing fishing capacity need not further be expanded as a precautionary measure until reliable stock estimates and proper assessment of TAC is made especially in countries with significant fishing capacity. This could also facilitate the existing national fishing fleet to adjust itself to the extent practicable.

It should not be permitted the sell of “convenient flags” by countries that don’t have the infra structure or capacity to assimilate capture.

A proper assessment of fishing capacity should be made in conjunction with the status of marine fisheries resources before considering new vessel construction. This has to be followed up by effective registration and licensing arrangements.

While looking into different fleet reduction options, governments should decide not to issue any new fishing licenses and to freeze the size of the trawler fleet, in particular. Reducing the fleet size of non-selective fishing units in overcrowded fisheries can improve returns on fishing.

Subsidies should play an important role in financing buy-back schemes, especially of destructive fishing units such as trawlers and purse-seiners, whereas subsidies that lead to overcapacity should be removed.

Only owner-operated vessels should be allowed to fish except under special circumstances. Older vessels engaging in trawling and purse-seining should be retired from fishing. Trawlers that are not sea worthy should be retired and not replaced. Like wise the vessels of a long hull that transport petroleum, radioactive or dangerous substances should be dedicated to other kind of transportation.

Alternative employment should be provided to workers who lose jobs when fleet reduction programme are introduced.

Capacity reduction should be considered in the artisanal and small-scale fisheries, too. Fisheries regulation/management is also important for such fisheries with overcapacity.

In artisanal and small-scale fisheries, subsidies that enhance harvesting capacity in countries with recognized excess capacity in such fisheries should be curtailed including assistance for acquisition of fishing craft, gear and engine.

If there is overcapacity at any levels, restrictions and regulations should be introduced from top to bottom approach. People are more important than profiteering, efficient gears, and industrial fleets.

Government try to bribe countries without industrial fishing capacity for certain species, with the purpose of incorporating to international conventions in order to get the needed votes to increase their fishing quotas or finish moratorias to their convenience, they should be punished.

(vii) Introduce effective effort-control measures

In addition to capacity reduction, there is need to introduce effort control measures. Such measures should include: mesh size regulations, restricting size of gear, reducing the number of gear units including reducing the number of gear on board each trawler, reducing fishing time at sea, especially by reducing trawling hours and by introducing seasonal ban on fishing and seasonal areas closures.

(viii) Improve institutional arrangements for fisheries management

Fisheries management should be based on the subsidiary principle and there should be devolution of fisheries management functions to the local level.

In addition to government initiatives, local fishing communities should be encouraged to take up fleet reduction and effort control programmes.

Co-management or government working in partnership with fisheries stakeholders for managing fisheries is an important management tool if rightly implemented. The role of government should mainly be that of a facilitator, undertaking enforcement functions in local-level fisheries management issues only under exceptional circumstances.

There should be flexible arrangements where the need for setting up zones for powered/non-powered fishing vessels is locally determined.

Genuine member-based co-operatives and trade unions of fisher peoples should be promoted. Member-controlled fishers’ cooperatives and trade unions should be allowed to function, where the scope of cooperative and trade union is redefined to include not only marketing and supply of inputs, and organization of fishers, but also resource management.

(ix) Introduce employment guarantee schemes for workers in fisheries

There is need to address the informal nature of the artisanal and small-scale fisheries sector, especially the need for government support in the form of guaranteed employment to workers in fisheries, and the need to highlight the right to adequate food and national food security, including that of the fishing and coastal communities, taking into account the 2004 FAO Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security .

(x) Provide exclusive protection for fishers on board non-powered fishing vessels

It is important to provide exclusive protection for fishers on-board non-powered fishing units. There is a greater need for an exclusive zone for the non-powered fishing units.

(xi) Improve welfare measures for fishers

Welfare benefits should mainly address the needs of fishworkers and their dependents, and those who have only rudimentary fishing equipment.

Social security provisions should be extended to the fisheries sector including: medical care, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, old-age benefit, employment injury benefit, family benefit, maternity benefit, invalidity benefit and survivors’ benefit.

Mechanisms to prevent abuse of fishworkers under both wage system and share system should be developed. There should be minimum wage provision under the wage system, and a minimum wage equivalent share should be mandatory in a share system.

Provisions for minimum age, medical examination, occupational safety and health and fishers’ work agreement, identity document in the proposed International Labour Organization (ILO) fishing convention should be extended to fishers on board artisanal and small-scale fishing vessels that undertake international voyages.

Women in processing and pre-processing sub-sectors, both domicile and migrant, should have minimum wage and medical assistance, as well as protection of their rights. In addition to other benefits, migrant women workers should be provided with decent and safe accommodation.

Benefits of international trade should contribute to human development of artisanal and small-scale fishing communities.

