11/14/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Activity of small-scale fishermen at risk of extinction

by Melani Manel Perera
Industrialization, uncontrolled development along the coastline, and ocean pollution threaten to swamp the resources of small-scale fishermen. Activists promote a common cause among the various groups, to confront the crisis. The "land sharks" are stealing coastal property from survivors of the tsunami.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - 50 million fishermen live in the world, 90% of whom carry out small-scale fishing that meets over 50% of market demand. "These small-scale fishermen are in danger of being wiped out because of growing industrialization and multinational companies," which are taking increasingly larger shares of the market.

This is the alarm being raised by Herman Kumara, general secretary of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP), who claims that their rights are being violated and they are being driven away from the coasts "in the name of development." At a press conference, he illustrated the themes at the center of the fourth world conference on sustainable development in small-scale fishing, held in Bangkok from October 13-17. "We discussed global warming, the food crisis and inflation," says Herman Kumara, "and the role played by the big fishing fleets, the activity of which risks aggravating the crisis."

In Bangkok, representatives of the forum highlighted the degradation of the sea and fish stocks, and the growing conflicts over the exploitation of resources, signs of poor management of fishing activities on a worldwide level. Fr. Thomas Kocherry, an activist for fishermen's rights, reiterates three fundamental points to be taken into consideration: the contribution of small-scale fishermen in the resolution of the world food crisis; common cause among organizations that defend fishermen's rights, individual labor unions, and scientists and researchers in the area of marine life; support for coastal communities all over the world that live on fishing.

Muhammad Ali, leader of the fishermen's federation of southern Thailand and a survivor of the tsunami in December of 2004, issues an alarm: "We have been asked to prove ownership of land by the government after the tsunami. The investors are trying their best to get this land from us. The land sharks want the land to build golf courses displacing further the tsunami-displaced people."

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