Fisherfolk alliance fears fish ban in US ecofish areas
THE “Ecofish project”, a joint undertaking between the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the United States Agency for International Development or USAID is deceiving.
This is the initial assessment of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, asserting that the sustainable marine biodiversity program will just promote an across-the-country fishing ban to the detriment of small fisherfolk and even commercial fishing operators all over the country.
The “Ecofish project”, according to the Philippine agriculture and fisheries officials, hopes to replenish fish populations in key marine biodiversity areas around the country. Launched lasy week, the Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries or Ecofish is meant to improve the capability and capacity of DAR and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to manage the country’s coastal and marine resources.
Short for Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries, the Ecofish project was launched on Wednesday by the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and USAID to improve the management of Philippine coastal and marine resources. Its objective is to make the fisheries sector sustainable through effective management of eight important biodiversity areas to replenish fish and ensure good catches for fishermen.
But Pamalakaya national chairperson and Anakpawis no.1 nominee Fernando Hicap said the Ecofish project carries out something sinister to the detriment of local fisheries.
“While the purpose is to allow regeneration of fishery resources, its overriding objective is to make sure that First World industrial fishing fleets would continue to enjoy stable supply of fish in the near future. For the meantime, the US government and its client state in PH represented by the Aquino administration will carry out fish ban in bio-diversity rich marine and coastal areas to make its sinister agenda happen,” he said.
The Pamalakaya leader said the Ecofish project supported by USAID will soon impose a total fish ban in Calamian Group of Islands in Palawan, Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan, Ticao Pass-Lagonoy Gulf-San Bernardino Strait in Bicol and Samar region, Danajon Double Barrier Reef in Bohol and Leyte, Southern Negros Occidental, Surigao, the Sulu archipelago, and the Verde Island Passage between Batangas and Mindoro.
“The officials of the USAID and the officials of agriculture department and fisheries bureau will deny this to high heaven. But we were not born yesterday. The ulterior motive is to reserve the resources for the industrial fishing fleets of global exploiting economies and fisheries,” Hicap added.
DA secretary Proceso Alcala maintained that the Ecofish project was designed to contribute to priority goals laid out in the Philippine Development Plan, particularly in the areas of sustainable agriculture and fisheries and the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources.
He said the closed season for sardines, herrings and mackerels in the Visayan Sea which will take effect on November 15, 2012 to February 15, is part of the country’s efforts to replenish fish populations.
But Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list said Ecofish project is an offshoot of the current World Bank campaign to save oceans and seas, which the groups said is nothing but the grandmother of lies and deceptions. The groups asserted that the World Bank initiated Global Partnership Oceans composed of governments, NGOs, scientists and businesses would lead to transnational plunder and corporate raid of oceans and seas across Asia and the Pacific.
“World Bank to save oceans and seas? It sounds like the Ecofish of USAID and the Philippine agriculture office in Manila. May heaven forbid this institutional instrument from fooling the global people once again under the pretext of Blue and Green Economy,” said Pamalakaya.
In February this year, outgoing World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced that a global alliance had pledged as much as $1.5 billion to the initiative over five years.
According to Zoellick, though oceans provide about 15% of the world’s animal protein—with fish being the world’s single most-traded food product at $25 billion a year—Mr. Zoellick said seas have become overexploited, with booming populations in coastal cities and climactic changes adding to the oceans’ depletion. He said said government globally tackle the problem of overfishing, with about 85% of the world’s fisheries now being exploited at or beyond their capacity, according to World Bank research.
A major lender to developing economies, the WB, which is owned by 187 nations, has also focused recently on ways to manage strains on resources and climate change, as well as launching partnerships aimed at environmental protection. Those programs include the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, aimed at doubling the tiger population by 2022, and a global partnership announced in 2010 to help countries factor in the cost of destroying nature into their national accounts.
Pamalakaya argued that due to WB supported neo-liberal globalization, the number of industrial fishing fleets increased by a mile. From nearly 1 milliion in the 70s, the Pamalakaya offcial saidd the number of industrial fishing fleets went up to 4.26 million plying the world’s bodies of water according to UN FAO 2010 report.
Of these, 3.23 million vessels operate in marine waters and the remaining 1.13 million vessels conduct fishing activities in inland waters. This depicts a global situation of unbridled exploitaiton of marine and inland resources both on oceans and onshore waters.
Pamalakaya said Asia has the largest fleet with a total number of 3.18 million or 73 percent of the world’s total, followed by Africa with 11 percent, Latin America and the Carribean with 8 percent, North America with 3 percent and Europe with 3 percent.
“However, it does not mean that the fisherfolk people live in comfort in these continents, since the owners of many of the advance and highly capable industrial fishing fleets are the rich capitalists from the North in joint partnership with the local fish lords and local top government officials”, the group said.
Pamalakaya said it is interesting to note that globalization and the deregulated regime in global fisheries led to the deployment of large investments on large-sized fishing vessels. It started to peak in the mid-1980s and in 1999, the UN FAO has estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent overcapacity in the global fishing fleet.
In 2011, this situation forced global fish production to reach 150.4 million tonnes with marine capture contributing 90.4 million tonnes courtesy of coercive and destructive fishing efforts in oceans and onshore waters.
“These investments fueled by transnational and state subsidies to fishing giants occupying major fishing oceans and waters all over the country led to grandslam exploitation of marine resources to the detriment of the marginalzed fisherfolk and the global public in general. And the World Bank is a major culprit here as instrument of WTO,” the group maintained.
According to UN FAO 2010 report published this year, in terms of value, 67 percent of the fishery exports of underdeveloped fishing nations were served in silver platter to developed nations, of which, 54 percent were directed to US, Japan and the European Union. This means that the fisherpeople of the underdeveloped countries produced fish not for their domestic consumption but to the corporate food business of the North.
In return, the underdeveloped nations in Asia continue to play their roles to the hilt as receiving ends of surplus fish and seocnd hand fishing technologies from the North to feed their low-income and largely poor population.