International Conference on Fisheries and Globalization : Page 2 of 3
Posted on 21 September 2012
our problems are not just across or a bit beyond our shores. It is further away. Why is it that Northern fleets of factory fishing overfish the oceans and even within our exclusive economic zones? Why are industrial and commercial fishers allowed to fish in our waters? Why is it that big trawlers with the advantage of the most modern equipment are allowed to fish in municipal fishing areas meant for small-scale fisherfolk? Is aquaculture the answer to declining fish catches?
This conference seeks to investigate things clearly; we are all experts in practice and theory. We can develop our analysis to come up with clearer policy recommendations. Specifically also, this will provide additional awareness for us so we can strengthen the capacity of our grassroots organizations and bring a stronger collective of fisherfolk across the seas.
We need also, as a third objective, to identify viable alternatives. What does sustainable fisheries development mean? This is of interest especially of course for our friends in FAO so we can better address our concerns and to lobby our governments to pay attention first and foremost to the concerns of the people, the small-scale fisherfolk, as well as to the environment, and lastly to business.
What do sustainable fisheries really mean? We must work strongly to end poverty, to end oppression. We must promote small-scale fisheries to protect the environment. It is not just about the environment. The main stewards of the marine resources, the real stewards, are the people who live there, the real fisherfolks.
Here in the Philippines, fisheries are an important issue for us because the Philippines is a collection of narrow, small mountainous islands. This does not mean to say we don’t have vast tracks of farmland but fishing is a major economic activity for a big section of the population in the Philippines. The coasts and seas provide refuge when people are displaced from their land; when the poor are forced to leave the mountains, they go to the coastal areas and try to fish there. We have sea gypsies, sea nomads. When we talk about poverty in the Philippines, it is not mainly about the slums in Manila, it’s about the people living in the coastlines.
For example, in the community exposure yesterday, the reason why the small poor fisherfolk don’t have motorized bancas is not because they are after environmental sustainability but because they are just plain poor. It is not an issue of the environment but an issue of poverty. Yet the Philippines is one of the top exporters of aquaculture products in the world. Southeast Asia is the center of fisheries production and exports in the world.
We thought that rather than have our conference in a hotel somewhere or in a beach resort, what better than to have it here in SEAFDEC. In so doing, we occupy spaces available and raise our voices closer to the research centers and highlight the condition of small fisherfolk but also the problem of fisheries in general. To SEAFDEC, we say thanks