The African Confederation of Professional Small-Scale Fisheries Organizations (CAOPA) organized a 48-hour workshop in Banjul, The Gambia, as a prelude to the celebration of World Fisheries Day. Under the theme: “Defining a pan-African agenda for a sustainable artisanal fishery”, the meeting brought together professional organizations from the maritime and continental artisanal fisheries of 24 countries in West, Central, North and Africa. From the East, and from the Indian Ocean.
On occasion, SIPANEWS extended his microphone to FAO representative Lena Westlund. It works on the implementation of voluntary guidelines (DV) for small-scale fisheries. It is an international instrument, available since 2014, which was developed with the participation of the actors of the artisanal fishing of the world.
SIPANEWS: What is the importance of bringing artisanal fishers together here in Banjul this year?
Lena WESTLUND: This is a very important initiative, because artisanal fisheries actors are the first stakeholders in the implementation of the guidelines. It is essential that they be involved in all actions on the implementation of the directives. Governments are said to be responsible for the implementation of the guidelines, but it must be done with stakeholder involvement.
What are the practical actions to implement in this program?
The guidelines are very complex in a way, because they deal with the fishery of responsible fishing but also the social and economic development. They are valid for the entire value chain. Fishing such as, but also the post-harvest sector affects activities related to small-scale fishing. There are many things to do, and it depends on the current situation of a country or a specific locality. But the importance of ensuring the use of the human rights approach to ensure that the actions that are being taken or decided to take in a country or locality are improving for the actors and for communities.
What are the issues?
The challenges of the artisanal fisheries sector are complex. If we are already talking about responsible fisheries management, there are many things that are difficult. Now we also want to look at social and economic development at the same time. And it also means that we traditionally work with the fishing department, which is a main counterpart of fishing. But there are also aspects of the guidelines that are outside the mandate of the fisheries departments. When we talk about social employment with respect to health, schools and other things that are important to the life of fishing communities.
In concrete terms, how does FAO support artisanal fisheries actors in different countries?
FAO would like to see all the actors in all countries, but the problem is that it is not really feasible. So far, the focus has been on acting at the global and regional level and also building the capacity of organizations that can in turn provide support as well. But FAO works in a few countries, and there is also direct support to governments and small-scale fisheries organizations to carry out certain activities. One possibility is to put in place a national plan for the implementation of the guidelines to guide what we are going to do in a country.
What are the challenges in the short term?
In the short term, I think there is always a need to sensitize all sectors and governments about the existence of the guidelines and their importance. The guidelines do not just deal with fishing but with other areas as well. There is a coordination challenge at the national level, in a country.
How can we work together between different ministries to have a holistic approach?
A word of the end?
I am very pleased that CAOPA has organized this meeting with the collaboration of the Government of The Gambia and its partners. I think that’s a good sign that civil society is really taking the initiative to do that. And I think that’s also something for future organizations and the actors themselves who are starting to take initiatives so that things can move forward.
Interviewed by Aliou Diallo