11/23/2020, 13.34
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Small fishermen increasingly threatened by the pandemic

by Melani Manel Perera

Activist groups issued a warning on World Fisheries Day. About 175,000 people are involved in small-scale fishing in Sri Lanka. Rumours that coronavirus is spread via fish should stop. Advocates call on the authorities to enforce FAO and ILO conventions.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s small fishermen are losing their fishing grounds and are at risk of losing their fundamental right to life and sustenance, warned Herman Kumara, coordinator of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO), last Saturday, 21 November, World Fisheries Day.

To mark the event, NAFSO held a national meeting online. Working with of 17 other organisations, meetings were also held in person at the district level with a maximum of 30 people present.

Discussions centred on issues such as the national policy on inland reservoir fisheries, the social and economic situation of fisherwomen and the impact of the "blue economy" on the lives of small fishermen.

Fishing is a key sector in Sri Lanka. Some 175,000 people depend on small-scale coastal fishing. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major blow for them.

To help the sector, Kumara has urged fellow Sri Lankans to eat fish and not believe rumours that it is contagious.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that the fishing community is not responsible for the second wave of infections; instead, the government is to blame for not enforcing quarantine measures to please their henchmen.

The activist also slammed plans by international institutions to exploit fish resources under the slogan of the blue economy, the sustainable use of marine resources to support economic growth

"They will devastate the environment and the lives of fishermen even more, removing them from their native lands and dispossessing them of their assets.”

To protect small-scale fishermen, Kumara wants the government to fully implement FAO's Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, which were drafted with the contribution of organisations like NAFSO.

Based on this document, Sri Lanka adopted a law in 2018 to protect local fishermen from the activities of Indian competitors.

“We are now working with the authorities and trade unions to ratify the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Work in Fishing Convention,” said Kumara. For him, this tool can provide security to Sri Lankan fishermen.

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