Fisherfolk input required in reforms to fisheries laws

As the crisis in the fisheries sector deepens, small-scale fishers, traders and processors in the industry have presented proposals to be factored into reforms in the country’s fisheries laws. The industry players are deeply concerned about the dwindling fortunes of the sector and have consequently, presented a 10-point proposal to be included in reforms being undertaken in the country’s fisheries laws.

Among these are commonly identified problems which account for the dismal performance of fisheries in the economy. The players are advocating stricter penalties for fishing with light, dangerous chemicals and explosives, as well as impacts from offshore oil development.

It is to be expected that some intervention is required, considering the fact that average annual income per traditional canoe has dropped by as much as 40 percent in the last 10 to 15 years. This paper believes the reforms are a welcome development since local small players are first to face the brunt of an industry that is in its throes.

The 10-point communique’ provides a number of recommendations to address this crisis in the fisheries sector, and it is the firm belief of this Paper that it should be incorporated into the current reforms being pursued to better the sector’s fortunes.

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They also want an end to the practice of fishing trawlers scooping up fish meant for small scale fishers, and then transferring them to canoes to be sold in the markets. The practice, known as ‘saiko’, is also an impediment to the activities of small scale fishers who ply their trade along the country’s coastline and along rivers and streams – and who incidentally form the bulk of the country’s fishing community, which has also been singled out for action to be taken against offenders.

The over-capacity of these trawlers poses a threat to the livelihood of small scale fishers, and the ministry has every right to protect their interest since the 10 percent of our population in the industry are mostly small scale traditional fishermen.

As coastal communities depend of fish for their livelihood, the industry’s dwindling fortunes is bound to exacerbate the poverty levels in fishing communities…and this must be tackled head-on. That is why we support the idea that these communities must be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to industry policies and regulation.

Additionally, when they have a say in what governs the industry by way of regulations, they will be more likely to comply more with their own laws.

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