By Student Delegate Marissa Pizaña
Two decades ago, small-scale fishers from across the world formed a global movement—protecting nature and their human rights. The World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) continue to convey the message that “fishing communities are being hit hard by worsening natural disasters of the climate catastrophe.” This year’s World Fisheries Day message focused on the threat multiplier that is a climate change, coupled with a global pandemic, and its’ impact on the fishing industry. Social distancing has caused many fishing markets to close down and has reduced patronage of hotels and restaurants–a prime location where fish are sold. The demand for fishing products has collapsed and the price for catch has been lowered. Furthermore, the safety of fishers at sea has been affected by the closure of fishing ports and the impossibility of making crew changes. Additionally, the lack of Personal Protective Equipment has increased the risks of transmitting the virus because fishers work in restricted and enclosed spaces.
The topic of fisheries was also discussed during the Virtual Oceans Action Day 2020. Designed to take stock of progress on ocean and climate issues towards UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow, the intersectionality of climate change, food security, and fisheries was addressed. Fish are known to have the lowest carbon footprint among all the food commodities. Fish consumption is growing and is projected to be a large amount of future food baskets. A third of fisheries are at risk of over-exploitation and the aquatic ecosystems they rely on have been identified as vulnerable to climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hopes that fisheries and aquaculture will contribute significantly to improving the well-being of poor and disadvantaged communities in developing countries and to reducing poverty, improving food and nutrition security, and environmental protection.
Where does this leave the essential fisheries of the Seychelles? Fisheries contributes to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), employment, and livelihood. Because agriculture is limited due to land area, fisheries are fundamental to the social and economic wellbeing of Seychelles inhabitants. In a country where each inhabitant consumes an average of 62 kilograms (approximately 137 lbs.) of fish per year, fishing–including artisanal (small-scale and low-technology)–is an important activity. Fishing is the primary source of protein and ensures food security for many of the country’s inhabitants.
Because fishing is such a key aspect in the Seychelles, the Fisheries and Blue Economy Minister met with seafood processors and exporters to introduce new plans of the new government for fisheries sector. During this meeting, fishers and operations were able to outline operational challenges they face regularly. Unfortunately, echoing the threats discussed during World Fisheries Day, COVID-19 has caused many local markets to close and export markets have scaled down. Minister Ferrari assured all partners that the government will provide them with the support necessary to navigate through these troubled waters.
Meanwhile, the FAO is looking to build a large partnership with financial institutions, governments, and civil society organizations to develop comprehensive and coordinated responses in the context of acheiving blue growth. This transformation would start by turning oceans of problems into oceans of solutions. This transformation is the best way to sustain and conserve 100% of the oceans and seas. Almost 7 million people are malnourished. The ocean can rectify these malnourishment levels. The transformation will change the national, regional, and global levels. Fisheries do not operate in a government vacuum and consensus-building strategies must be discussed in the future.