Viewpoint : ICSF Cebu conference
What, yet another conference?
The forthcoming Cebu conference of ICSF should think of new consumer-supported campaigns to ensure eco-friendly shrimp culture
This piece is written by Nalini Nayak, Project Leader, Women in Fisheries Programme of ICSF
I think most of us in ICSF are wary of large conferences as they tend to mean large expenditure, with very little actually achieved in the end. But somehow, we seem to feel justified about the last two confereces, in Rome and Bangkok.
The first provided a stimulus for the mobilisation of fishworkers the world over, while the second brought together leaders of the new movements who pledged to remain the beacons of the sea’.
We are now on the eve of a third conference and I feel that unless we share some of our concerns about what we expect from another conference, we may not arrive at something dynamic and meaningful. While all of us will respond separately to the conference’s Status Paper already circulated, there are other issues which need to be addressed.
One of the main problems related to resource depletion all over the world is the use of overefficient and ecologically destructive technology. In most Asian countries, fishworkers have been fighting trawl fishing which focuses on catching prawns in the inshore waters.
More recently, they are also protesting the destruction of mangroves in the mad rush for intensive brackish water aquaculture. The impact of both of these activities is far-reaching.
The impetus for this type of overfishing and intensive culture is the export market for shrimps and prawns which are foreign exchange earners for the exporting countries. Due to this fact, no government in the Asian region is willing to take any serious measure to heed the demands of the small fishworkers’ struggle to control trawling or even ban it in the inshore waters. There is much less awareness about the problems resulting from the destruction of mangroves by intensive aquaculture. I fear that the Cebu conference will resolutely pinpoint these dangers once again and may come up with some nice, pretty statements on coastal resource management.
While I do believe in the need for such management, I feel this only once again places all the pressure on the coastal communities. They are the ones who have to bear the burden of policing their resources, while there is no involvement fromt he communities who relish the so-called delicious seafood’ produced at the cost of the very livelihoods of the coastal people.
I therefore advocate that ICSF, as an international support group, links this question to a larger consumer campaign and finds ways of intervening in the importing countries with actions designed to encourage the import of only eco-friendly shrimps and prawns.
We, of course, need to clarify what ecofriendly’ means. Such shrimps and prawns should be those
caught in passive gears
cultured semi-intensively without destroying mangroves or the water system
cultured from fingerlings produced in hatcheries and not from natural waters.
processed by exporters who respect labour rights, particularly those of women workers, who comprise the majority in processing plants
I feel confident that such strategies can be worked out, particularly when I see the success that other compaigns have had like the dolphin-friendly tuna compaign or the embargo on the import of Indian carpets produced by exploiting child labour. I feel a compaign of this nature may initiate other compaigns in areas where the growing market economy penetrates and destroys the livelihoods of marginal people the world over.
I also feel this is another way in which we can concretely express our support to the small-scale fishworkers.