First Fishing Workers’ Trade Union Registered in Pakistan

Sindh has become the first province in Pakistan to recognize women and men in the agriculture and fishery sector as workers under law and has registered the first-ever trade union for this sector.

The Sindh Agriculture and Fishing Workers Union (SAFWU) was registered with the office of the Registrar of Trade Unions, Karachi, under the provisions of Sindh Industrial Relations Act, 2013.

The union currently has 400 members, of which 180 are women, all belonging to various districts of Sindh.

The agriculture sector, a major source of income, revenue and employment, employing approximately 60 per cent of the workforce, has always been outside the purview of labour laws.

After devolution, the Government of Sindh amended the Industrial Relations Act and extended labour laws to agriculture and fishery-sector workers, including the right to organize and form unions.

“This is a great day for us, said Rafia Gilani, Chairperson of the union. “But the work has only begun. We have formed our union, held its first convention with ILO’s support and today we are registered with the government.

Now the union has to train workers on their rights and what it means to be part of a trade union and strengthen its finances. We will also strive for the international affiliation of the union.–en/index.htm



Costa Rican Snapper Fishery

The Nicoya Peninsula artisanal snapper fishery located in the nearshore waters of the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica has voluntarily entered the full assessment process of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Targeted species in the fishery are spotted rose snapper (Lutjanus guttatus), yellow snapper (Lutjanus argentiventris), and tallfin croaker (Micropogonias altipinnis).

The assessment will be conducted by third-party certifier SCS Global Services. If successful, products from the fishery would be eligible to carry the MSC’s blue ecolabel.

The MSC fishery standard is the world’s most recognized standard for the certification of environmentally sustainable and well-managed wild-capture fisheries.

The transparent assessment will examine the fishery’s impact on fish stocks and the marine ecosystem. It will also evaluate the fishery’s management process to ensure that it is taking all necessary steps to protect the ocean environment for future generations.

The Nicoya Peninsula artisanal snapper fishery covers all waters from the northern Pacific border with Nicaragua to the point of Cabo Blanco in the south.

There are 40 vessels used by 25 to 30 families based in the coastal villages of San Francisco de Coyote and Bejuco. ASPEPUCO and ASOBEJUCO, the artisanal fishing associations of San Francisco de Coyote and Bejuco, mandate local regulations and best fishery practices.

Fishers use artisanal bottom longlines in small vesselsknown as pangasto harvest fish year-round, though fishing generally ceases during October which is the snapper spawning season, marked by increased rain.

The snapper are marketed domestically with the potential for international export once processing facilities are built

The client for this assessment is the Costa Rican Environmental and Educational Network (ARCAE), a Costa Rican environmental and educational non-profit promoting responsible and sustainable fishing practices for the country’s small-scale fisheries.

The organization is administering grants obtained by the Sea Turtle Restoration Programme (Pretoma) to fund the assessment.



LIFE for Small-scale Fishers in Europe

Launched in November 2013 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE), the first pan-European platform dedicated to representing small-scale fishers of Europe, has already garnered member organizations from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France, Spain and Greece. Applications are pending from other member States.

The new European Union Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which entered into force in January 2013, defines small-scale fisheries as being carried out by vessels under 12 m, using non-towed gears. However, there are a plethora of descriptions and definitions of small scale fisheries’ operations across Europe, some of which fit the CFP definition, and others which do not.

This is why the Core Team chose the name LIFE‘low impact’ being a more widely applicable and appropriate term than ‘small’, and generally more descriptive qualitatively of the kinds of operations fishers carry out.

LIFE incorporates those fishers who tend to be smaller in scale and have a generally low environmental impact but who at the same time, add a high social and economic value to the communities.

Owners usually work aboard vessels, undertaking mainly day trips, and with low greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of fish landed. These factors contribute to ensuring that they fish in a sustainable manner. This ‘small-scale’ sector encompasses 80 per cent of the European fleet by number and LIFE is here to give them a clear voice at the political heart of Europe.

LIFE aims to represent, support, develop and defend low-impact fishing operations in coastal waters and it is prerequisite that all members sign up to an agreement that requires them to fish responsibly without damaging the marine environment, to use selective fishing gear and to avoid undersized fish.

