Fishers in Pakistan celebrate World Fisheries Day while denouncing the ‘blue economy’
On 21 November, hundreds of small-scale fishers participated in a demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan, to commemorate World Fisheries Day, in a rally organized by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum. During the rally, protesters demanded an end to overfishing, pollution of coastal waters and the so-called “blue economy.”
According to the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, ‘blue growth,’ which emerged together with it’s ‘green’ counterpart for land issues following the Earth Summit of 2012 (otherwise known as Rio +20), has framed climate change and the increasing destruction of ocean ecosystems as new opportunities to push for market solutions. The notion of the blue economy, they maintain, advances a certain interpretation of “sustainability” in ways that seize lands and oceans from small-scale users and give corporate interests a bigger say in how to govern nature. Under those auspices, ventures such as blue carbon, large-scale aquaculture, off-shore extractive activities (oil, gas) and the establishment of Marine Protected Areas have posed serious threats to the economic, social and cultural rights of the world’s small-scale fishers. These concerns prompted the World Forum of Fisher Peoples and their counterpart, the World Forum of Fish Harvesters & Fish Workers (WFF), to denounce the interpretation of “sustainability” endorsed by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which addresses the need to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,’ as prioritizing the profit-seeking interests of an elite-minority while entrenching the inequalities and injustices of the world order.
During the protest, fishermen displayed fishing tools, small boats and nets, wore traditional clothing and danced to music that originated in fishing communities. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Muhammad Ali Shah said that overfishing, environmental pollution, increasing urbanisation and industrial activities had destroyed the traditional livelihoods of fishing communities. He also denounced blue growth initiatives as restructuring the control of resources out of the hands of indigenous fishermen to industrial fishing actors. He also decried the illegal occupation of hundreds of inland water bodies by powerful local landlords, in spite of rulings by the country’s courts that established that fishermen bear the exclusive right to catch fish.
The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum urged the provincial government of Sindh to define a fisheries policy that is aligned with the human rights and livelihoods of local fishers, and adopt resolutions against overfishing, habitat destruction and other threats to the sustainability of marine and freshwater resources.