ICSF-BOBLME India (East Coast) Workshop:
Implementing the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication
Chennai, 6-7 March 2015
1. The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines)—developed in a participatory and consultative manner, particularly with the active engagement of civil society organizations (CSOs)—were endorsed by the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) at its 31st Session in Rome in June 2014. These Guidelines have been developed to complement FAO’s 1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF).
2. Whilst recognizing the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) as an important guiding principle towards sustainability of all parts of the ecosystem as well as livelihoods of small-scale fishing communities, the SSF Guidelines seek to promote a human rights-based approach to empower fishing communities in achieving the objectives of the Guidelines. These objectives include enhancing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security and nutrition; contributing to the equitable development of fishing communities; and sustainable utilization and prudent conservation and management of fisheries resources.
3. The Guidelines specifically complement the Code by: (i) bringing social development, employment and decent work as a new focus to empower small-scale fishing communities, particularly vulnerable and marginalized groups to enjoy their human rights; (ii) drawing attention to gender equality and equity, especially to address discrimination against women in the full range of activities along the value chain; and (iii) raising awareness about disaster risks and climate change, especially to understand their implications for food security, nutrition, housing and livelihoods.
4. Towards promoting ownership of the SSF Guidelines by fisheries organizations at national and subnational levels as called on by COFI at its above Session, ICSF is organizing a series of workshops at the subnational and national levels including along the eastern and western seaboards, as well as at the national level in India during the year 2015 focusing on both marine and inland fisheries and fishing communities. The proposed ICSF-BOBLME Sub-national Workshop: Implementing SSF Guidelines, India (East Coast) will be the first in this series. It is to be held from 6 to 7 March 2015 to coincide with the first anniversary since the disappearance of MH370 with Chandrika Sharma, Executive Secretary, ICSF, on board. The SSF Guidelines are dedicated to honour her invaluable contributions to the formulation of these Guidelines.
5. The east coast of India is endowed with significant habitat diversity. These include: sandy beaches, mangrove forests, estuaries, lagoons, coral reefs, and sea-grass beds. One of the largest contiguous stretches of mangroves is on the east coast. It also has discernible marine and coastal biodiversity, particularly in its estuaries and adjacent marine space. The largest known rookery of olive ridley turtles is on the east coast, for example. There are significant protected areas in the Sunderbans, Gahirmatha and the Gulf of Mannar in the state of West Bengal, Orissa and Tamil Nadu, respectively.
6. According to the 2010 Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Marine Fisheries Census 2010, nearly 60 per cent of the fisher-folk population—including women, children and men—are on the east coast of India comprising West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry. With 60 per cent of India’s fulltime fishers, the eastern seaboard accounts for 40 per cent of India’s marine fish catch. It also employs large number of fishers in the inland fishing sector and contributes significantly to India’s continental fish production, especially from culture-based fisheries.
7. Whilst the western seaboard of India accounts for the largest share of mechanized and motorized fishing vessels, the eastern seaboard accounts for over two-thirds of manually propelled fishing vessels—about 36,000 in number. Fishers who operate these vessels; wage labourers on mechanized and motorized fishing vessels; as well as inland fishers and fishworkers, are believed to be the most vulnerable and marginalized in Indian fisheries. Eastern seaboard further accounts for nearly three-quarters of women employed or engaged in pre- or post-harvest activities.
8. Along the eastern seaboard, there are significant conflicts over tenure rights to inland, coastal and marine space regarding access to fishery resources, access to occupational needs and access to housing and community services. These arise not only from fishery subsectors, but also from industry, infrastructure including power, tourism and real estate development along the seaboard. There is significant movement of poor peasants and agricultural labourers into fishing as well as fishers from the eastern to western seaboard to pursue fishing. Inadequate access to education, health, sanitation, drinking water, and weak organizational structures make these fishing communities particularly vulnerable. The east coast of India is exposed to flooding and erosion as well as to extreme weather events like cyclones and sea surges. There are, however, significant good practices in the realms of participatory planning and implementation of housing schemes for fishing communities in the aftermath of 2004 tsunami. There are also examples of adoption of climate smart fishing techniques that reduce the dependence on fossil fuels for fishing operations.
9. Promoting co-management initiatives in marine and inland fisheries and effective consultative and participatory mechanisms across sectors as well as within the fishery sector to protect the interests, particularly of vulnerable and marginalized groups and women, and endorsing human development and good practices in small-scale fisheries would go a long way in resolving conflicts, including over tenure rights, in securing social protection, in improving life and livelihoods of fishing communities, and in fostering governance.
10. The Subnational Workshop is being organized to examine the roles of the government, scientists, academe, and local fisheries organizations in the implementation of the SSF Guidelines consistent with paragraphs 26 and 28 of the COFI Report (C 2015/23). The broad objectives are:
• To disseminate the SSF Guidelines and to promote its implementation at all levels;
• To assess serious issues facing marine and inland small-scale fishing communities along the eastern seaboard of India;
• To examine how implementing the SSF Guidelines can contribute to improving life and livelihoods, especially of the vulnerable and marginalized groups and women in small-scale fishing communities; and
• To explore the need for a multi-stakeholder mechanism to facilitate a coordinated, inter-sectoral approach to the implementation of the Guidelines.
11. The Workshop will have preparatory consultative meetings in West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu during February 2015 involving fisheries authorities, fisheries scientists, academe, fishing communities –both inland and marine—and CSOs in respective local languages, especially to seek views on how the SSF Guidelines could be beneficial in conserving fisheries resources and in protecting the livelihoods of fishing communities. These preparatory meetings will be followed up by the proposed workshop.
12. The small-scale fishing communities, particularly the vulnerable and marginalized groups and women would be expected to improve their understanding of the SSF Guidelines and their relevance for resolving some of the issues confronting fishing communities at the intra- and inter-sectoral levels both in the continent and along the coast. The Workshop would help develop a road map with related institutions of government and civil society as to how the SSF Guidelines can receive greater attention during the next quinquenium to improve governance, particularly in subnational policies and legislation for human development as well as for sustainable use of fishery resources.