LIFE is in the process of establishing an office in Brussels, from where it will provide a dedicated voice for effective advocacy on behalf of small-scale, low-impact fishers.



Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests

In May 2012, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests.

That represented a major achievement of an extensive consultation and negotiation process involving government officials, civil society organizations, private-sector representatives, international organizations and academia. Based on key international human-rights standards, the Guidelines constitute a powerful instrument for improving the lives of millions of people.

The recognition of the importance of secure and equitable access to natural resources for food and nutrition security and sustainable livelihoods that the Guidelines represent is of fundamental significance to fishing communities, in particular to vulnerable and marginalized groups.

The inclusion, in the process, of the people that the Guidelines intend to supportin particular small-scale farmers, fishing communities and pastoralistsensured that the issues and topics covered by the Guidelines are anchored in real life and address genuine concerns.

For the Guidelines to have their intended impact, it is vital to support their implementation.

Concerted efforts are required to ensure that the principles and standards of the Guidelines are integrated into policies and plans, and utilized to improve governance of tenure, particularly for the benefit of the vulnerable and marginalized and to achieve poverty eradication and food security for all.

To support the implementation of the Guidelines in the fisheries sector, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a preliminary version of a technical guide in September 2013, and the text is open for comments. The preliminary technical guide consists of two main parts.

The first part explores what tenure rights and governance mean in the context of fisheries and why responsible governance is needed. It examines the issues of who holds rights to fishery resources and the different types of tenure rights that exist, including for shared stocks and resources in international waters. The first part also looks at existing frameworks and approaches relevant to the governance of tenure in fisheries.

The second part of the document focuses on implementing responsible tenure in fisheries. It provides practical guidance, including on general principles, setting objectives, improving knowledge, and allocating and administering tenure rights. It also explores the implications of climate change and natural disasters for tenure issues and provides guidance on monitoring, evaluation and compliance. A glossary and an appendix with more detailed information on approaches and tools complement the two main parts.

In the fisheries sector, ineffective governance of tenure constitutes a major obstacle to a sustainable and efficient use of natural resources. Consequently, livelihoods and food and nutrition security are jeopardized because many fishing communities suffer from insecure access to the resources on which they depend.

However, while access to fishery resources is a key consideration, it is important to understand that fishing communities also depend on access to other resources and services such as land, housing, markets, financial resources, information, legal systems and social services (for example, education, healthcare and sanitation). Land and fisheries tenure rights often need to be combined.

Fishing communities need secure use rights to fishery resources and to land in coastal, lakeshore or waterfront areas for ensuring, and facilitating, access to the fishery, for accessory activities (including processing and marketing), and for housing and other livelihood support. This is all the more critical for fishing communities that are likely to be marginalized and/or poor.

The preliminary technical guide emphasizes that, ultimately, it is the particular circumstances, the outcomes of consultative processes and the political decisions on what the tenure system should achieve that will decide what type (or types) of rights systems to set up; what types of rights should be allocated; how rights should be allocated; and the duration and transferability of such rights.



Mangroves in the Sundarbans

The Sundarbans Fishers: Coping in an Overly Stressed Mangrove Estuary by Santanu Chacraverti

The fishing communities of the Sundarbans are most at home in the mud-slush, water-forest environment of this famous mangrove estuary.

Their skills, knowledge and techniques have developed in response to a challenging environment. The present study seeks to document these.

Summary of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication

The FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication have over 100 paragraphs which are distributed across 13 sections.

This document is only a summation of the contents of the Guidelines. It was produced for ICSF by John Kurien, founder Member of ICSF. This summary is available in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, and will soon be available in other Indian languages as well.



Institutions are the rules of the game and organizations are the players. The interaction between the two shapes institutional change.




ICSF’s Documentation Centre ( has a range of information resources that are regularly updated. A selection:


Walking the Talk: Implementing the International Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries Svein Jentoft, Maritime Studies 2014, 13:16.

On June 9, 2014, the FAO’s COFI adopted the SSF Guidelines. For millions of people in small-scale fisheries around the world, this was a historic event. The challenge now is to make sure that they will be implemented. As the SSF Guidelines address issues that are politically contentious, there are reasons to expect that they will be met both with enthusiastic acclamation and criticism. This paper discusses the opportunities and obstacles for their implementation.

