Report : Fundraising
Ripples of Hope
An account of fundraising in the US by Clean Catch and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
This report comes from Niaz Dorry (email@example.com), a freelance writer and activist based in Gloucester, Massachusetts, US
Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together.
The world shook on 26 December 2004 literally and figuratively. The tsunami that followed the historic earthquake left indelible marks on the global psyche. Three months hence, the magnitude of human life loss is still incomprehensible. In the aftermath, we found ourselves awed by a few things…
The reports of animal behaviour and survival ring of indigenous oral stories passed down generations. Survival of indigenous tribes that followed their ancestors’ teachings to prevent disaster seems almost magical.
A stunned global public responded in unprecedented fashion through international aid agencies and private fundraising efforts.
Wondering about the efficiency by which aid would reach the actual victims, an effort to put money directly in the hands of those affected began in the United States by Clean Catch and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA). The response left us speechless. What began as an email sent to a few friends resulted in individuals and communities from around the world responding not just to a call to give money, but a call to preserve a way of life that is critical to the health of the oceans.
Clearly, this was not just another relief effortwe had an agenda. Those of us organizing the fund continue to believe that how the fishing communities of the region are rebuilt will have a direct impact on the region’s marine ecosystem, with wide-reaching ripple effects. Therefore, we chose to direct the funds to fishing community organizations dedicated to preventing the expansion of industrial shrimp aquaculture, refusing factory fishing operations, working to eliminate toxics from the marine environment, and bolstering the economic rights of small-scale, indigenous and artisanal fishing communities. We knew they would fight hard for these principles while working on rebuilding their communities.
As one of the organizers of this fund, the necessity of supporting these communities came to light early on in this relief effort when I got a call from a fishing group offering help. I should note that this was the only offer for help in response to the tsunami that I turned down.
The particular group offering help represented the large-scale, industrial, agribusiness type of fishing effort. They were suggesting that in the wake of such loss, they would help those communities rebuild and ‘modernize’ after their own image. They would take their boats there, fish the waters, map what marine species were available, sell their catch to locals or elsewhere to recover their costs, and help rebuild shoreside facilities in a manner that would support their vessels.
I thanked them for their offer, but declined as I knew the fishing communities I worked with believed they should determine what their future should look like. It would be disrespectful to impose our vision of a’ future on them. Simply put, it’s about self-determination.
The conversation ended after my suggestion that, alternatively, their group should consider fulfilling the needs the communities have already articulated I even emailed them a list. I never heard back from them.
The point is that that one call represented other similar ill-conceived, and usually opportunistic, efforts that have unearthed since the tsunami. From the European Union’s promise of shipping its excess capacity represented by industrial vessels to the millions of dollars going to redeveloping coastal areas in a fashion that would keep the fishermen out and who knows what in, the prospects could range from destructive to unhelpful to the marine environment.
The industrial-scale factory fishing and aquaculture operations, with sights fixed on the current vacuum created by the tsunami-stricken state of the Southeast Asian fishing communities, follow the agribusiness model, which has already left its destructive mark on global food supply, land use and small-scale farmers.
The small-scale fishing communities of the region were the ones most severely affected. Their tradition of using lower-impact fishing methods employed at lower scales and rates has less effect on the marine ecosystem and leads to higher contributions to their local fishing economies.
From the US to India, fishing communities are fighting against industrial aquacultureparticularly shrimp and salmonand factory-style, industrial fishing operations.
Many of the Asian fishing communities affected by the tsunami have historically presented a nearly impenetrable fortress that has repeatedly fended off efforts for expansion of shrimp farms and issuance of joint-venture permits to distant-water industrial fishing fleets implicated elsewhere in large-scale overfishing and marine ecosystem damage, as well as in displacing fishing communities.
At such times of tragedy, it is hard to pick a bad place to give, but we chose to put money directly in the hands of fishing community groups that know what to do but do not have the means to do it. And we are not alone in thinking this is right, as proven by those who have given to the fund and the many letters of support for our work.
We should be very careful that when giving, we’re not just giving to organizations that create dependency and replicate unequal and unfair power relationships, says Karla Zombro, a community activist working with AGENDA, a grassroots economic and social justice organization in south central Los Angeles.
Of Sri Lankan heritage, Zombro had planned, before the tsunami struck, to visit her mother’s birth place, but she could keep her plans to visit the country only a week after the disaster. While there, Zombro met with the National Fisheries Solidarity (NAFSO), one of the Sri Lanka-based affiliates of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP).
Organizations like NAFSO have a long-term commitment to the people there and represent their interests. These are the ones we should be supporting, says Zombro. NAFSO is not about cooking for refugees, it’s about letting them have the dignity to cook and fish for themselves. My people are not victims, they are survivors… and they have their own ideas about what needs to be done.