11/20/2020, 14.00
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The Vatican calls on states to protect fishermen more

A message on the occasion of World Fisheries Day, which is celebrated tomorrow 21 November, recalls that the sector employs about 59.5 million people. “Strikingly one out of two workers is a woman. Asia has the highest number of workers, in this sector, and contributes some 85 percent of the world total labor force."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Governments should approve legislation "to improve the living and working conditions of fishermen and their families and to strengthen the fight against forced labor and trafficking in human beings".

This is the appeal launched by the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development in the message issued by the prefect of the dicastery, Card. Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, to mark World Fisheries Day which is celebrated tomorrow 21 November.

Fishing, writes the cardinal, employs about 59.5 million people. “Strikingly one out of two workers is a woman. Asia has the highest number of workers, in this sector, and contributes some 85 percent of the world total labor force and has 3.1 million ships, which represent 68% of the world fishing fleet ”.

"This year’s celebration falls at an exceptional time, when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have spread swiftly around the world, with dramatic consequences for the economies of many countries and a severe impact upon more vulnerable sectors such as fisheries ”which has been particularly affected by factors such as the reduction in clientele in hotels and restaurants.

"In addition to the effects of the pandemic on the fishing sector, there are chronic problems that haunt the industry Beside the effects of the pandemic on the fishing industry, there are chronic problems which bedevil the industry and before which the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pale out. These chronic problems, which constitute “fisheries crime”, are the problems of Overfishing and Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing which continue around the world under different flags and by groups who dispose of powerful fleets and are better resourced. These disregard international and national laws and regulations. This state of affairs victimizes authentic fishers and fishing communities with unfair competition and depletes fish-stocks at a rate that the does not allow the fishes to recover. It is a practice that is not sustainable and that leads to decreased fish population and to reduced future production.”

“Working conditions and the safety of the fishers at sea have been affected by the closure of fishing ports due to the pandemic and the impossibility of making crew changes. Additionally, the lack of Personal Protective Equipment has increased the risk of transmitting the virus because fishers work in restricted and enclosed spaces. As a direct consequence, several crew members have been infected in a number of fishing vessels, and unable to receive immediate medical assistance, they perished and were quickly buried at sea by their worried companions. Often the families know nothing about the fate of their loved one.”

“Other migrant fishers are deprived of the opportunity to work. Without any income to support their families and to repay their debts, they run the risk of becoming victims of human trafficking or forced labour. They may also be stranded in foreign countries and be forced to live in refugees/migrants camps, cramped together with poor sanitation ”.


In this time of pandemic, I would like to appeal for a greater solidarity with the most marginalized people, as it is explained in Fratelli Tutti by Pope Francis: “Solidarity finds concrete expression in service, which can take a variety of forms in an effort to care for others. And service in great part means “caring for vulnerability, for the vulnerable members of our families, our society, our people”(#115). The path to full protection of human and labour rights of all categories of fishers remains a long and winding road. Yet again, we raise our voice to call for a renewed effort from international organizations and governments, to strengthen their commitment to implement legislations to improve the living and working conditions of fishers and their families and to toughen their fight against forced labour and human trafficking. The time for talking is over. It is time to act! “When the dignity of the human person is respected, and his or her rights recognized and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive, and the creativity of the human personality is released through actions that further the common good” (Pope Francis, Address to the Civil Authorities, Tirana, Albania (21 September 2014). Finally, on this World Fisheries Day, my thoughts are with all the fishers around the world who are experiencing hardships and difficulties.”

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