Brugère, C. 2015. Climate Change Vulnerability in Fisheries and Aquaculture: A Synthesis of Six Regional Studies. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 1104. Rome, FAO.

The objective of this publication is to consolidate, further interpret, refine and draw conclusions from the information gathered on climate-change impacts, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of fish-production systems in the diverse and geographically distinct socio-ecological systems covered by the six case studies.



Lessons Learned from an Artisanal Fishery

This is a film about a small fishing community in Tárcoles, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. After commercial fishing boats and unsustainable fishing methods caused a decline in their catch, the fishermen in Tárcoles established a co-operative organization to promote sustainable fishing practices. This film brings to light the lessons learned by the community through their co-operative efforts and outreach programmes. The film also sheds light on the threats faced by small-scale fisheries and why it is important to merge traditional and scientific knowledge to secure our oceans.

The Sea of ChangeProduced by ICSFDirected by Rita Banerji/Dusty Foot Productions. 26 min;v=b10PKkmCGUo

Traditional fishworkers have long had to adapt to the forces of nature, and they are now confronted with the new threats of climate change, specifically global warming, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. What will be the potential impacts of climate change on the already vulnerable and marginalized small-scale fishing communities that depend on marine resources for their livelihoods?

Shot in Kakinada and in Mumbai, the film explores the perceptions of the traditional fishworkers to the changes in their habitat.



North or South, Small is Smart

Discussions at the 28th Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), on securing sustainable small-scale fisheries (SSF), brought out a significant difference in how the issue was approached by delegations of the North and the South.

That left several questions hanging in the air: Is securing sustainable SSF only at issue in countries of the South, or is it also relevant for the North? If so, how and to what extent? Should SSF in the North be merely regarded as a welfare sector for indigenous, ethnic or subsistence fishers who have cultural ties and extreme dependence on fishery resources? Are SSF inherently more sustainable, equitable, and socially and culturally more valuable than large-scale fisheries? Or are they merely a smaller version of their larger-scale counterparts, whose development has got out of hand, and now demands stricter management, greater effort reduction and more rationalization?

The Bangkok Statement from civil society organizations (see “Recognizing Rights and Freedoms, SAMUDRA Report No. 51, page 7) made no such distinctions. The call to establish SSF as the preferred model for the exclusive economic zones, and the other demands made in the Statement, should apply equally to industrialized and developing countries.

However, at the 28th Session of COFI, many Northern delegations seemed not to share this view. New Zealand, for example, held that definition and application of some of the issues related to SSF, especially poverty alleviation, do not extend to their SSF. Canada supported a special programme to adopt ‘modern’ management principles in SSF, while the EU chose to make no mention at all of their own SSF.

The message from the Northern delegations seemed to benot in my backyard! While it may be fine to develop SSF to address poverty alleviation and food security issues in developing countries, they are of no concern to the North. Whether large-scale or small-scale, and with notable exceptions, fisheries play no significant role in food security or in poverty reduction there. With Northern fisheries supplying only a relatively smaller (and diminishing) proportion of the fish consumed in the North, and the welfare State taking care of poverty, SSF is not an issue, it would appear.

– from Comment in SAMUDRA Report No. 52, March 2009




CBD Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) in the North-West Indian Ocean and Adjacent Gulf Areas, and Training Session on EBSAs
19-25 April 2015, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

2nd Regional Meeting on the Protection of Migrant Fishers: ASEAN Review of ‘Guidelines on Flag State Inspection of Working and Living Conditions on Board Fishing Vessels’
28-29 April 2015, Jakarta, Indonesia

A second regional meeting on work in fishing, on the protection of migrant fishers, will be convened in 2015 to provide inputs from the region to the development of the draft Guidelines on Flag State Inspection of Working and Living Conditions on Board Fishing Vessels on implementation of ILO Convention 188.

States Parties to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, 25th Meeting
8-12 June, 2015- New York

Dialogue Workshop on Assessment of Collective Action of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Biodiversity Conservation and Resource Mobilization
11-13 June 2015, Guatemala City, Guatemala



South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)

SANDRP is an informal network of organizations and individuals working on issues relating with water sector with specific focus on issues associated with large dams. SANDRP publishes a journal Dams, Rivers and People.