We, the World Forum of Fisher Peoples representing over 10 million small-scale fisher people including Indigenous People from coastal and inland regions in fifty-four countries from all continents, reiterate we are part of the solution to solve the climate catastrophe. Our livelihoods, providing affordable and nutritious foods though localised value chains, build on low carbon emission practices and as such can be part of a solution to the biggest threat of our times. To the governments who meet in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt these days we call to be recognised as human rights holders and for our contributions to addressing the climate catastrophe. We also call upon governments to ensure regeneration of our natural environments which have been destroyed – in the name of the ‘blue economy’ – by industrial polluters such as (private or state owned) industrial aquaculture, mining, and oil and gas corporations. Our human rights and rights to our land and water territories, where infringed upon by these sectors, must be restored as a matter of principle, as well as to ensure we can continue to be part of the solution to the climate catastrophe. We resist the carbon trading schemes and dangerous geoenginering which is back on the top of the agenda at the Sharm-el-Sheikh climate summit.

No to carbon credit schemes and ocean geoenginering

When our governments signed the Paris Agreement, they committed to holding global temperature rise to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and “pursuing efforts” to limit heating to 1.5C. In its ‘State of the Global Climate’ report released early this month, the UN World Meteorological Organisation makes it abundantly clear that our governments are not on track: ‘the past eight years… are the eight warmest on record’ and ‘extreme heatwaves, drought and devastating flooding have affected millions and cost billions’. Furthermore, the IPCC (in its assessment reports) has clearly stated that disasters such as sea-level rise, tropical storms, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching are negatively impacting cycles of life and the livelihoods of fishing communities.

Commitments to “net-zero” emissions have become the new flavour of the day, but even the IMF has acknowledged that ‘net-zero rhetoric does not match reality’[1] and civil society has raised serious concerns about the principles and assumptions underlying these commitments.[2] Yet, Sharm-el-Sheikh risks becoming the climate summit where governments – in desperation to deliver – put blind faith in carbon trading mechanisms coupled with ocean geoengineering projects. This is particularly alarming considering the Supervisory Body to the Climate Summit admits that ‘the marine biological impacts [of ocean alkanization] are largely unknown’ and  ‘impacts [of ocean fertilization] on marine biology and food web structure are not well known’.[3]

In conjunction with new agreements about carbon trading, ocean alkanization and ocean fertilization will make it possible for a company that invests in such mechanisms to obtain ‘carbon credits’ in order to meet ‘net zero’ commitments without actually reducing their own emissions at source.[4] This allows for polluters to continue business as usual or even increase carbon emissions.

Ocean alkanization is a process of adding lime (calcium oxide, calcium hydroxide, or calcium carbonate), or silicate minerals such as olivine, to ocean surfaces. Spreading these materials over the ocean would increase total alkalinity and result in chemical transformation of CO2  into bicarbonate and carbonate ions. It would require a flotilla of ships to distribute finely ground limestone and/or silicate minerals (olivine) in selected parts of the oceans. However, in the light of the serious risks associated with such geoenginering, we call our government to stop it from happening. Substantial energy requirements associated with production of lime from limestone, as well as associated CO2 emissions, may make this process impractical. Mining, transport and discharge are extremely costly processes and would in themselves contribute to significant CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the processes could potentially harm marine organisms that are not able to concentrate carbon within their cells under conditions of increased alkalinity and could also negatively impact coral reefs. Furthermore, it could also alter primary (e.g. plants and algae) and second production (e.g. small pelagic fish), thereby increasing contaminant accumulation in food chains.

Ocean fertilisation seeks to boost the ‘biological pump’ which is the fixation of dissolved inorganic CO2 in ocean waters by phytoplankton through photosynthesis, converting the CO2 into an organic form. Iron fertilisation accelerates this process, stimulating algal growth to capture more carbon in marine biomass, of which a portion will be transported downwards by the sinking of dead phytoplankton and zooplankton fecal pellets into the deep ocean and sediments. While carbon sinking to the level of sediments might be sequestered for decades or centuries, we remind governments that this method of geoenginering does not come without serious risks. It could result in a net decline in phytoplankton productivity, and thus negatively impact the global carbon budget; it could accelerate toxic algal blooms that could threaten ocean ecosystems and worsen ocean acidification; or negatively impact production of marine resources such as fish, with negative impacts on our livelihoods.

