Open markets push fishing communities into poverty
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Open markets push fishing communities into poverty

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John Ahni Schertow
April 11, 2007
 

As part of some recent WTO trade talks, Pakistan is endeavouring to open it’s waters to international trawlers — Can you guess the result? Coastal Communities are reporting dramatically reduced catches of local species, and are facing widespread hunger and debt.

ActionAid has just released a report called “Taking the Fish” (link below) which focuses in on this issue.

From the ActionAid Press Release: Rogue trawlers are accused of using damaging nets and of indiscriminately catching and dumping huge quantities of young, unwanted, or dead fish at sea – leaving less for locals to catch.

“The trawlers have nets one to three kilometres in length, and the mouth of the net is equal to three American ‘Statues of Liberties’,” says Mohammad Ali Shah, chair of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum. “They catch all types of fish, and when they sort them 90% is discarded.”

Some 90,000 tonnes of fish caught off the coast of Pakistan were exported to China, Japan, the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Germany, the US and UK during 2004.

Aftab Alam Khan, head of ActionAid’s trade campaign, says: “Pakistan’s fisher folk go to bed hungry because of predatory trawlers moving in as a result of Pakistan’s drive for more trade and exports.

“This case highlights the appalling effects on poor people of unfairly opening up fishing markets. The government must urgently protect the rights of coastal communities.”

As G33 trade ministers meet in Jakarta today (Wednesday), ActionAid warns there are moves to cut fish tariffs in the WTO talks, resulting in increased exports and further depletion of fish stocks.

“Rich nations must ditch their aggressive plans on fish tariffs at the WTO, otherwise the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor fisher folk could be jeopardised,” said Alex Wijeratna, ActionAid campaigner and author of the report.

Read the Report (pdf)
View Taking the Fish Photo Essay

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