(xii) Introduce sea safety measures for fishers

Sea safety measures should be incorporated into fisheries legislation at the state level. Training for safety should be made mandatory for all fishers. All fishing vessels should have life saving equipment on board and they should be maintained in working order.

(xiii) Treat fishers arrested for illegal fishing in a humane manner

Coastal State penalties for violations of fisheries laws and regulations in the EEZ should not include imprisonment or any other form of corporal punishment. Penalties for illegal fishing should be based on the principles of necessity and proportionality.

There should be exchange of fishing register between neighboring countries, to avoid unnecessary arrests of fishers. If fishers are detained while undertaking fishing operations by a coastal State the flag State should look after the fishers’ families during the period of their incarceration.

People and Communities are more important than Territories of a nation. Common heritage and access to the resources by the respective boarder communities should be recognized by mutual bordering nations.

(xiv) International trade in fish and fish products should not harm fisher peoples

Fisher peoples especially women in local communities should be protected from unhealthy competition from the importation of fish and fish products.

WTO agreements of relevance to fisheries should protect the livelihood interests of artisanal and small-scale fishers. Tariff escalation of fish and fish products should be eliminated.

The dismantlement of safety mechanisms is one requisite if a country wishes to participate in the multilateral trading system of thw WTO. WTO agreements increasingly make it difficult for developing countries to protect their local industries by way of eliminating quantity restrictions, subsidies, tarrifs among others.

Families continually live a life of poverty and neglect, a world away from the earlier promises of Globalization. All governments across the world to put a stop to further trade liberalization efforts of our economies under the boot of WTO economic policy prescriptions.

Movements similar to organic agriculture should be developed in fisheries, especially to sell ‘safe fish’, based on self-regulations and independent standards acceptable to consumers worldwide. Women should also experience the dignity of undertaking their own initiatives for improving the quality of fish.

The local communities must have first preference to the harvested resource over any overseas markets with complete disregard to market forces price structures.

Transparency & accountability in all trade agreements[bilateral, multilateral, country, transnational corporations] entered into by national governments most especially on the issues of food sovereignty, health,, education and economies in the world.

(xv) Improve fish handling, health and hygiene facilities in marketplaces

Promoting health and hygiene in fish markets should be considered important. Regulations to improve hygiene standards should first be implemented in harbors and landing centers. Coastal local-level administrative units should be involved in keeping beaches and fish landing centres clean of debris and filth. There should be provision for toilets in market places, raised platform for keeping fish, and safe water in adequate quantity and quality to help improve health and hygiene standards. There should be training and support to women to improve quality of fish sold.

Fishers’ associations should manage infrastructure facilities like fish landing centres and fishing harbours. They should be used as a tool for improved fleet management and quality control.

(xvi) Fisheries access agreements should be socially-responsible

International fisheries agreements, particularly between the European Union and third countries in the developing world should not adversely impact upon the life and livelihood of artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, beach based and inshore fisher peoples. Negotiation of such agreements should ensure their participation.

The traditional/ artisanal fishers and the dependant communities linked to them shall have undisputed property rights to the sea and land and all resources therin and thereon.

(xvii) Fisheries access agreements between national government and transnational companies

Fisheries access agreements between national government and transnational companies should be consulted with other stakeholders. Artisanal, informal, indegeneous, small scale, coastal, inshore, beach based fisher people should be recognized as people with important and decisive informal advice, before any agreement that can affect their livelihood.

(xviii) Consider fisher peoples as an ally in conserving coastal and marine biodiversity

Artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, inshore fisher peoples should be recognized as powerful allies in the efforts to conserve, restore and protect coastal and marine biodiversity. It is important to protect and strengthen their rights to access and use biodiversity in a responsible manner to pursue sustainable livelihoods, and to participate in decision-making and resource management processes at all levels.

Recognize traditional ecological knowledge of traditional, artisanal, informal, indigenous, small-scale, coastal, and beach based inshore fisher peoples and ensure equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of traditional knowledge, innovations, and practices relevant to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

(xix) Develop effective disaster management regimes in coastal areas

Considering the vulnerability of coastal populations, particularly fisher peoples, to natural disasters such as cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis, effective participatory mechanisms should be developed at the regional, national, and local levels to prevent, or if that is difficult, to mitigate the effect of natural disasters on the life and livelihood of fishing communities, and to help them rebuild their fisheries-based livelihoods in a time-bound manner. While we stress the need for safety that the houses should be away from the waves, we should not forget the fishing and housing should be organically linked for our livelihood.

We should campaign and struggle for the creation of an independent and autonomous authority for the prevention and management of disasters. All the aids should come to this authority. The authority should enlist the participation of funders, NGOs, people’s movements, army, youth, and women. This authority should be even prepared for the prevention and management of disasters. Tis authority should have national and international collaboration. This should be legislated and should be statutory body.