We also witness with deep concern the return of “Blue Carbon” proposals with an emphasis on ecocentric conservation schemes fuelled by the 30by30 agenda and coupled with carbon credit schemes. We reiterate our concerns about and objections to reckless creation of more Marine Protected Areas, which historically – with a tiny number of exceptions – have  been pushed though without our consent and led to displacements and denial of access to territories and resources. It is with deep concern that we witness Blue Carbon being pursued through debt-for-nature swaps and the 30by30 agenda – processes in which corporations and philanthropic foundations work hand in hand with both our governments and big environmental organisations. We insist on the roll-back of conservation schemes that encroach on our human rights. Importantly, we reiterate that we are the custodians of the vast territories and their resources which are so important to preserve in order not to worsen the climate catastrophe. Turning our territories into tradable assets – through Blue Carbon – does not benefit us and does not lead to the capture of more carbon in our ecosystems (the carbon is already stored in our nature). Furthermore, we call upon governments to restore our rights to lost territories and to repair coastal and aquatic environments where these have been destroyed or damaged. This will ultimately lead to the conservation of nature but, importantly, without the opportunity for big corporations and financial institutions to spin profits from carbon credits derived from nature which rightfully belongs to people and not capital.

Putting faith in ocean geoenginering and allowing corporations and finance capital to use our ocean as laboratories and reap profits through carbon credit trading are not solutions. These instead resemble desperate attempts by governments to portray themselves as custodians of our mother nature while allowing corporations to continue excessive carbon emissions. We strongly resist such false solutions and call upon our governments to do the same!

The stakes are too high to continue to ignore us!

We have made these calls again and again at many previous climate summits and will continue to organise, rise and work with our governments until our demands are met and our solutions find their way into negotiations.

As guardians of our inland and coastal fishing grounds, we are cooling the planet, protecting our oceans and lakes, and maintaining healthy (marine) ecosystems and biodiversity. Our fishing methods, Indigenous and traditional knowledge, and intergenerational wisdom deeply embedded in our fishing way of life are the backbone for sustaining nature and life for generations to come. Recognising our rights to our territories and resources is the most effective means to conserve our planet and combat the climate catastrophe.

The expressions by our leaders in Paris (COP21) are as relevant today as then – if not more considering the escalation of the climate catastrophe:

Small-scale fishing ‘is about respecting one another, the land and the water. It is about establishing a reciprocal relationship with all of life beyond just the value of commodities. This is a resurgence of our culture and knowledge rooted in land and water-based practices, which is intergenerational. This intergenerational wisdom and land/water-based practices provides knowledge for sustaining nature and all of life. To advance our struggle for rights, we work together with many allies’.[5]

The UN Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries and the UN Guidelines on the responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests are crucial instruments which bring the human element back into combatting the climate catastrophe. We fought for the adoption of the Small-scale Fisheries Guidelines and demand that our governments work closely with our members to implement them in the true spirit in which they were intended.

We demand climate reparation, restoration of nature, and restitution of rights that have been taken away from us. We call upon all governments to acknowledge our vital role in contributing to solving the climate catastrophe and remind that we, by magnitude, make up the most numerous segments of all working people dependent on the ocean and inland waters for livelihoods and heathy foods. We acknowledge it will require a shift away from market-based solutions such as Blue Carbon and ocean geoenginering, as well as from private financing by corporations, banks and investment funds. In other words, we call upon the governments who gather in Sharm-el-Sheikh to shift gear, increase public funding – especially from rich countries, who have contributed the most to the climate catastrophe – and work with us and other working peoples to bring to the fore the real solutions.

The World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP)

Christiana Louwa (CoChair), Nadine Nembhard (General Secretary)

CC Members: Jesu Rethinam (India)

Lider Gongora (Ecuador)

Josana Pinto (Brazil)

Perus Logose (Uganda)

Sid Ahmed Abeid (Mauritania)


[1]     https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2022/11/04/getting-back-on-track-to-net-zero-three-critical-priorities-for-cop27

[2]     See for example Hoodwinked into the Hothouse: https://climatefalsesolutions.org/

[3]     The Supervisory Body to the climate summit (technically called The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement) released an information note (A6.4-SB002-AA-A06) on Carbon Removal under article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement. https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/a64-sb002-aa-a06.pdf

[4]     According to article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement, geoengineering mechanisms (ocean alkanization and fertilization) make it possible for a company in one country [to] reduce emissions in that country and have those reductions credited so that it can sell them to another company in another country. That second company may use them for complying with its own emission reduction obligations or to help it meet net zero.’

[5]     Speech by Sherry Pictou, member of the Coordinating Committee of the WFFP in 2015. https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/cooling_the_planet-en_0.pdf